"Those who can do, those who can't teach." - George Bernard Shaw
From my view as an educator I find this quote to be ridiculous. Yet I would also say that EVERYONE believes themselves to be an expert when it comes to school. It is the one profession that nearly all people have experienced in one way or another.
Check out the statistics (above) and the trend of people going into education:
The above graph (image found NEA article) and subsequent trend should not surprise me...but it does. Deep down I would have thought the numbers were on the decline, but not to this level.
So the simple question is why? Where are all the education majors, and why are they looking elsewhere?
I believe there are many answers.
First, let us take a look at pay versus tuition costs: The average beginning salary for teachers in the United States is $36,141(1). The average student loan debt from a 4-year university stands at $26,600(4).
I make two observational conclusions on this data. One, choosing to be a teacher with large debt makes it nearly impossible to buy a house and attempt to live the "American Dream." Two, tuition costs are rising around the nation, but salaries are stagnant.
Second, the narrative that people share about education is not positive. We've all heard the horror stories about angry parents, long hours, disrespectful students and administrators that rule with an iron fist.
Third, the sad state of affairs is that many incoming freshman have grown up in the testing era. Nothing can inspire a person less. Our legislature has put a microscope on test scores, and as a result, schools around the nation feel the pressure to exceed the state average. It shouldn't be about a standardized test score, but unfortunately many still believe it is.
Fourth, the quote at the top is something people are aware of. It used to be teaching was a noble and fulfilling profession. If you entered into a career in education you knew you wouldn't be a millionaire, but the lives you would impact would brighten your heart for a lifetime. Unfortunately educators struggle to have a satisfying life. The truth is, in the last two years the suicide rate is up 80% (3) in educators. Many teachers are on some form of anti-depressants. This is a disturbing trend.
CAN THE PROFESSION BE SAVED?
If you read the above points you probably won't believe this, but I'm an optimist and I do believe in education. Yes, it can be a phenomenal career!
Here is how...
As educators we have to change the narrative. You've heard about school branding and sharing stories from the classroom. This is imperative. School is not the same as it was years ago. Our legislature believes school is the same, in fact, many of our families believe school is the same. It's not. School is different. Technology is now integrated into most things we do. Teachers teach everything from multiplication facts to coding. When you were in school did you learn to code? Did you survey surrounding areas with a drone? Did you skype with classrooms from around the World? Education is different. It has to be. The status quo is not what our society needs. We must push the limits to help create a better world. That is how education is different, and we must share that story with our community and beyond.
The next way we can build a better profession is by strengthening teacher voice and choice. It's time to personalize professional development. We cannot continue to treat everyone the exact same. The time has come to individualize educator growth.
Third, we need higher education to be better. If we are truly going to turn this trend around then universities and school districts need to communicate better. It's a shame that nearly 20% (2) of teachers leave the profession by the end of year five. This speaks to the poor job being done. Higher education needs to be better and school districts need to be better. Schools must put a strong emphasis on mentoring and supporting new teachers.
We need to hear more stories that make us feel good. Ask a teacher to share a story about why they teach. I bet if you take the time you will laugh and cry during that story.
Education is NOT for those that can't...EDUCATION is one of the most gratifying and meaningful careers in our world. Not everyone can do what teachers do. Think I'm wrong? Try it yourself.
I welcome you to take the time to listen to the latest episode of UnearthED
Finally, the one question I have heard for years has been, "Would you encourage your own child to be a teacher?" As a parent and educator you must know your kids. I've got two terrific boys and if they wanted to be in education I would support them to the best of my ability. As for encouraging, I believe in following your passion, if they have a passion and desire to teach I would help cultivate that.
This week's big question: What did I miss? Why is there a decline of college students majoring in education? How would you begin to reverse this trend? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Here are links to articles that provided data for the above post: