... And This is Why Teachers Are Leaving the Profession (Well, I Mean, At Least Here in the USA).

I'm looking at you Betsy DeVos
I'm looking at you Betsy DeVos

Attention GAG: You might not be aware of this, but there is a massive teacher shortage here in the United States of America. While some of this has bled into the post-secondary world, this MyTake will mainly focus on the Kindergarten-twelfth grade teacher shortage.

Since the 2003-2004 schoolyear, roughly 50 percent of K-12 teachers who landed his/her first teaching job have quit within their first five years of teaching. Since the 2010's, the situation has escalated to the biggest teaching shortage in the history of the country. Why? Well, as a licensed English-Language Arts Teacher, the situation is right in front of our faces.

Before I get into this, allow me to illustrate some things before I have people already attempting to "refute" me.

-Just like other professions, many of these reasons are state specific. An issue in one state may be a blessing in the other. Some issues in some states are nonexistent in others. However, I'm listing issues which tend to be a general problem within all 50 states of this terrific country. Get-got it? Good.

-I'm using a combination of studies, statistics, analytical articles, and testimonials from experienced teachers, so I'm not some noob using Tumblr, 4Chan, or other nonsense to "support" my reasoning.

-As expected, there is a huge variance in schools as well. Clearly, an upper-class Catholic school will be another world opposed to an urban charter school, and it doesn't take a teacher to point that out. There is even a huge disparity between traditional public schools, given local politics, and an average income in the area.

-Finally, let's keep the discussion on teaching, and/or education in general. I understand that every profession, job, career, etc. has these same issues. I've had 14 jobs in my life: I know this. Most teachers know this. We're aware of this. However, this is specifically coming from the teacher's point of view.

To know where I'm coming from, here is some background about me: The first time I entered the schools from the perspective of an educator was in the 2011-2012 schoolyear, where I was college student tutoring elementary school students. However, I don't mention this in my resume, since I'm a licensed English-Language Arts teacher for grades 7-12.

The first actual schoolyear I dealt with adolescents from the teacher's perspective was the 2014-2015 schoolyear. Like a deer in headlights, I interned in a classroom of high school seniors who weren't much younger than me. I student taught in the Autumn of 2015, and since 2016, I have been a Jr. high, or high school substitute teacher.

Actual footage of the teaching situation in the 2029-2030 school year.
Actual footage of the teaching situation in the 2029-2030 school year.

I did land a Catholic school teaching job in the 2017-2018 schoolyear, but long-story short, the principal was coo coo for Coco Puffs, and I was basically forced to resign. The next semester, I was able to find a job midyear, but our charter school was immediately under state investigation, and since I was the newest one, I was laid off. Now, I'm back to being a substitute teacher.

Right now, I'm in an odd situation. Here in the Cincinnati Metro Area, we actually have an over-saturated job market, especially with teachers. Ohio, in general, has over 20 colleges pumping out teaching candidates. Combine that with one of the best teacher pay situations in the country, we actually have an abundance of teachers, and teaching candidates, where no rookie here can find a job.

At this point, maybe it's a blessing in disguise. Maybe I shouldn't persist on finding a teaching job. Why? Well, let's explore some reasons.

Reason 1: Teacher Salary

Walt White-Former Chemistry Teacher
Walt White-Former Chemistry Teacher

Alright, let's get the one thing you were thinking of when you saw the title of this Take: It's the pay. stupid!

Actually, I'm getting this one out of the way first because this isn't the main reason why teachers are quitting, and on top of this, it's the one thing that anyone involved in education has virtually no control over(it's more of a government, and state by state issue that I don't feel like getting into).

As of July 31st, 2018, the average teacher pay for all K-12 teachers in the land of opportunity is roughly $55,919. And if that number isn't pitiful enough for a profession which requires several years of post-secondary education, that number is very misleading.

First of all, as I stated before, teaching varies state by state. That number is the average of all 50 states including the District of Columbia, but doesn't take into account cost of living, and other local barriers. For instance, my state of Ohio pays teachers $60,000 per year on average, and we have a relatively low cost of living. We're ranked one of the best states for teacher pay adjusted to cost of living-which is one of the reasons why we're grossly over-saturated here. However, the average wage for a teacher in West Virginia is about $44,000, and they have roughly the same cost of living as Ohio. As you can see, teachers are suffering in one state a little more than the other. These examples happen all over the country.

