Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The sad story on teacher shortages: low pay, bad conditions, and a lot of disrespect

David Safier writing at Tucson Weekly/The Range has some choice observations on reasons for the teacher shortage in Arizona (and the nation).

Tim Steller wrote a good column Saturday, Underpaid and disrespected, Arizona's teachers flee. Arizona teachers are leaving the profession altogether, he wrote, or leaving the state for greener—as in higher-salaried—states. It's worth a read, in part because of Steller's support for Ed Supe Diane Douglas' education funding proposal which is the only one among those currently being floated that targets the teacher shortage directly, to the tune of $400 million.

... the improving economy is part of the reason people are choosing other professions over teaching, but that's far from the whole story. The savaging of teachers, which has been promoted by conservatives since the Reagan years and has become a regular drumbeat in the media, is driving people out of the profession. Teachers are thinking, "I work my ass off to educate your children while being paid a ridiculously low salary and having to cope with too many students and too few books and supplies, and all I hear is what a lousy job I'm doing." The disrespect is literally adding insult to injury. ...

Some years ago we were diving in Kimbe Bay on the island of New Britain (Google it). The other couple in our group were Canadian elementary school teachers who were teaching in a remote community on the opposite side of the island. (Think no electricity at night and toilet paper as a highly valued commodity.) In describing their experiences, these teachers contrasted the behaviors of students in North America and those in New Britain. Their young students said "good morning" at the beginning and "thank you" at the end of the day. The telling of their story about the young islanders brought tears to their eyes - literally so. These youngsters were grateful for the education they were receiving. North American students? Not so much.

These teachers' stories really struck home because we also were teaching but at a public university in the U. S. It often seemed that we were regarded as merely barriers to a higher grade. Our New Britain teachers taught us a valuable lesson. Respect is not just one thing, it is everything. And in that regard America is failing its teachers.

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