Where have all the teachers gone?
Gone to other jobs everyone, when will we ever learn, when will we ever learn? For those of you of a certain age or a fan of the 60’s folk music, you might recognize the play on the lyrics of “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?”
Today teachers’ salaries are higher than ever. In Maryland, they are among the highest in the country. Carroll County Maryland has just announced new teacher salaries will start at $48,000 this coming fall. Yet in spite of dramatic salary increases, with even more expected as the Kirwan Commission goes into full operation, school systems are having a very hard time hiring and keeping teachers.
In the olden days, workers on the assembly lines at GM, Ford and Chrysler could earn 85-100,000 dollars a year with minimal education and experience, some limited overtime, and great benefits. These folks worked the job for the salary, retired when they could. I had a good friend who worked for GM as an engineer. He told me to never buy a car made on a Monday or any day after a holiday. He said workers often came in hung over and were sloppy in their work.
I doubt that teachers come in hungover today. But what I don’t doubt is that many of them feel much like the workers on the assembly lines. They are not getting the emotional return on their jobs that they once did. In many ways they are working on an assembly line. Pacing guides tell them when to teach and when to move on. Tight curriculum plans spell out what materials to use and how to teach each concept. They are cautioned against getting emotionally involved with the students.
But what is the point in being a teacher if you can’t get emotionally invested in your kids? What is the point in being a teacher if you can’t look to creative ways to teach them better? What is the point of being a teacher if you can’t stop a lesson to find out how a kid is doing now that her parents are separating? What is the point to being a teacher if you can’t authentically get to know your kids and change up methodology to meet their needs? Forty-eight thousand dollars a year for a starting teacher will be one of the highest starting salaries in the state. But it doesn’t answer any of the foregoing questions. Answer those questions and you will know why all the teachers are going. And unlike assembly line workers teachers are well-educated and have options.