The Completely Avoidable Teacher Shortage and What To Do About It

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Hello?

Lo-lo-lo-lo…

Is anybody here?

Ere-ere-ere-ere…

Is anyone else left? Am I the only one still employed here?

Somedays it feels like it.

Somedays teaching in a public school is kind of like trying to run a resort hotel – ALL BY YOURSELF.

 
You’ve got to teach the classes and watch the lunch periods and cover the absences and monitor the halls and buy the pencils and tissues and fill out the lesson plans and conduct the staff meetings and…

Wouldn’t it be better if there were more people here?

I mean seriously. Why do we put the entire responsibility for everything – almost everything – involved in public education and put it all on the shoulders of school teachers?

And since we’re asking questions, why do we ALSO challenge their right to a fair wage, decent healthcare, benefits, reasonable hours, overtime, sick leave, training, collective bargaining… just about ANYTHING to encourage them to stay in the profession and to get the next generation interested in replacing them when they retire?

Why?

Well, that’s part of the design.

You see today’s public schools employ 250,000 fewer people than they did before the recession of 2008–09. Meanwhile enrollment has increased by 800,000 students.

So if we wanted today’s children to have the same quality of service kids received in this country only a decade ago, we’d need to hire almost 400,000 more teachers!

Instead, our children are packed into classes of 25, 30 even 40 students!

There’s no way a single teacher can give all those children her undivided attention at all times. There’s no way she can provide them with the kind of individualized instruction we know kids need in order to fulfill their potentials.

So why did we let this happen? Why do we continue to let this happen?

First, you have to understand that there are two very different kinds of public school experience. There is the kind provided by the rich schools where the local tax base has enough money to give kids everything they need including small class sizes and hiring enough teachers to get things done efficiently. And there’s the poor schools where the majority of our kids get educated by the most dedicated put upon teachers who give 110% everyday but somehow can’t manage to keep all those plates spinning in the air at the same time so the media swoops in, wags its finger and proclaims them a “failure.”

Bull.

It’s not teachers who are failing. It’s a system that stacks the deck against them and anxiously anticipates them being unable to meet unfair and impossible expectations.

Why do we let THAT happen?

Mainly because the people with money don’t care about poor and middle class children.

But also because they see the supposed failure of public schools as a business opportunity.

This is a chance to open a new market and scoop up buckets of juicy profit all for themselves and their donors.

It’s called privatized education. You know – charter schools and vouchers schools. Educational institutions not run by the public, not beholden to elected officials, but instead by bureaucrats who have the freedom to act in the shadows, cut student services and pocket the savings.

THAT’S why there’s a teacher shortage.

They want to deprofessionalize the job of teaching.

They don’t want it to be a lifelong career for highly trained, creative and caring individuals.

Why?

Those are people they have to pay a living wage. Those are people who know a thing or two and might complain about how the corporate scheme adversely affects the children in their care.

That’s why!

So these business people would rather teaching become a minimum wage stepping stone for young adults before they move on to something that pays them enough to actually support themselves and their families.

And to do that, the powers that be need to get rid of professional teachers.

People like me – folks with national board certification and a masters degree – they need to go.

THAT’S why class sizes are so large. That’s why so few young people are picking teaching as a major in college.

It’s exactly what the super-rich want.

And it doesn’t have to be some half mad Mr. Burns who makes the decisions. In my own district, the school board just decided to save money by cutting middle school math and language arts teachers – the core educators who teach the most important subjects on the standardized tests they pretend to value so much!

I’m under no illusions that my neighborhood school directors are in bed with the privatization industry. Some are clueless and some know the score. But the decision was prompted mostly by need. We’re losing too many kids to the local charter school despite its terrible academic track record, despite that an army of kids slowly trickle back to us each year after they get the boot from the privatizers, our district coffers are suffering because marketing is winning over common sense.

So number crunching administrators had a choice – straighten their backbones and fight, or suggest cutting flesh and bone to make the budget.

They chose the easier path.

As a result, middle school classes are noticeably larger, teachers have been moved to areas where they aren’t necessarily most prepared to teach and administrators actually have the gall to hold out their clipboards, show us the state test scores and cluck their tongues.

I actually heard an administrator this week claim that my subject, language arts, counts for double points on the state achievement rubric. I responded that this information should be presented to the school board as a reason to hire another language arts teacher, reduce class sizes and increase the chances of boosting test scores!

That went over like a lead balloon.

But it demonstrates why we’ve lost so much ground.

Everyone knows larger class sizes are bad – especially in core subjects, especially for younger students, especially for struggling students. Yet no one wants to do anything to cut class sizes.

