There is a teacher shortage*, and it seems the mass exodus is only beginning. While many reasons are cited for this growing crisis, many fail to recognize an important factor: We teachers fail to inspire students.
There are some teachers who have lost their zest for their chosen career. For a myriad of reasons, teaching no longer appeals to them, and all too frequently they share this discontent, if not with words, with actions, with the very students they stand before.
Our collective attitude towards teaching as a profession is shameful, and we are discouraging our greatest students from seeking careers in the field of education. We teach our students to pursue not their passion, but the almighty dollar. And when we ourselves don’t show a passion or drive to teach, why would our students want to follow in our footsteps?
I’ve heard colleagues tell students: ‘Never become a teacher.’
I’ve heard parents say: ‘I don’t want my son to teach; I’m not paying for his college to be a teacher.’
When I asked a former student how many people told her teaching is a poor career choice, she responded: ‘A lot.. Pretty much everyone.’
Why do we tell our students this? Why do we, as teachers ourselves, dissuade them from following this career path?
A question for the naysayers: Who do you intend to teach your children or grandchildren one day? Our classrooms need knowledgeable teachers who care just as badly as hospitals need capable doctors and nurses. Sure, the weight on some teachers can be unbearable at times. I don’t dispute there are many school districts in which it’s less desirable to work. I have had friends who had terrible experiences and quit teaching altogether. But to tell a teenager, or anyone, teaching is a terrible profession? In telling students to steer clear of education, you become a part of the problem; you are contributing to this teacher shortage crisis. All those who cite lack of money- were you unaware of the pay scale when you chose this profession? Have you taken advantage of opportunities to advance yourself or grow? And if you’re miserable, why are you still taking up space in a classroom?
All of our students are special to someone: an undeniable truth. Don’t they deserve the best?
We tell our Valedictorians to pursue nobler dreams. When students with high ACT scores go into education, we respond, ‘She could have done anything.’
We tell our students becoming a teacher is a bad idea.
A bad idea?
•To create problem solvers
•To educate the very people who will vote on laws determining our fates
•To share the gift of knowledge we were fortunate enough to have shared with us
And teaching is a bad idea?
Bright students who show interest in education are persuaded to pursue something more worthwhile.
What is more worthwhile than teaching America’s children? Than teaching my children?
When my most capable students say they are thinking about becoming a teacher, I’m thrilled. Because that’s who I want in a room with my kids and future grandchildren. I want the smartest and most talented. I want the overachievers. I want the students who never settle for less than the best to lead the next generation.
Isn’t that what we all want?
*Joe Heim “America has a teacher shortage, and a new study says it’s getting worse.”