Of course, it gets even uglier when you compare the wages of public school educators to private school ones. The Ohio Catholic school I taught at had a median wage of roughly $45,000 per year, and that is hardly an isolated example. A vast majority of private schools pay significantly lower than public schools, mainly due to a lack of state funding-and yes, this includes privately owned charter schools.

With that being said, this Take is focusing on "new" teachers, and why we're giving the middle-finger to the profession. As most people know, teachers are paid on a flat salary, which means we are paid for our number of years in teaching combined with our level of education. The average wage for a first year teacher in the USA is about $38,000(which is Ohio's average first-year wage), and in some states, Catholic schools start their first-year slaves as low as $20,000 per year. It's dismal, and a Cardinal Sin. The problem is, new teachers these days often carry a huge student loan burden, and now we have an impossible situation. Back in the good ol days, new teachers still made a peanut wage, but at the very least, they weren't crippled with student loan debt. At the very least, they could afford to rent their own place. At the very least, they were somewhat stable.

However, this isn't the main reason teachers are leaving because most incoming teachers knew about the money situation, and that they wouldn't be rolling in the dough anytime soon. That is what makes this reason so unique compared to the rest of this list, because other than our salary expectations, I had no idea the number of surprises I would come across.

Reason 2: Administration

... And This is Why Teachers Are Leaving the Profession (Well, I Mean, At Least Here in the USA).

When I was a K-12 student, I was pretty much always a teacher's pet. I was that kid who sat down quietly, did his work(did it good too), showed up every day, and even had deep conversations with the teachers. My teachers, and I were almost like best friends by the time I got to high school. With this being said, despite the fact I virtually never got in trouble, I seemed to never like the principal. Whether it was my lackluster principal in second grade, my evil principal in sixth grade, or the non-existent principal I had in my freshman year of high school, we never did seem to click.

Little did I know this was the norm with teachers, and it was in my blood to have issues with principals. For whatever reason, teachers, and principals are almost like the Red Sox, and Yankees-and this time, the games take place in schools. I had an absurd principal at a former teacher job who bullied teachers via email, and I've heard horror stories of principals stalking teachers, terminating teachers due to things out of the teacher's control, ruining careers, etc. Sure, we can just say "it's another boss story", but as I've stated throughout this whole take, this seems to be escalated in the teaching field: Principals have become tyrants.

It's common sense: If teachers, and principals can't work together, the bad students win, and the good students lose. However, more importantly, this obviously causes a major teacher Brexit. Think about it: Regardless of what jobs you've had-whether it be a fast food worker, a district manager, or a stripper-do you want a mirco-managing tyrant, or do you want a boss who works with you, and understands you? It's common sense.

Reason 3: Parents, Grandparents, Siblings Raising Siblings, Guardians, etc.

Include a caption for your image
Include a caption for your image

I'll never forget how ill-mannered my class was, when I was in sixth grade. As a student, that was easily the worst behaved class I was in. We have some students so bad, they spent their entire year in the tyrant's office. One student in particular was so bad, he was nearly expelled, and was constantly being scolded by the teachers, and principal. One remarkable thing I remember(mind you, this was 2002-2003) was his dad would come in, scold the kid, and thank the teacher for punishing him. His dad had this bizarre notion that his son's behavior was his son's fault. His dad probably reflected on his parenting. Dear parents-Be like this dad.

Unfortunately, the pre-2010 days(and especially pre-2000's days) are over, and have been over for a long time. "Parenting" these days is babying, and in many cases, being "friends" with your kids. The worst part is, parents, guardians, and whoever the heck is raising kids these days have this per-conceived notion that their kids are perfect, and if little Johnny gets in trouble, it's the teacher's fault. If little Sally gets an A- instead of a solid A, it's the teacher's fault. If another kid bullies their kid, it's the teacher's fault. If the lunch was bad, it's the teacher's fault. If the Cleveland Browns go 0-16, it's the teacher's fault.

It looks like we have School War I going on, and the battle is heated at the moment: Right now, it's the principals vs the parents vs the teachers. However, when the going gets tough, and the excuses run out, the principals, and parents tag-team, and finish off the teacher with a K.O. sucker punch.

