A couple weeks ago, Bill Ferriter posted an interesting and heart-felt piece on race and teaching in America. It was poignant due to its rarity as much as its honesty. Considering this particular discussion’s prevalence in our nation’s dialogue on our culture at large, it should logically be occupy space in the landscape of our discussions about classroom culture.
And yet it doesn’t.
The #edchats on Tuesday nights at 7 pm cover many topics, but whenever race in the classroom was a choice in the weekly vote, it was never selected. That was, Tom Whitby says, until all five choices were on the topic and it forced the issue.
It may be only be six weeks after New Year’s, but already both the state of North Carolina and Wake County have grave concerns about filling the needed teaching positions for next school year.
And so they should.
North Carolina often fills positions from teachers in states like Ohio and New York where turnover is low and teachers can’t find positions. However, with no more pay for advanced degrees in NC, most of those candidates will likely no longer be coming here anymore.
Besides needing to attract teachers, there’s the issue of teacher turnover. NCDPI was concerned enough about this very issue to send a report to the General Assembly. You can read the whole report here, but I’ve compiled a few highlights:
You’ll notice it’s not just that more teachers are leaving, but that more and more tenured, experienced teachers are leaving. The mentors of the beginning teachers. The department chairs. The leadership team members. The teachers any principal needs upon which to build a school.
The concerns the data raise are only the tip of the iceberg for what I feel is impending, based on my front-row view from the classroom trenches.
For example, of significant note but not yet reflected in this report is the fact that in Wake County alone, the number of teachers who have left specifically to teach in another state have already doubled so far this year from this data last year.
And…it’s still only February.
Also consider this year so far this blog has included:
These are some of the best educators in North Carolina classrooms from all over the state. And although I can personally vouch for their exceptionalism as educators, I am certain these sentiments are not exceptional. Conversations like this one are happening on every facebook wall and in every teacher lounge in the state.
Yes, indeed…they should be gravely concerned about the mass exodus coming North Carolina’s way.
However, I surprised myself by reacting in an entirely different, non-serious way. Perhaps it’s due to the current state of education, particularly in my own state of North Carolina, where we have to laugh or we’d cry, but my husband and I just kept riffing (and laughing) on all the ways teachers are soooo not either of these professions.
I thought others may also get a chuckle from what we came up with…and maybe add a few more in the comments.
So, I present to you:
Ten Ways Teachers are Soooo NOT Doctors or Surgeons
You knew it was coming. Let’s just get it out of the way, shall we? I made an infographic on easel.ly to see what the difference was in my own city.
I was curious.
Credibility. Even in the face of death of a loved one, “I did everything I could.” actually means something coming from a surgeon.
Concrete data. A heart attack presents like a heart attack and cancer is treated like cancer, regardless of a patient’s ability, motivation, or intelligence. This makes quite a difference if you are expected to act on the information with the certainty and confidence demanded of all three professions.
Help. Doctors and surgeons have nurses. Physician’s assistants. EMTs. Those people that check you in and out. Orderlies…etc. A very small, ever-shrinking percentage of teachers have teachers’ assistants. (And anyone who thinks they don’t desperately need them should come teach a class of 24 kindergarteners solo.)
Teachers can’t excise a tumor of laziness or ignorance…though a girl can dream, can’t she?
Doctors don’t have to write plans for a substitute doctor to try to see all the patients in their care in a day. They can simply reschedule their appointments for the day if they’re out. (Actually, someone else probably does that for them.)
Please show me the surgeon who has 35 people on operating tables…at once.
Rarely is a patient unconscious on the table and still able to hurl obscenities at the surgeon or threaten them with bodily harm. (Of course, I’m just guessing.)
I’m pretty sure there are very few doctors buying their own tongue depressors out-of-pocket.
No one ever criticizes a doctor or surgeon for the appointment not being engaging or entertaining enough.
UPDATE Comments have had me look more closely at the data in the table. For example, I realized I should have divided by 5 instead of 7, since weekends were already removed from both sides. The infographic has been updated several times to reflect the new numbers. Many thanks to commenters and their efforts to keep this an active, living document!
