When Teachers Leave Our Schools, What Next?
It’s no secret. Teachers are leaving the profession to accept higher paying jobs elsewhere, to retire, or just to call it quits because the hassle has become too much to bear.
The new Teacher Evaluation system has tipped the barrel over. Principals and administrators all over Tennessee are spending a tremendous number of hours preparing for, sitting in classrooms to evaluate, scheduling follow up discussions, and allaying fears of teachers. Frustration and tears are taking energy away from preparations for the classroom.
Teachers have had so many tests added to the curriculum during the past five years that they feel pressured just to get ordinary teaching into the school day. Paperwork, statistics, and grading are multiplied until many teachers are ready to give up.
Teachers who have children will tell you that one of the reasons they entered the teaching field is so that they could have similar hours to those of their children and could be with them after school.
One elementary school teacher told me recently that she had been at school working until 7:00pm two nights that week and then had to go home, prepare dinner, and help with her teenagers’ homework until bedtime. Her daughter had requested some special help for the next night which she was happy to help with, but she added, “I’ll be hours behind with my school work as a result. I went to college after my children were old enough to be in school themselves so that I could become a teacher. Now I feel like I made the wrong career choice. I’m underpaid, overworked, threatened with losing my job if I don’t teach according to all these specific directives, and I don’t feel that I’m able to give my students what I know they need. I ask myself if leaving this profession is not the best path. I don’t feel appreciated. I feel that society is blaming teachers for every ill of society. What’s the use in exhausting myself for nothing?”
I talked to my cousin from Virginia recently. She’s retired but her daughter teaches and tells her what she’s going through. My cousin said, “I would not teach under the conditions teachers have to put up with now. My daughter is supposed to teach exactly what every other teacher in her grade is teaching that day. Everything is becoming standardized. Kids aren’t robots. Things happen every day in a classroom that have to be addressed. You can’t just have a script that has to be covered every day. Children are individuals and you have to teach so that individual needs are met. I can’t believe the public schools are going to survive if this trend continues.”
This is not an isolated incident.
What’s going to be the result of this brain drain in our public schools?
First, the students are going to receive a canned education. Many of them are already so burned out from being constantly tested that they just don’t care any more. I’ve heard from teachers that some kids are now too lazy to look in the back of a book when they need to find the answer. Education needs to be exciting and challenging—and yes, fun! Being primed for standardized tests is not necessarily the way to go.
Second, as politicians and business people who are not educators begin to have more and more say in education and try to run schools with a “business plan,” a greater push to use vouchers for private schools or alternative schools is going to occur. Think about it. When a new public school is built, the opportunity for graft is relatively small (except in contracting the actual construction of the building), but when a private school or “contracted school” is the focus of education, a politician can have all kinds of opportunities for little donations on the side or under the table. Whenever public schools come under fire, you need to ask yourself, “Who will benefit from this change?” If the answer is not the students, then there is a problem.
Third, having older teachers who have vast experience in educating students leave the field, you open the gates for younger teachers who are more easily manipulated to enter the field. Older teachers have been through situations where strikes actually occurred in Tennessee. They’ve seen various political systems employed in the schools and they are quite likely to speak out against other forms of unfair practices. They’ve seen the latest fads employed and abandoned. They aren’t fooled by those who claim to be “helping teachers” and then take away rights that were hard fought for in the past.
Fourth, younger teachers make less money than those who have been in the field for many years. Yes, when you get to the bottom line on many of the “changes” in education, you see that it’s about money and greed and supposedly getting the biggest bang for your buck.
The next time you decide to blame teachers for the fact that little Johnny isn’t performing the way you think he should, consider what kind of home support he’s had, how many times he’s been tested at school, whether the educational funds have been spent on wasting time evaluating performance instead of enhancing performance, and if the baby is being thrown out with the bath water in education by silly politicians who should be minding their own business.
What’s the result of kicking teachers and blaming them for all of society’s ills? Bad news on the home front!