06 August 2005

Hey! That's me!

Well, sorta.

According to a recent collection of statistics put together by the New York Times (id: bugmenotnyt2005; password: june2005), I resemble today's new teacher in a few ways. This is because I'm
  • female, representing about 75% of the profession.
  • white, representing 84% of the profession.
  • altruistic, with 96% saying that they love their job.

Teachers tend to become disillusioned, er, outgrow the "altruistic" motivation to teach by about the fifth year. This is also the time when 46% have left the profession. I wonder if the rest of us still suffer from the Don Quixote Syndrome, tilting at the windmill of making a difference in society. (Maybe altruism isn't the right term here. It could be that the author looked at the salary scale for teachers before choosing her words.) Perhaps we've just found our motivation from other aspects of the profession rather than solely depending upon saving the world.

Here is where I differ from today's new teacher.

  • "Teaching attracts a 'disproportionately high number of candidates from the lower end of the distribution of academic ability,' says a report last year from the National Council on Teacher Quality. In 2004, the average combined SAT score for college-bound seniors was 1,026; the average for those who intended to major in education was 965. Only home economics, public affairs and technical and vocational scores were lower." Even "undecided" majors have higher SAT scores.
  • They are career-changers, with an average age of 35 years of age and have seven to eight years with another profession.

I do wonder about the first piece of information. Is it a reflection of the "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." axiom? Is it because teaching is generally viewed as a slacker profession that anyone can do, so people gravitate toward it? And, more importantly, are SAT scores really such great predictors of how well someone will be able to teach? My understanding is that those are not what those numbers are to be used for.

I am 35 years old, but I'm not a "second-career teacher." Assuming the economy improves, how many of these "retreads" will go back to their first profession?

All of this makes good food for thought, but it also makes me curious about what's missing from the article: why do new teachers stay in the profession? what attracts males and minorities to teaching? I'm not going to assume that these answers would be simple. It just seems like if we are looking to attract a high-quality workforce to education, we need to know how to get them here. It's simple enough to identify the recruitment issues---what will we do to change them?

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