As a young teacher in the first year of my career, I am finding it difficult to remain optimistic about my future. For me, teaching is a calling. I was one of the few who decided what I wanted to do within the first year of college and actually saw it through to the end. Once I gained licensure, in the State of Iowa, I immediately applied for my Colorado license and began looking for jobs. After two years of being a substitute (which I did while pursuing a full time teaching job), and fifty or so applications, I was finally offered a job. I was nervous. I was excited. I was ready. I have since found my dream of educating young people as something of a disappointment. I expected grading. I expected to take work home with me, something I even did as a long term substitute. I expected rowdy and resistant students. I expected to teach. What I did not expect was the amount of extra work coming down the chain. Quantifiable goals, explicit steps and materials for personal professional development, and test scheduling became focuses for teachers across the board. It seems like we spend so much time explaining why we are capable, excellent teachers that we don’t get a chance to be capable, excellent teachers. While we pour over rubrics about effective lesson planning we could be planning effective lessons. While we administer a plethora of new standardized tests, we could be teaching the curriculum that is so heavily stressed. We spend time creating goals, defending those goals, quantifying more goals, and providing evidence to prove we met those goals. The only part I agree with is the reflection of those goals. I reflect naturally, as do most teachers I know, but it is beneficial to have to put those reflections into writing? Does it lead to more effective metacognition? Despite a few silver hoops, hope is dwindling.
My district is currently in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty. I don’t know of a single teacher who can confidently explain where the district is headed, and the hypotheses are not the most comforting answers. There’s talk of a pay scale by subject. I would make more money than some amazing veteran teachers because of the subjects or the grade levels we teach. I like money, but I also like a fair system. I believe we had a good system in place that gave raises to teachers for number of years and furthering their own education, but that has been “frozen” for years and may not come back despite an agreement that any extra money will be used to increase pay for the 2014-2015 school year. Now there is talk that this will not happen. We are an army of professionals who abide by the rules, regulations, and expectations of our contracts, but those who control our futures do not.
I am not finished learning. The day I don’t learn something new is the day I stop teaching. I want to go back to school. I have aspirations of masters and doctorates. I want to become an expert in my subject area, but where is the incentive? I will put myself in debt with no clear hope of compensation. The brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised, and I feel mine will atrophy without proper stimulation. Stimulation is the key to any growth, but it is no longer encouraged of teachers or students. We encourage a regurgitation of expectations. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a little want of knowledge is also a dangerous thing,” said Samuel Butler. I want more knowledge, but not if it means I will be paying for it for the rest of my life.
This is a national issue and if it is not affecting your community yet it will. Teachers are not the problem, and if things go the way they are headed then teaching will no longer be a career, but a stepping stone on the path to “better things.” Young, excited teachers will possibly look to other professions. Especially if we place too much stock in charter schools, the job market will be flooded with “candidates” who are not trained as teachers (charter schools do not require a teaching license). It is hard enough to get a job as a qualified teacher; throw in thousands of other applicants, and it will be nearly impossible. The “teachers” who do not have the proper qualifications would most likely treat teaching as a stepping stone for another profession, or as a way to pay for graduate school. How long would those employees stay in the school? If the turnover rate for teachers becomes too high, then teachers will lack the one thing that makes them truly great: experience. Who will end up suffering the most? The students.
We believe in quality education for ALL.