If you have the time (about 17 minutes worth), I recommend listening to a "Tell Me More" broadcast over on NPR entitled Teachers Stumped by Budget, Discipline. It is billed as follows: Budget shortfalls and constant discipline issues are driving an alarming number of teachers out of the classroom. A roundtable of teachers talk about how they cope with these obstacles, and how these challenges will affect the future of the American education system.
At the table are two young male teachers, and a woman with over 30 years of classroom experience. Obviously, they have had very different experiences and viewpoints about the work. The woman believes that one must be "called" to the profession in order to be successful. I really disagree with this, although I hear this particular old saw quite a bit. The problem with it is that we tell our kids all the time that they can find success anywhere they choose as long as they are willing to make the effort...and then we turn around and say that only special people can teach. Do we tell ineffective classroom teachers that they must not have received some magical and ethereal message and that's why they do such poor work---or do we identify areas of improvement and support them? The men involved with the discussion are much more concrete about the issues involved with public education and teacher dissatisfaction: student discipline, poor working conditions, etc. While specifying these issues doesn't make it any easier to solve them, it is a start. Giving them a little national attention certainly can't hurt.