“You, who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so, become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye.”– Graham Nash
Greg Abbott is not taking this teacher shortage business lying down. He’s a man of action. Like any other man of action, he is commissioning a committee to tell him why there is a teacher shortage. He recently changed the task force when it shockingly held only two teachers.
The 30 person panel included all kinds of central office administrators whose median salary was $170,000. In fact, it was rumored that one of the two teachers actually had their office in the central administration of their district. However, our crackpot team here could not confirm or deny those rumors. If they indeed add enough teachers to make it equal representation then that’s a good start, but it’s still much ado about nothing.
It is fairly easy for classroom teachers to simply say that they need to be paid more. That seems to be the standard response and without consulting teachers it is likely to be the only real answer you will get. That’s a good response. We could all use more money, but you need to be able to dig deeper. I don’t think the governor really wants to dig that much. He isn’t going to like what he hears.
I’ve seen any number of teachers that have left the profession and have come pretty close myself. I think I speak for many of them when I say money really wasn’t a factor in my decision. Teaching is a difficult job. You are more or less on an island and it took me a long time to find my niche. I’ve found it as a support facilitator. There were a lot of bumps and false starts along the way.
So, I would begin with how we train teachers and how we support them. Classroom management is always the most important thing and it is the one thing we are the worst at teaching new teachers. Schools are starting to add curriculum specialists and instructional coaches. They help and if you get the right person in those spots they can really help.
The answer is pretty simple though. The job is just too difficult and it is getting much harder. We are adding paperwork demands and making teachers jump through more hoops. As soon as teachers feel like they have their sea legs under them, we change the landscape and force them to start from scratch. Teachers get less support from home and less support from their school’s administration and central office when dealing with difficult student populations.
Asking a central office administrator why teachers are leaving is somewhat comical. Those are people that escaped the classroom. I have no problem with most of them, but it is fairly straightforward. The further removed you are from the classroom the harder it is for them to remember what it was like.
Add to that the recent politicization of teachers and you get a perfect storm. We are expected to make white children feel better about being white. We are expected to avoid anything that might be controversial. We are expected to inform on students that might be transitioning. There are even whispers of doing all of this with cameras installed in our rooms so that administrators and parents can watch in real time.
Abbott doesn’t want to hear about any of this. So, what is he going to hear? He will hear that teachers want more money. He will be able to posture about how greedy we have become. I’ve seen too many teachers leave teaching and none of them left because of the money. They’ve left for all of those other reasons. Those are the reasons he isn’t likely to hear anything about.