“Thank you for your time and energy to bring the plight of NC Teachers to the forefront of America’s awareness! Your graphic shows the breakdown for pay only for days directly teaching students. I’m a math teacher, so I want to show the numbers just a bit more specifically. We are paid for 210 days. At this point, most people get agitated about how “little” we work. So let’s compare to any other profession. Most careers, with college educated professionals work Monday through Friday. With 52 weeks a year, that is 104 days off for weekends. The US has eleven recognized paid holidays. Taking the 365 days in a year, and subtracting the 104 weekend days and 11 holidays, that leaves 250 work days. Most career professionals get two weeks of vacation, or more, but let’s use two weeks as a beginning point. That is 236 days working in a year. Teachers only work 26 days less than the average beginning career professional. I would venture to say the typical career adds weeks of vacations as a perquisite the longer one holds the job. Teaching days remain constant through the life of our career.”
These opportunities are well-deserved and no one who remains in the classroom could fault anyone for taking them. However, each one is the loss of an educator who daily and directly touched the lives of students. Those of us left in the pragmatic and emotional wake of their departure feel stretched and strained. They each will be missed dearly.
One of these fallen fellow classroom warriors, Trishia Joy Lowe, wrote the following of her classroom departure and has graciously allowed me to share it here with you.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Today, I leave what I have loved doing for nearly twenty years – teaching, NOT education, TEACHING. I put in my papers and am moving forward to a career in business as a Director in Growth and Public Relations.
It is bitter-sweet.
I loved the classroom when it was just My students, THEIR love of learning, and ME.That’s REAL, that’s AUTHENTIC, THAT IS ALIVE. I had an obligation to impart a passion for learning, not just grades. I took seriously my responsibility to build skills, ignite curiosity, and grow my students intellectually – to hold my students as accountable to their progress as I held myself – not merely to answer A-B-C-D or None of the Above.
However, too many outside factors have faded that beautiful reality, that “life all its own”, that love of learning in my students and in me. (Yes, I learned so much from those beautiful, honest little people).
Too many influences have robbed us of our ability to share freely, teach openly, assess each other honestly, and grow. Too many factors stand between me and my students as I teach – they have polluted what was once a pure process.
So, I’m waving the “White Flag”. I surrender. I leave.
As I tendered my own resignation, I learned two moreoutstanding North Carolina teachers are leaving the classroom in my building. How many more teachers need to leave NC schools before parents understand there are highly trained, highly educated, highly intelligent, highly committed professionals who stand before their children each day, pouring everything THEY’VE got into THEIR children?
How many more skilled teachers need to leave before administrators “get it” and allow the truly “best and brightest” the autonomy to teach passionately without fear? To assess honestly for the sake of a child’s REAL growth without questioning from administrators as to our “judgement”?
How many more NC teachers need to leave before legislators just leave the professionals alone to do what they do best—TEACH?
(And by the way: a pay raise commensurate with that professionalism might be nice.)
Teachers have and continue to “fight the good fight” despite legislators, who, in many instances, are less educated, and less committed to people than their own pockets. Teachers’ pockets were emptied long ago, but they continue to teach passionately and courageously while digging deeper into their emptying pockets to buy supplies for their students and their classrooms.
However, the camel’s back is breaking. What happens when the camel finally wanders off for a better oasis?
There’s been lots of discussion, here and elsewhere, about what the Education Budget will really mean for my state. However, I’ve recently learned some news that has made all of the politics which we have been discussing less a matter of an abstract ideal and more of a pragmatic reality. It has really provoked contemplation: a colleague and good friend is leaving the classroom.
Once our School Improvement Chair, she is leaving the field of education all together. My PLT teammate of almost a decade is going to become a corporate trainer and her last day is in two short weeks.
And she’s not the only one.
It seems everywhere I turn, educators with whom I teach or have taught are making the decision to leave the classroom for a rosier horizon elsewhere.
Apparently, this isn’t just localized to my school or county, either. Elsewhere in the state, I was flagged in the following facebook post by a NC high school science teacher discussing the frustrations of staffing her department:
Incidentally, I don’t know one personally, but can you imagine being a North Carolina principal or superintendent trying to staff a school in a county along the Virginia border right now?
Anyway, the conversation that followed this status update included teachers – amazing educators – stating how they are in a market for a new job, or how they are one of the few at their school not in the market for a new job, but only due to pragmatic details like how close they are to retirement, etc.
