Teaching is challenging, rewarding
April 25, 2016
by Jenni Sebora

The number of college students graduating with a teaching degree has decreased by half from just two years ago.

The biggest shortage of teachers lies in the area of special education math and science in most states, and actually, down the road, there will be a teacher shortage in almost all areas of teaching.

Of course, this varies from state to state, with states such as New York not having nearly the same teacher shortage issues because of the higher salary teachers are paid there.

I know what some of you are thinking, “Here we go. Teachers are whining about how much they are paid.”

Teacher salary, certainly as with any job, has an impact on people going into the field, as well as retaining employees.

College students who are studying math and/or science, for example, can make a lot more money in a different profession than they would in teaching for the same number of years of college prep, without the public scrutiny of high stakes testing – “test and punish.”

More and more districts are evaluating teachers based on how students perform on these high stakes tests, which have so many issues.

I will never forget, when I taught in Eden Prairie, I was at a staff meeting, when one of our high school science teachers stood up to give a comment. She had been working in the private sector as a chemist for several years, but wanted to make a career change, so she went into teaching. She conveyed that teaching is the hardest job she ever had.

This science teacher revealed that when working in the private sector, your goal is to produce a product, but as a teacher, you are not working with “products,” and your end result is not a “thing.”

We are working with young people who are all different, from different environments, with various emotions that change from day to day.

She also conveyed that those who work in the private sector or in public business and have never taught can never know all the variables and challenges faced as a teacher. She shared that it is rewarding, but also extremely challenging.

I will never forget the time I was in an elementary classroom substituting, and someone from the office came to give me a note to tell me that I had to let this little first-grade girl know that she would not be going home on the bus that day because her mom was gone (jail), but must go to another relative’s house. Now, how does that not affect the learning and emotions of this student? Of course, it does.

I have worked with students who have come to school high on drugs. Then, the day turns into working with counselors, attempting to get the students help, because what will they gain from a reading lesson that day? There are far bigger issues.

I love my job, because I love helping students work toward their goals, helping them realize the person that they are, but it is not always easy.

There are so many variables and factors, unrelated to teaching in the recognized sense, that are not reflected in students’ test scores, but that is what the public and private sector measure success by for both the students and the teachers.

Of course, there has to be some testing, but it cannot be the end-all.

My brother-in-law put it best, “You don’t put all your resources into the scale that measures the pig, but most importantly, you put your resources into what you are feeding the pig.”

A lot of time and resources have been put into testing and standards set by those not in the field (not that we should not work collaboratively with those in the business field – in fact, we should). Educators are so tied down to what has to be taught according to standards and tests, that the realm of creativity is limited. That is also a factor in people entering the field of education.

So, there’s my beef. I love teaching and working with young people of all ages, but I feel, over the course of the last 10 years, the profession has really taken a toll and has been criticized and scrutinized.

I have children and I am a teacher – a proud teacher – proud of what I do. I want the best teachers for my own children, and I want to be surrounded by excellence, but with all that is going on, it certainly is not conducive.

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