Thursday, September 24, 2015

Those damn teachers and their stratospheric salaries!

When it comes to school teachers, over the years, society has managed to make sure that the probability of the smart students choosing that career will be ultra-low.  As I noted in this post more than three years ago, we faculty might whisper about this behind closed doors but never openly and honestly discuss it.  We do not have to wonder where the smart ones are headed.

Society, whether it is here or in the old country, "respects" only those who earn high incomes, which teaching does not offer.  The smart and hardworking students make the rational choice to then head towards Wall Street, the Silicon Valley, and other geographic areas where the roads are paved with the metaphorical gold.

On top of that is the prevailing wisdom that teachers are overpaid anyway.   That always shocks me.  I have always been puzzled at how poorly societies pay teachers. Nonetheless, my fellow citizens have clearly stated that they would rather pay for, say, entertainment than for teachers; the very ones who are shaping the lives of their most valuables ever--their children.

So, over the decades, we nickel-and-dimed teachers.  And we also made sure we made so many negative remarks that there is very little of a feeling of respect and being wanted.  Which is why, as I noted in this post a couple of months ago, teachers were fleeing from Arizona and Kansas, among other places.

Teacher shortage is now a serious problem in many states, and I am not surprised at all.  Those who have never taught have no idea how challenging and stressful the profession is, and how the burnout drives teachers away.
Clark County [Nevada,] like a growing number of school districts across the country—including Providence, Rhode Island; San Francisco; and Los Angeles—does indeed have a severe teacher shortage. Even with the marketing campaign, which recruited slightly more than 1,700 teachers to Clark County, the school district still started the school year short about 800 teachers.
Yawn!  No surprise here.
“Well-paying jobs with good conditions don’t have to have gimmicks to attract quality people,” says Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania who studies teacher demographics and retention. “You have to put your money where your mouth is ..."
Of course, more money does not automatically mean better teachers.  But, guess what? Less money means no teachers.  Less money means we begin to scrape from that proverbial bottom of the barrel.  If that's what people want, hey, I have no problems with that, especially when I don't have a kid in the education pipeline!
It’s not just the salaries. It’s also the conditions in Clark County classrooms that drive teachers to leave.
Samantha Jones left Clark County in June after teaching there for eight years. She says she no longer felt respected as a professional.
Yawn!  No surprise here.

My neighbor's granddaughter is an elementary school teacher, into the third year of her young career.  Her class apparently has 45 students.  That is like how it was when I was a student back in the old country.  I am always shocked that society's priorities in this richest country on the planet are so screwed up that the class size here has grown to what we expect to see in resource-constrained developing countries.  And then there is this report:
Teachers always come and go, but in recent years there are some new reasons for the turnover. Polls show that public school teachers today are more disillusioned about their jobs than they have been in many years. One 2013 poll found that teacher satisfaction had declined 23 percentage points since 2008, from 62 percent to 39 percent very satisfied, the lowest level in 25 years. Fifty-one percent of teachers reported feeling under great stress several days a week, an increase of 15 percentage points reporting that level in 1985.
Good job by the ideologues!  But then, hey, when did ideology ever bother with the facts on the ground, right?


Ramesh said...

Yes, teachers are grossly underpaid, especially primary school teachers and we've often debated about the relative values society places on different professions. Its a crying shame. My sympathies are heavily with primary school teachers and diminish as we go up the chain to college professors (!!!). But in India, even that lot are shamefully underpaid.

The rest of the moaning about teaching being a stressful profession, having low satisfaction, etc etc is true of every profession on earth. Working has become stressful - period. At least teaching is not a 24/7 global travel profession. Teachers don't do conf calls at 2.00 AM . In the stress quotient, I have much greater sympathy for nursing - another grossly underpaid profession.

Teaching really ought to be a second profession, for people like me. It could be a great second career. I would gladly become a primary school teacher - if not for the cesspool of politics each school is and the requirement that I have to get a B Ed degree before I start.

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, every profession has seemingly become more stressful than in the past, right? It should make us wonder and worry about the economic tiger that we are riding on. I am using a metaphor a friend's father used decades ago--he said that we think that riding the tiger is awesome, but we don't realize that the moment we get off that tiger we become its food ;)

Anne in Salem said...

The stereotype includes not only overpaying teachers, but also paying way too much in benefits. I know people who became teachers for the benefits package - better medical and retirement than they could get anywhere else. I know people who taught longer than they should have, well past the point of burnout, in order to secure a better pension. Similar to military, I suppose - put in your 20 years and rest easy.

I agree with Ramesh's stress comments. What job doesn't have stress? Did the researchers differentiate between rookie and veteran teachers, public vs private, elementary vs high school? Those would be interesting comparisons. I imagine the pressure parents put on teachers now is increasingly difficult; it is one reason I could never teach.

I imagine there'll be a huge teacher shortage in Kelso if they fire all the illegally striking teachers there. What a mess.

Sriram Khé said...

Oh yeah, of course there are a few teachers who are in there whiling away their time waiting for the best retirement date.
Like Enron's managers who swindled investors.
Just like there are managers at Volkswagen who rigged the software for the sake of billions of dollars in the US market.
Just like there are drunken oil tanker captains who spilled tens of millions of gallons of oil on pristine nature.
Just like there are politicians who lied and got us into war, wasting trillions of dollars and thousands of human lives.
Well, compared to this list, the "waste" on teachers is a tiny piece of dust!

Anne in Salem said...

Walter Williams' column runs in the paper to which my parents subscribe, and my dad copied and sent two recent columns. The one from last week is relevant to this topic - physical violence against teachers. His statistics are shocking, such as "Nationally, an average of 1,175 teachers and staff were physically attacked each day of the 2011-12 school year." This has got to be a huge deterrent in some school districts, though I suppose location is everything.

See the full column at:

Sriram Khé said...

Looks like your parents are a looooong way from Oregon.

That column was a tad troubling because the author seemed to want to make it a White/Black issue. He need not have taken that route but could have still made the point about the assault on teachers. I know of one back from my California days when an acquaintance's daughter got beat so badly that she had a couple of fractures.

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