Primary and secondary school teaching was never meant to be a real profession. Women used to take these jobs until they got married.
You can see this during Children’s Blizzard, which happened in the midwest during the 1800s. The Blizzard occurred unexpectedly during the school day. And hundreds of teachers had the nearly impossible job of saving school children from frostbite. One of the most remarkable aspects of the stories about this day is that teenaged girls were left alone, in charge of 20 kids, with very little training.
Once school started functioning like a factory and teachers formed unions, teaching children started to look like a long-term profession: a marathon to get to those juicy retirement benefits. Now we know those benefits are not sustainable, and there’s little else that is attractive about this profession:
The high demand is in the low reward jobs.
The six-figure jobs with engaged and well-fed children are all filled. There is high demand for special ed teachers who will participate in a corrupt system. And there is high demand for teachers in low-performing schools where the turnover rate is 50%.
You cannot influence the lives of children.
Robert Ingersoll is a former teacher turned sociologist. He explains that “Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.” So the more you are hoping to change the lives of children the more frustrated you’ll be with the constraints from higher up.
Teachers isolate themselves from the community.
If you teach in a community where you would actually want to live, then you will feel poor. That’s because even though teachers have high salaries in well-funded schools, those schools are well funded because the parents in that community have even higher salaries. Also, in order to get pay hikes, teachers strike. The strike is essentially pitting teachers against taxpayers — which is teachers against everyone.
Teachers become isolated from their own community.
Teaching has a lower learning curve than most professions. Carol Dwerk codified this conclusion with her research, (which I hate, because I think Dwerk is misogynist, but I have to reference her research just this once before I take her down in another post.)
Anyway, teachers must figure out stuff like how to calm down disrespectful parents and kids who can’t sit still. After about five years, they know how to manage the kids and the parents. And there is nothing else to learn. They get the same type of kids coming through every year. And they are teaching the same subject, and they are told how to teach by the government.
Compare the learning curve to any other industry and you’ll see why teaching was initially intended to be a sort of temporary job. This is why people who are in their mid-40s in teaching are seen as very knowledgable and employees in their mid-40s are seen as full of outdated information.
Teachers should go home.
A whopping 85% of teachers say they entered the profession because they love working with young people. Of course whatever their idea of working with young people is, it’s probably not a teacher student ration of 1:30. That’s more working at young people.
The difference between working with and working at probably explains why every reason teachers cite for wanting to leave teaching is that they get no respect. How can someone respect a person who spends 40 hours a week corralling such a large group of kids? It’s a terrible, impossible job that is never going to be meaningful.
Any why would you want to use up all your energy taking care of other peoples’ kids instead of saving your energy for the kids who need it most: your own.
One more thing about the Children’s Blizzard
Shortly after the big snow newspapers in Boston — reporting as if no days had passed — were already pointing fingers: “Unthinking teachers to-day dismissed young school children, some of whom have to go four or five blocks across the open land.” Yet non-teachers who made the same dangerous decisions were “overcome by a wonderful display of nerve and good judgement.” So it seems that it’s been maybe forever that the newspaper industry lacked reliability because there were no links. And it’s also been maybe forever that teachers have been singled out for disrespect.