If the state and federal government were really committed to increasing test scores, that’s the reform they would mandate when scores drop. Your kids aren’t doing as well in math and reading. Here’s some money to hire more teachers.

But NO.

Instead we’re warned that if we don’t somehow pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, they’ll close our school and give it to a private company to run – as if there were any evidence at all that this would help.

But, the school privatization cheerleader rebuts, why should we reward failing schools with more money?

The same reason you reward a starving stomach with more food. So the hungry person will survive!

Right now you’re doing the same thing with the testing corporations. They make the tests and grade the tests. So if students fail, the testing corporations get more money because then students have to take — MORE TESTS! And they are forced to take testing remediation classes that have to buy testing remediation materials produced by – wait for it – the same companies that make and grade the tests!

It’s a scam, ladies and gentlemen! And anyone who looks can see it.

But when you bring this up to administrators, they usually just nod and say that there’s nothing we can do about it. All we can do is keep trying to win the game – a game that’s rigged against us.

That’s exactly the attitude that’s gotten us where we are.

We can’t just keep doing it, keep appeasing the testing and privatization industry and their patsies in the media and government.

We must fight the system, itself, not go along with it.

We need to get on a bus and go to the state capital and Washington, DC, as a staff and protest. We need our school boards to pass resolutions against the unfair system. We need class action lawsuits. We need to tell everyone in the media what we know and repeat it again and again until it becomes a refrain.

And when we get these unfair evaluations of our under-resourced impoverished and multicultural districts, we need to cry foul. “Oh look! Pearson’s tests failed another group of mostly brown and black kids! I wonder what they have against children of color!”

Force them to change. Provide adequate, equitable and sustainable funding so we can hire the number of teachers necessary to actually get the job done. Make the profession attractive to the next generation by increasing teacher pay, autonomy, resources and respect. And stop evaluating educators with unproven, disproven and debunked evaluation schemes like value-added measures and standardized test scores. Judge them on what they do and not a trussed up series of expected outcomes designed by people who either have no idea what they’re talking about or actively work to stack the deck against students and teachers.

But most of all — No more going along.

No more taking the path most traveled.

Because we’ve seen where it leads.

It leads to our destruction.

22 thoughts on “The Completely Avoidable Teacher Shortage and What To Do About It

  1. It’s a business plan that has been in progress for many years. Education is a business now, not an art or a profession. We have to change the way we look at ourselves. We are now in a business owned by the billionaires. No such thing as “teachers”. https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/connecting-the-pieces-open-source-b

    “Fighting” is getting way to difficult now – fighting with people in power over us who have never been teachers, but sellers of technology. You only need 1 teacher for 300 students. The teacher actually works the Help Desk to make sure the computers are operating and the students are putting in the correct US and PW.

    Really… who would want to be a teacher nowadays? It’s not what it used to be. Big Brother doesn’t see the difference.

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      • Your position, that we have to fight, is the more difficult choice, yet it is the better one. If people are not prepared to fight for what they need then they will abdicating a duty which eventually will leave them at the mercy of the rich, who are truly merciless.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “It’s a scam, ladies and gentlemen! And anyone who looks can see it.

    But when you bring this up to administrators, they usually just nod and say that there’s nothing we can do about it. All we can do is keep trying to win the game – a game that’s rigged against us.

    That’s exactly the attitude that’s gotten us where we are. . . We must fight the system, itself, not go along with it.”

    Every adminimal, and even most teachers have that GAGA (go along to get along) Good German attitude. No, I’m not calling them Nazi’s. What the phrase is meant to point out is what Hannah Arendt described in her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem”, that the Nazi horror and evils were not perpetuated by the few, i.e., the Nazis by themselves, but the the vast majority of Germans who turned a blind eye to the horrors and evils and who were “just doing their jobs” (as they had been trained in their schooling experience to do). Arendt calls it the “banality of evil”.

    And that is exactly what is happening in American public education and the holocaust of children’s minds that is occurring with the standards and testing regime currently in place. GAGA Good German adminimals and teachers turn a blind eye and institute the harmful malpractices with nary a peep.

    “But, but, I have to provide for my family. What will I do when they fire me for speaking out?”

    Flimsy lilly-livered response in my view!

    “Oh, go easy on the educators, they mean well.”

    Don’t give a damn about their intentions because when I see life damaging results that come from the standards and testing regime which they institute, their intentions mean nothing.

