As a college advisor, I help students find their future niches. I love this part of my job – brainstorming and discussing career options to help them make good choices that will be satisfying and lucrative. But, over the past decade I’ve been hearing from students who would love to become teachers that they won’t go into teaching because they worry that they won’t be able to make enough money to support themselves. GASP!
What does this say about our society that one of the most important positions – TEACHING OUR CHILDREN – pays so little that our best candidates pursue careers in other fields? This means that the best candidates don’t end up teaching in classrooms across America. Why is this a tragedy? We need our teachers to inspire our children to learn. When teachers are paid so little that they often need second jobs to pay their bills, they’re going to leave the profession or they won’t enter it at all.
Schools are scrambling to find math and science teachers because they’re going into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. I see teachers in classrooms attempting to teach classes without the necessary degrees or credentials to do a good job. Many PE teachers end up teaching math classes because anyone who can teach math can get better paying jobs in just about any other career.
Low-income (high poverty) schools are hit the hardest with teacher shortages. The best teachers are recruited by higher-income schools because they can offer more support, safer working conditions, and better selection of the courses they will teach.
We need to support our schools, pay our teachers a livable wage, and give them the benefits they so deserve. And while this pandemic is temporary, it just adds another layer of reasons why many potential teachers choose different paths. How can we expect our children to be prepared to function in society and to go on to higher education if they don’t receive the solid foundation they need in K-12 classrooms. Take flowers, give treats, and help support your children’s teachers.