12 February 2005

Where are the Teachers?

I was pointed toward this article about why so many educators leave the profession within five years. I hadn't thought about the economic costs. The author states that "When teachers drop out, everyone pays. Each teacher who leaves costs a district $11,000 to replace, not including indirect costs related to schools' lost investment in professional development, curriculum, and school-specific knowledge. At least 15 percent of K-12 teachers either switch schools or leave the profession every year, so the cost to school districts nationwide is staggering -- an estimated $5.8 billion." There are more noteworthy stats there, as well.

The author, like many in our school, is/was a "retread," meaning someone who has come to teaching as a second (or third) profession. We have lots of "Navy Retreads" in my district, as there are 3 different Navy bases in the county. But, even one of my housemates qualifies for this moniker. Most retreads are people who are community-minded. They look at teaching from whatever profession they're currently in...and think it will be something both "easy" and a place to make a difference: a "fun" change from their current job. Many of these retreads don't last long in the school setting.

With the economic downturn of the last few years, there have been more and more retreads in the teaching business. After all, in spite of the stock market, kids are still waiting at the schoolroom door. However, jobs for professionals were not there and education was a convenient place for some of those displaced professionals to land. But now, the economy is starting to perk up...and as retreads go back to their "first love," there will be an even greater need to fill in classrooms.

Meanwhile, the author of the article mentions that "37 percent of the education workforce is over 50 and considering retirement, according to the National Education Association. Suddenly, you've got a double whammy: tens of thousand of new teachers leaving the profession because they can't take it anymore, and as many or more retiring."

When I hear a kid say that they like to be a teacher, I try to be encouraging. I don't tell them all the hard stuff. Let's face it, there are aspects to every job and career that will be difficult, no matter what your experience and education level is. But somewhere, we have to find people who can do what a career in teaching now requires and then find a way to help them make a go of it.

I saw a quote in an elementary school when I was a first-year teacher. It stated that "Somewhere in America, a future president of the United States is sitting in a classroom. Let us hope that she is having a nice day." I have tried to remember that at various points, but perhaps it is time to amend that quote. Maybe it is time to think about the future teachers sitting in our rooms.

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