“It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” Tom Brokaw
Nearly 50% of all new teachers quit after less than 5 years on the job, according to research (Jalongo and Heider, 2006). Yes, it was 6 years ago, but the numbers are still valid today. Many new teachers entered the workforce during the lean years between 2008 and 2012, but many also lost their job due to budget reductions. Teaching is no longer the equivalent of a life tenure, no longer a middle-income position guaranteed by a decent pension after 30 or 40 years. There are rumors in the Texas legislature that retirement benefits will be decreased and requirements increased. No wonder fewer capable professionals are attracted by this noble profession.
In some large urban areas, mainly the poor section of town, being a teacher is a very tough assignment. Due to our multi-cultural diversity, there is mutual fear and distrust between the races. No melting pot in this case, but rather a series of clashes between the various groups. Add poverty, injustice and gangs to the mix, and teachers become reluctant to accept a position in such dangerous environments. Is it surprising that some large districts are struggling to find qualified applicants as the economy picks up?
The key word here is qualified; Many candidates seem well-prepared and able, only to reveal themselves as selfish louts who care only for a paycheck and not for their students. A good teacher is born more than made; it is in their blood to share their knowledge with others, a trait one can detect in early childhood. Yes, we need data, high intelligence, and a strong. continuous will to learn. But most of all, we need people who willingly sacrifice higher incomes and personal time to devote their life to their true calling: working with kids. Teach For America is a wonderful program that sends the cream of the crop to some very poor areas; unfortunately, most of these teachers quit after posting their mandatory 2 years. It is a complete waste of money and time, as many districts and schools have discovered, refusing to hire more TFA candidates.
The main problem for education in the U.S. is not the poor performance of our kids compared to other nations’; it is the lack of competent, dedicated, and well-trained teachers. Yes, we suffer from the excessive interference by bureaucracy; yes, we suffer from decisions made by people who do not understand education, who accumulate benchmarks and testing dates, thus depriving our students of instruction time. The triple A instructors are also prime candidates for much better paid and more glamorous positions in the private sector. Sometimes, too often for my taste, a teacher will work for only 6 months to a year, while waiting for approval of financial help for graduate studies. At the other end, many instructors teach because they couldn’t find a better job, thus affecting young minds permanently through their sour disposition. And, finally, a few more outlive their usefulness, staying in the classroom even though their bodies and minds refuse to function properly.
It is indeed difficult to fire a teacher unless they are caught committing a felony; the modern accountability hasn’t found, so far, a satisfactory measure to apply to all educators, though the same could be said of administrators. But the goal of properly educating our children is too important to leave to chance; something drastic must be done to get the best people into the classrooms, even if we have to pull some university professors back to K-12 on part-time basis, even if we have to divert financial resources from the next 10 billion bomber, even if we have to stop sending billions in foreign aid to those who are openly our enemies. We can no longer rely on states to perform this difficult and vital task; their coffers are empty. Only the Federation can afford to fund a proper modern education by channeling the necessary resources from existing programs that can no longer be justified.