Hence, the argument for higher teacher pay: we’ll stay in the classroom longer, rather than jumping ship when our salary schedule is incremented less than inflation (i.e. making less the older I get, like my second year of teaching). In other words, it’s not student achievement you’re directly paying for, it’s avoiding turnover.
“Maybe that’s not a bad thing?” you say. “Some of my best teachers were young and excitable.” you opine.
So here’s the rock: there are certain teachers who thrill a great deal more to the challenge of good teaching than to any missional obligation to care for children. (See: McMatherson, Mathy; Nowak, Kate; Pershan, Michael.) As teaching gets easier, these teachers are forced to impose tougher and tougher challenges on themselves (because teaching itself doesn’t offer that kind of differentiation) just so they can stay interested in the field.
And then there’s the hard place: the demands of good teaching, particularly in charter systems, are often unmanageable for anybody but the young, single, and childless –Â long hours, comparatively low pay, and only a thin veil of separation between you and your work.
Without even glancing at a census table, it’s possible for us to see that the rock and the hard place close in on good novice teachers at almost exactly the same time. The job becomes untenable at about the same time that it becomes unchallenging.
Kate got out. Vegas oddsmakers have Pershan out of the classroom in another six years. I don’t know McMatherson all that well but his writing has me scared. I don’t know the solution either. (Shawn’s post offers a few.) I barely understand the problem. I’m happy we’re all still here, at least, still buzzing somewhere around the periphery of math education in various service roles if not actually inside the math classroom itself. (Blogging is so a service role, okay?) I’m just worried more and more that classroom teaching is shaping up to be an entry-level job.
2013 Feb 12. Jason Buell reminds me that Kilian Betlach coined “The Ledge” years ago.
2013 Feb 12. Riley Lark and Ben Chun both say this post describes their situation fairly well. Kate Nowak dissents.
This is the kind of issue that seems increasingly insolvable because the solution is so straightforward. Everyone needs lighter teaching loads, less time in front of students, and budgets that have a bit of slack so that it is possible to pursue interesting ideas, go to conferences, etc.
Lighter teaching loads, more free time, and a little extra money don’t improve things on their own, but they are a prerequisite for just about anything interesting happening.
I’m not sure enough people care about keeping teachers of that quality. My bet is that the powers that be will opt for consistency and repeatability over powerful teachers they can’t easily replicate.
I fear many pieces are already lined up for the (further?) McDonaldization of education- increased focus on scripting, rigid pacing guides with standardized lessons plans, adaptive path LMSs etc. Not too far a stretch to record the “best” Disney approved edutainers and then pay low skill workers to manage the bodies. It’s not far from what I saw at the School of 1 in NY a few years ago. They’re franchising.
I’d like to be very wrong.
I’m not sure I agree with this analysis. For me, a teaching certification program I did about five years in—one that required a lot of reflection—woke me up to the fact that I had a LOT of room to grow; I spent the next five years trying to do the stuff I realized I wasn’t doing yet. Maybe what we need to do is take these not-quite-novice teachers who have mastered the basic skills of getting stuff done and help them see how much more they have to learn.
What strikes me about my profession is that if I, with my newly-acquired master’s degree, want to advance my career, it REQUIRES me to leave the profession. There isn’t a structure in which I stay in the classroom, but advance my career in the traditional sense of that term.
There are lots of moral victories and self-actualized achievements, and I’m certainly welcome to take on more responsibilities, but it doesn’t do a whole lot more than add to an already-heavy workload.
That’s the main motivator for me going forward. If I decide that I want to engage in policy-making, observation and evaluation, work strongly on curriculum matters or assessment, I really have to strongly consider leaving the classroom because those advancement opportunities don’t exist in my current assignment.
There aren’t offers for half-time teacher/half-time teacher evaluator or half-time curriculum support person or half-time data-analyzer. If I have interests in those things, I have to pick one or the other.
2013 Mar 12. By “unchallenging” I should have said something to the effect that “the challenge of the job transmutes into something less satisfying than it was, while the costs of the job remain constant.” Maybe that’ll still spin up the Internet indignation machine, but it’s more accurate anyway.