Before my Student Success Project presentations, I always ask the kids, “When was the last time you thanked a teacher.” Their response is always the same – “For What?” With that, you can only wonder how teachers feel about being teachers.
There is a definite disconnect since teachers will tell you that teaching is a passion. A passion that all of us do not equate with financial and emotional value.
Then throw in Ron DeSantis’s war on “wokeness,” and you can figure out why there is a Florida Brain Drain.
Instead of propping up and supporting educators, they have been tossed into a legal minefield, and there’s every reason for many to want to leave the profession entirely.
As Florida’s culture war rages on, educators across the state—which according to the National Education Association, ranks 48th nationally in average teacher salary—are leaving in droves, some even retiring early.
In January 2019, when DeSantis first took office, Florida had 2,217 teacher vacancies. According to the Florida Education Association, that number has since more than doubled to 5,294 vacancies as of January 2023.
According to Rebecca Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the US, the collective DeSantis salvo was a bridge too far for many teachers.
“I just talked to one teacher yesterday who is leaving, and she said, ‘I can’t teach like this’,” Pringle said. “‘I can’t teach while worrying that they’re coming after my license, or I’m committing a felony.”
I mean, who would want to enter a profession where respect and admiration don’t even rank from the get-go? Our collective actions leave us to ask – “why do we loathe teachers?”
You usually do not have to wait long to hear someone bash teachers or for an article in the newspaper to showcase how lousy teachers are. Complaining about teachers has become a national pastime, at least in the United States.
Gone are the days when educators were revered and looked up to. Gone are the days when teachers were believed when they reported lousy student behavior. Sadly, also gone are the days when the best and the brightest in the class wanted to become teachers.
Other countries hold their teachers in high esteem, and they are treated like professionals. They are given the time needed to prepare and hold their students to high standards. Their integrity is unimpeachable.
People in other countries look at how teachers in the United States are viewed and treated and are left scratching their heads.
How can it be that the people responsible for educating the youth in America are so despised and hated by so many? It’s all so counterintuitive. Has it always been like that?
IN THE BEGINNING
Communities have always liked to exert control over their teachers. Control grows out of mistrust. For instance, in 1915, female teachers were forbidden to date or marry while under contract. Nor could they leave town without permission, ride in a car with a man, or smoke cigarettes. Dresses were to be no more than two inches above the ankles and were forbidden to dye their hair or wear bright colors.
In other words, they were nuns without the habit.
In 1955, “Why Johnny Can’t Read” was published, highlighting how teaching methods for reading were inadequate and promoted using phonetics as a way to teach reading.
The author, Rudolph Flesch, reiterated his message in 1981 with the sequel “Why Johnny Still Can’t Read.”
In 2015, “Why Millions of Kids Can’t Read and What Better Teaching Can Do About It” was put together by American Public Radio and highlighted children’s reading scores in Bethlehem, PA.
While these publications lay the blame at the feet of teacher colleges, parents often lay the blame at the feet of the teacher.
SETTING UP FOR FAILURE
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, better known as the ADA, pushed for mainstreaming kids with special needs into regular classrooms. The teachers whose classes these children were placed in often needed more training in teaching kids with special needs.
These students were to be put into “the least restrictive environment” and were to be guaranteed a “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE). Students with special needs often do well in a mainstream classroom with proper support from a special education teacher.
The problems come when schools, strapped for cash, provide minimal support for the student and place them in larger classes. The regular education teacher cannot keep up with the Individual Education Plan (IEP) demands, and the student’s needs go unmet. This often results in angry parents and sometimes the involvement of organizations like Citizens for Renewing America.
The question I want to explore is why, in modern society, there is so much antipathy toward a profession that does our society so much good. Why is there so much pent-up anger toward those who choose this occupation? That is what needs to be examined whether we like the findings or not.
To be continued…
This column is by Ritchie Lucas, Founder/CEO of the non-profit The Student Success Project. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook as The Student Success Project.
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