19 April 2008

A Possible Teacher Exodus?

Some interesting statistics are out from Sam Houston State University, as reported in an article in the Dallas Morning News today. In short, here are the interesting points (only slightly reworded from the article for grammatical purposes):

1. 44 percent of teachers are seriously thinking about quitting their teaching jobs.
2. [The average teacher] puts in 13.4 hours a week at home doing additional schoolwork.
3. 21 percent cited low salaries [as]… why they are considering leaving the profession.
4. 42 percent cited poor working conditions as…why they are considering leaving the profession.

The troubling result cited above concerns poor working conditions. While I was unable to find a more detailed report of the 2008 findings, I was able to dig up those from 2000. The important number: “Fifty-seven percent [of respondents] say their worst problem is discipline.” While I realize that I’m not on exactly firm logical ground here, it stands to reason that the 42 percent in 2008 who cited “poor working conditions” would probably include poor student discipline as a reason for those working conditions. They may, indeed, cite student discipline as the major reason.

I would say that, given the above, that by in large, teachers as a whole are not the problem with education – at least in the state of Texas. Surely, there are individual cases of teachers who simply do not do the job. That is true of every profession.

However, education is somewhat unique in that the “customer” – the student – is also the “product”. If the student chooses regularly to damage himself, then the “product” will be seriously flawed; the student will not have learned what is required of him. What’s more, individual students have an effect on each other. Destructive students do not only damage themselves, but also create flaws in the students around them.

What is a teacher’s responsibility with regard to such determined self-destructive “products”? Indeed, the increasing expectation is that all students, regardless of motivation, must be “learned” by the teacher. (I purposefully do not use “taught” here.) Increasing focus on teachers “learning” their students will not result in better educated students. Students can be taught, but they must learn, essentially, on their own. Or, to quote Dr. Seuss, “You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”

By placing the responsibility for learning primarily on teachers, our public school system exposes a serious flaw within itself. It assumes that every child is equally receptive of learning, is equally motivated, and is equally capable. That 44 percent of Texas teachers are “seriously thinking about quitting” reveals, perhaps, just how serious those in the profession see that flaw.

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