11 votes

After years of inaction, Delta teacher shortage reaches ‘crisis’ levels

1 comment

  1. kfwyre
    Churn is the name of the game in districts like these. Low pay, low appreciation, low resources; high pressure, high workload, high stress. It's a recipe for burnout. I can guarantee you that...
    • Exemplary

    Churn is the name of the game in districts like these.

    Low pay, low appreciation, low resources; high pressure, high workload, high stress. It's a recipe for burnout. I can guarantee you that teachers aren't just leaving because of the pay--they're leaving because of the working conditions. Pay becomes an easy answer for why you're leaving, when you're dependent on your boss for a good reference for your next job. You don't want to disappoint your colleagues, and it's already hard enough to tell the students. Thus, the subject of pay becomes the teacher version of "it's not personal; it's business." It's the excuse I used for every school I left, and they were in districts just like the ones profiled here.

    Raising pay won't solve the problem of teacher retention until you raise the pay enough that it is commensurate with the demands of the job. You want me to work investment banker hours with investment banker zeal? Pay me investment banker money. If you can't, then the other option is to reduce the expectations of the job to fall in line with how much you're paying. Don't expect me to work nights and weekends. Don't expect me to stay late to call parents. Don't expect me to sit for hours grading essays on my own time. Don't expect sky high numbers.

    In the absence of either of these, however, don't tell me that money is tied to our performance. Don't do it for me, and don't do it for the school, because you are putting the cart before the horse. It is no secret that places with less money do worse. We won't get better because you dangle dollars in front of us like a carrot. It'll just make us resent this job even more. Why? Because it's not extra money--a bonus to be doled out for a great quarter or a hard-won surplus. It's money we already need and don't have that we would spend on supplies or a librarian that we need and don't have. Or those ridiculous student loans we're still carrying. Fund sports teams, art classes, after-school programs, technology, and maybe then we can talk about paying for performance.

    Throwing a monetary bonus on top of a transparently broken funding system is like putting a cherry on top of a landfill and calling it a sundae. Funding for education is so backwards that we've codified the idea that teachers spend their personal money for professional supplies into our tax system. Funding for education is so backwards that we've been crowdfunding basic supplies nationwide for almost two decades now. Funding for education is so backwards that the Supreme Court upholds educational inequity.

    Teachers in the poorest schools have the least resources and the least support and are often paid pennies for their work. Then they're told they can get what they need, but only if they do better first! It's no wonder they leave. It's a slap in the face to them, because they see first-hand the effects of inequality. You want them to stay? Improve the working conditions. Improve facilities. Improve resources. Improve morale. And for the love of god stop sabotaging the innate fulfillment of teaching with accountability measures. If you do this, they will stay. How do I know? Because those are the things that would have made me stay.

    The big dark secret of teachers is that we have chosen a career that works against our own economic interests. We all know what teachers make. We all willfully took those jobs anyway. We planned for them! We went into debt for them! And we did so because each of us ultimately decided that we wanted to do something enriching over something that would make us rich. This is why you will not win us over with pay alone. We'd certainly appreciate more money (and the more beleaguered of us will outright demand it because we're tired of knowing our worth and underselling it), but what we really want is for you to fix the system. Make teaching something that isn't terrible. Fund the schools that need it most. Stop micromanaging us. End the culture of constant crisis plaguing our schools. Let kids be kids and not data points for achievement.

    When teachers leave it isn't ever really just about the pay. It's because something killed our love for the job. If you want to keep us, fix that.

    7 votes