Despite what you’ve heard, many teachers still love what they do


Here are some recent headlines: “Teachers are leaving the profession in droves. “The teacher shortage is real, deep and growing, and worse than we thought.”

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Teachers need help. The training they receive in many schools of education is inadequate. They often suffer from stupid rules and clumsy administrators. My Washington Post colleague, Valerie Strauss, recently reported that the average weekly salary of teachers increased by only $29 from 1996 to 2021, compared to a $445 increase in the weekly salary of other college graduates.

But the mass exit from education that some are predicting seems unlikely. Stories under these titles describe difficulties in filling vacancies in some districts, but many experts say this is old news and misrepresents a situation primarily affecting specialties.

“We have persistent shortages of math and science teachers, special education teachers and language teachers, and we have had them for a long time,” said Eric Hanushek, a Stanford University economist who studies the schools for decades. He said he had a book in his library that worried about the shortage of math and science teachers in 1962.

A national survey of more than 800 schools released by the US Department of Education in August found an average of about three unfilled teaching positions per school in June. Some districts and states, however, say they are suffering from the worst teacher shortages ever, with dozens or even hundreds of vacancies.

Teacher ‘penalty payment’ hits new high

Experts suggest that some of the confusion has arisen from sudden changes in district practices during the pandemic. When schools closed classrooms in early 2020, uncertainties forced a sharp reduction in hiring. In addition, some teachers were ill or had to take care of family members. When pandemic stimulus funds reached schools in 2021, hiring picked up in a big way, emphasizing vacancies.

Rand Corp. researcher Heather Schwartz said in a Brookings Institution report that “based on projections from district leaders, teacher shortages will be widespread, but not acute, in most districts over the next of the 2022-2023 school year.

In the same report, Matthew Kraft, an associate professor of education at Brown University, said getting good information is difficult. “As a nation, we lack reliable, timely, and detailed data on the supply and demand for K-12 teachers,” he said.

I know many teachers who don’t give up. I asked them why. They gave me a list of reasons to stay much longer than I expected. Here is a sample.

“Teaching is a rich, challenging, beautiful, spiritual, fun, humble, and meaningful vocation,” said California social studies professor Greg Jouriles. Colleagues at his high school told him they thought the job helped them stay young and feel like direct participants in our democracy, and years later they received heartfelt thank-you letters from students whom people of other vocations rarely receive.

William Horkan, a math teacher from Northern Virginia who specializes in challenging low-income students, said “the reason I’m staying is because they’re my students and someone has to fight for them. “. Jordan Simmons, a business and technology professor also in Northern Virginia, said he can never forget the moment he heard a former student say to a colleague, “He was my teacher in high school. He saved my life.”

DC-area schools see spike in teacher quits

A social studies teacher in New York said he loved both the “generous vacation” and “the feeling that we are part of something bigger than ourselves”.

Mark Ingerson’s forensic teams at his Central Virginia High School have won numerous state championships. He said he loved the job, but also felt that “there’s a tipping point where once you’ve taught long enough, retirement is so bad if you leave that you almost have to stay”.

A recent poll suggests a contradiction in our thinking about schools.

PDK International, a professional organization for educators, found that despite the ravages of the pandemic, Americans gave their community public schools the highest marks in 48 years. How does this square with the fact that the percentage of respondents who said they did not want their child to be a teacher was the highest on record?

We love and respect the teachers we know, but wonder how they can endure such hard work for relatively low pay. We need to better understand why good, smart people choose and stick to these jobs.

I’m glad we appreciate the value of what teachers do. It might help to listen more carefully to what teachers say about their work before we have panic attacks when our offspring say they might try it.

The principal cleans the bathroom: schools suffer from staff shortages

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