Monday, April 22, 2013

Reflections on the Profession of Teaching

Spring--time to reflect upon the school year. As the end of school draws near, it's time to think about some of the issues affecting today's teachers.

"Why They Leave" , an article by Cynthia Kopkowski for the National Education Association, states:

     "Nationally, the average turnover for all teachers is 17 percent, and in urban school districts specifically, the number jumps to 20 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future proffers starker numbers, estimating that one-third of all new teachers leave after three years, and 46 percent are gone within five years"  (1).

Perhaps you graduated from a traditional teacher education program at a four-year university. In 1999 at the University of Oklahoma, the teacher education program required five or more years compared to four-years graduation time for other disciplines, such as accounting, communications, or engineering. Yet, graduates entering into other fields made double, or triple, the salaries of first-year teachers. In Texas, a first-year teaching salary was approximately $32,000.00 compared to a first-year engineering position that started at above $80,000.00. Although teachers do not join their professions for monetary reasons, it would be nice to have proper currency amounts attached to the field. 

A 2012 comparison chart from the United States Department of Labor reads:

As educators, few teachers, other than top administrative positions, earn salaries equal to those recommended by the United States Department of Labor. In fact, there are instances reported in the plains' states of districts' whose teacher employment applications included food stamp applications due to low pay. Those not in the teaching field might ask: what about evaluation and performance pay? It won't be received if subject matters taught are not state tested, so often times those who work hardest with behavioral students, ESL or special education students will never see evaluation or performance-based pay.

The argument that teachers work only "nine-months of the year" has many crying "Foul!" Employees in regular workforce positions often receive same amounts of vacation time although it may be spread out over the course of one year. For example, employees at banks, cellphone/technology companies, and oil related professions may acquire and roll over time accrued that may amount to as much as six-months or more. Plus, there are no bus or cafeteria duties, no extra-curricular afterschool activities, no open houses, and no parent-teacher conferences to attend. There are no individualized lesson plans to write, and no state tests to prepare for. Also, during the off-peak summer months, teachers must attend professional developments to renew certification hours, and they re-write lesson plans for upcoming school years.

Although this article may be "preaching to the teaching choir", hard facts, personal stories, and startling statistics are difficult to ignore. The nation-wide movement to reform education begins with value being placed on the profession of teaching. Until then, the question remains: how can we help fellow teachers survive their first three, or more, years? 

Write your congressman with suggestions on how to change/improve education and how to place more value on teachers. Invite your congressman to visit your classroom and school. Finally, join local and state efforts to address issues affecting education and teachers. 

Do you have suggestions as to how to improve the teaching career field? What were your beginning teaching years like? How can co-workers help first year, and other, teachers survive? How can the profession of teaching become more valued in the work place? Leave us your comments...

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  1. Thanks for this thoughtful post. I have a similar one on my blog that compares my salary to that of my husbands. He brings a high school degree to the table while I worked hard to earn a Masters degree from a top-rated university. He makes around $20,000 more a year than I do. I love teaching but I have to admit that it gets harder every year and even having somewhat more competitive compensation would mean a lot.

    If you have a chance, I'd love for you to check out my post. Here's the link although you may have to copy and paste it...

    Stay calm and teach on!

  2. Such true and disheartening facts. It gets hard but we teach because we love it!!

    I'm your newest follower, drop by if you'd like. =)

    Just Wild About Teaching


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