According to long-time veteran teachers I speak to, this wasn't the case 20/30/40 years ago. Scratch that: I don't remember this being the case in 2009(when I graduated from high school). Parents not only blame teachers, and blindly defend their kids, but they also don't know how to raise kids anymore. Parents focus more attention on their electronics, and other nonsense than their kids. This is probably why there is such an issue with entitlement, behavior, and other irritating traits among students. It's already hard enough to deal with difficult students, but now, we have to do it without the help of parents, and often times(as I mentioned), without the support of administration. Can you now blame us for leaving? If not, keep reading.

Reason 4: The Complex(pretty much impossible) Curriculum

... And This is Why Teachers Are Leaving the Profession (Well, I Mean, At Least Here in the USA).

In 2010, the Common Core State Standards(CCSS) were adopted. Many of you have probably heard of Common Core, and most of you are probably surprised it's as recent as 2010 they were implemented, but they're unfortunately here to stay.

The whole idea is to implement the exact same standards for students in the USA, in all grades in math, science, English-Language Arts, and social studies. For instance, fifth graders in Hawaii will have the same learning standards as a fifth graders in Wyoming as well as a fifth graders in Massachusetts. If that doesn't make sense enough for you, it's the also the fact how complex the curriculum has become.

Since I'm licensed in English, I'll use an example in my subject area. A student will often have to look at a sentence-example-"John went to the store, and bought some things; he was surprised how cheap the food was." In normal mode, one would figure out the adjectives, verbs, nouns, punctuation, etc, and list them in the sentence. However, in CCSS mode, it's a little more complex: Students are to memorize symbols for each sentence function, and put the appropriate symbol over the words. I mean, it's already hard enough for students to dissect sentences, but now they have a code of symbols to memorize with it.

I'm not going to get in any more, but reading, and writing standards aren't much better. I'm sure many of you have seen how absurdly complex the Common Core math is, with the infamous viral videos of parents showcasing the freak show.

Now, you may be thinking: "Why not bypass it? Can they really prove you're teaching them the Common Core way?"-If I was James Bond, I could find a way to be this slick, but it's very risky to try to bypass the standards. Principals observe virtually all teachers-especially the youngest teachers, and if said teacher doesn't demonstrate the evidence of CCSS usage, then said teacher is probably going to be lectured, suspended, or even terminated. On top of this, teachers are evaluated on test scores, and student "growth." And many standardized tests involve the use of CCSS. If a teacher wanted to be slick enough to sneak around the CCSS, then that same teacher better know how to do it when it counts.

One successful part about the Common Core State Standards is they were able to solve the absurd mystery to get Republicans, and Democrats to agree with each other: That the CCSS suck.

Reason 5: This is Only a Test(literally).

... And This is Why Teachers Are Leaving the Profession (Well, I Mean, At Least Here in the USA).

This is the final reason I will mention, and I'm sure many of you thought of this as well: The standardized testing is ridiculous, and has overtaken any engaging learning.

Forget the meaningless test scores comparisons around the world, because I don't like the idea of test score at all in the first place, and I'm not the only teacher to say that. So many teachers these days have to teach to the test, instead of teaching to learn, and expand world views. I would love to have a discussion on the relevance of Catcher in the Rye among teen boys, or how To Kill a Mockingbird can be compared to instances these days, but unfortunately, I have to worry about a basic test which only evaluates memorization, and other regurgitation methods.

On top of this, many intelligent, and analytical students struggle among basic multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blank answers. So many students(I was one myself) would benefit from writing analytical essays, and explaining my answers. Ironically, these state mandated tests might benefit for simple-minded, and straightforward-thinking students.

Regardless of that, spending over half of the schoolyear worrying about a test is saddening, and it makes me feel like I'm not teaching anything; it makes me feel like a facilitator.

What do you all think? I would love to read your comments below.

... And This is Why Teachers Are Leaving the Profession (Well, I Mean, At Least Here in the USA).
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  • Thank you for sharing. I didn't realize how annoying the Common Core was. It must be very frustrating to be a teacher just having to deal with the kids, let alone all these unwarranted guidelines.

  • zagor

    Too much spent on administrators and useless positions.

    Several UC campuses have at least one high-level position whose purpose is to help students who aren't in the country legally.

    • What do you mean by "UC campuses"? I'm confused.

      I know UC is University of Cincinnati, University of California, and University of Colorado (and some others).

    • zagor

      University of California.

  • Nice take

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