Educators whom I respect – some I had even hoped my own children would have in the classroom one day – are leaving. And not that I have any immediate prospects, but even if I were to get a job paying $100,000 tomorrow, it would not solve all of my own personal concerns. I don’t want my two children in a system where people are only there because they have no other options.
And while I can’t fault anyone looking for better horizons in the grim landscape that is becoming the classroom educator’s profession, I can tell you it is leaving a feeling of desperation behind. This is not the feeling you want amongst those educating your children. Or grandchildren. Or workforce you’ll need to hire for your business.
These politicians simply can’t keep saying they are putting your children first if they continue to put the state’s teachers last. The bottom line is that as more and more teachers set sail for that horizon, it will be the students upon whom the sun sets.
WRAL wrote about how the Red for Ed movement is now extending into the classrooms. The website features a letter by Angie Panel Scioli, a Leesville Road High School Teacher, and a WRAL video about the Red for Ed movement, which asks that everyone wear red on Wednesdays in support of public education.
And so, as I expect many experienced teachers may soon do, I recently priced my house on Zillow. Unfortunately, I learned it is worth only about $4,000 more than what we bought it for…over a decade ago.
So, I then channeled my frustration, anger, and disgust with the current state of affairs in my home state into yet another easel.ly project.
It surprised me, to say the least. I spent the week mediating, reading, and responding to more comments than “Teaching Speaks Volumes” has received in its entire year.
The 176 comments thus far mostly fall into three categories:
1. Passion and Experience Passionate, dedicated educators (and some in college studying to be one) shared their experiences and articulated their frustrations. Also, those that understand our plight voiced support. It was clear that this post resonated with educators of all political walks, as I’d noted at the beginning of the post was holding true in the other discussions I was having. It’s worth the read – these comments were quite moving.
2. Political finger-pointing “Gov McCrory has only been in office for less than 7 months. It’s not his fault”.
Ironically, I’d be willing to bet it was the same people who get angry when President Obama’s camp brings up George W who made sure to point out how short McCrory has been in office thus far.
Both “sides” can make claims about how the other “side” did such-and-so “before they got here”. As I tried to articulate in the post: I don’t care to argue who created what portion of what mess; I care about cleaning it up. Can we all get on the same “side” please? The one with the American citizens’ best interests? Politics right now is so into being on sides with “winners” that it is our society’s future and the children who are the “losers”. The blame game is not helpful. We are where we are. And where we are sucks. Let’s just fix it.
Gov. McCrory and the current legislation are the ones tasked with the care of our state now. We address them not because they are where it all started, but because they are where we need it to begin to end. It is my fervent hope that a better understanding of teachers’ current frustrations, both from the data in the infographic and from the experiences witnessed in comments by educators, could help them make better decisions than we have experienced thus far.
3. Accusations of Greed “If you’re only doing it for the money, then go find the money. If you’re doing it because you like your job and you want to help kids, what are belly-aching for? They haven’t fired you, have they?” ~Actual commenter quote
Some comments provided excellent examples of the opinion pervasive in the public that makes this such an uphill battle for teachers: “If you really loved the kids, you wouldn’t be griping about money.”
It is this line of thinking that, while I can’t speak for all teachers, I personally find the most insulting and infuriating. It is as condescending as it is out-of-touch with the reality of our situation.
Wanting to serve the best interests of students doesn’t shouldn’t mean we have no right to be able to provide for our own families. We are not expecting to get rich from what we do. We are wanting a living wage. It is increasingly impossible to be a teacher and afford life’s basics. Some can’t afford basic care for their own kids. We are college graduates – this should not be a poverty-stricken job.
Just how rich are we not getting?
I close with my latest easel.ly infographic where I explored that very question:
A new school year is budding: I teach in a multi-track year round school, and our students’ first day of school is tomorrow. Weboth have wonderful staff members returning and are welcoming a large number of new staff members to our building. The faculty kick-off last week was truly exciting.
We have a very large staff, and we learned from a clicker session by our media specialist that we are almost exactly divided into thirds between Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.
We viewed some funny & informative clips from speakers on generations in the workplace like Jason Dorsey and Cam Marlston like this and this, as well as looked at other information. Teachers were asked to reflect and discuss which parts pertained to them and which did not. It all led to a really rich discussion of our staff, the strengths of each generation, and led to what it means in terms of technology and instruction.
We then shifted focus from who we are …to who we teach.