Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Turn-over today feels different. Has teaching lost respectability?

So another staff member is on the move again.  Small schools are accustom to it.  In a small district you find yourself with more preps and less pay.  It is simply more work for less money.  Thus there is a lot of turnover.

Those that work in a small school do it for a variety of reasons: young staff gaining experience so they can move on to more money, local people who live in the area (that can be hit/miss on quality - really lucky at my school), or the truly power hungry (like me - I love teaching it all and making the final decision on how to deliver curriculum, 9th - 12th).  Fortunately in the past we were respected and appreciated by the super-majority of people which is a fringe that made teaching worth it, that though is slowly back-sliding to a simple majority.

And without a super-majority the fringe value disappears, I end up dealing with people that think you teach because you are inferior at your trade, or that anybody can teach, and those moments are some of the most infuriating/depressing moments of my year (a super-majority suppresses these people).  Without the super-majority the year after year raises that kept pay stable (based on real buying power) are gone; raises when they are not frozen are less than cost of living.  That drives people to make decisions on finances, because bad pay and bad public perception is a horrible combination.  And though we say we want the best in education, we pay for mediocrity.  And as we backslide more, the number of people who will work for less and feel like "getting their ass kicked by public perception" keeps decreasing (and professionalism will disappear too, people act as expected).

And I feel it is that backslide from a super-majority supporting education to a simple majority that contributes to the number of staff moving on to non-teaching positions -- the percentage of staff leaving education as a whole seems to be quickly growing.  When I started 8 years ago staff left for one of two reasons -- a new teaching job or retirement.  But that seems to be changing, now a small district cannot be called a statistical significant experiment, but this year 50% of the staff that resigned has left the teaching profession.  And this is not because of our local district or board, but a nationally undermining of education.

More decisions about what is important, how we teach and how we test are happening further and further from our district.  More of my dealings are with 'people' (or departments, state agencies, etc) that want to hold me accountable but limit my tools.  People in my area, Board members, parents, school supporters want to give me the tools, but the funding occurs way above them.   And the further away you get from our district the less the minority thinks about education, and all it takes is a simple minority to rule education through misinformation, when there is no super-majority supporting education it starts to lose.  Everywhere I hear education as a whole is broken, but my kid's school is good -- that is the minority selling snake-oil; schools need to be more responsive and work harder on continuous improvement but that is a detail, not a reason to rail against public education (or to simply starve it which is what I think is happening).    Soon what the minority screams about education will be correct because we will have starved it of its good people.

It is the perception that the minority is selling that all education is broken that is breaking all schools.