    If I may quote someone far wiser than me:

    “Should we therefore forgo our self-interest? Of course not. But it [self-interest] must be subordinate to justice, not the other way around. . . . To take advantage of a child’s naivete. . . in order to extract from them something [test scores, personal information] that is contrary to their interests, or intentions, without their knowledge [or consent of parents] or through coercion [state mandated testing], is always and everywhere unjust even if in some places and under certain circumstances it is not illegal. . . . Justice is superior to and more valuable than well-being or efficiency; it cannot be sacrificed to them, not even for the happiness of the greatest number [paraphrasing Rawls]. To what could justice legitimately be sacrificed, since without justice there would be no legitimacy or illegitimacy? And in the name of what, since without justice even humanity, happiness and love could have no absolute value?. . . Without justice, values would be nothing more than (self) interests or motives; they would cease to be values or would become values without worth.”—Comte-Sponville in “A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues” [my additions]

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    • You recommend fighting and that is what people will have to do if the American Education system of education is to remain the good one it is, and also improve. The administrators are easy to attack since they, at least in their own eyes and with reason, are alone. Many of them also are not known for their courage.
      The individual worker puts his livelihood ahead of anything else and sees no reason to oppose; he or she will be dismissed quickly by admin also.
      One of the groups which has caught my attention is the BADASS Association, the only union which seems to be standing up and fighting for teachers and for pub ed., speaking to senators, using both facebook and twitter to seek for improvement in education. I am not hearing anything from the other unions. They show a lack of backbone and moral intent. Another group is the Network for Public Education. The work they do is extremely valuable.
      Many of these people are upper crust people although they do not see themselves in that manner; they read informative magazines, thought provoking books, and their awareness of the problems affecting education is far different from that of the poor people – who are legion- that I know. I live in an apartment and what I see are hundreds of people who, although they do not articulate it, are in desperate need of an improved education system which will give their children a chance to be the best they can be, one which will demand higher performance yet not use draconian discipline in accomplishing their goals. These people struggle everyday with hard times and they lack the things which make them aware of the problems. They are not readers and will not get much of the information that people like yourself get. You speak of Arendt; poor people in my neighborhoods and millions across the nation, do not meet with Arendt.
      There is one and only thing that can stop this and it is the vote of those same poor, but they have to be made aware, over and again, of the problem which privatization holds. In my neighborhood I have not seen any representative from the Democratic Party, at any time. They are a disappointment. I have written to the office and have gotten replies which I can at least say were written in English.
      You see the people who read a post like this are not the poor people of the type I know. So a blog post like this, even though it indicates a level of bravery, ‘preaches to the choir.’ There has to be found some way to broaden the reach of posts such as these, so that some of the people, those who don’t read ‘Rawls’ – of whom there is a multitude- may be made aware of the true dangers of what we are facing. They will vote and without some input will make the same mistake they made before or will simply not go to the polls because they have become apathetic.
      For myself my previous apartment was made subject to toxic fumes for about two years, with the objective, I believe, of limiting my efforts to read and write about these same issues. I live in Dallas and continually wish there were others who would show they are opposed but they are quiet, although they must be there. Yes as you suggest we have to fight but the word has to be passed to rank and file, teachers and parents, again and again.

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  3. Thank you for this email. You put it all together in a nutshell.
    I am on the bus…sign me up.
    I teach 1st & Kg in an area of poverty & ELL’s. I see the big picture & I want to act. I am forwarding this onto many who need this understanding.

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  4. It’s not teachers who are failing. It’s a system (fed and controlled by Dark Money from: Bill Gates, the Koch brothers and their ALEC machine, the Walton Family, et al) that stacks the deck against them and anxiously anticipates them being unable to meet unfair and impossible expectations.

    I think there is only one way to stop this and that means taking a risk — rising up by the millions — and following Thomas Jefferson’s advice about nourishing the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants and “they”, the dark money autocrats, are not the patriots.

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  5. Lloyd Lofthouse – I follow your blogs incessantly, Lloyd. And every time you suggest anything that stings, I let you know. Steven has stated that technology will take away teachers (as the article I referenced outlined eloquently); “Unless we fight. Is it difficult? Yes. Tremendously. But we have no other choice.” When I was 17 back in 1967, very naive and young, the “no choice” thing was always there when it came to going to Vietnam. Some of my friends said they had “no choice” but to do what they had to do to keep our freedom here. Many lost their lives. Others went to Canada and were later pardoned.

    Your reference to Jefferson’s advice might need to be rethought in his context within his letter to Smith: http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/08/jeffersons-tree-of-liberty-quote-in.html

    The “patriots” of ed reform may need to take risks, but I do not believe they need to rise up by the millions and nourish liberty with the tyrants’ blood.

    Peaceful, passive demonstrations don’t work like guns do. And I will not shed blood. But I will reply or comment on a machine in a house that technology (and my savings, not pension from the public schools or disability from the government) have afforded me for a while longer. Maybe just a little while longer. It really won’t be that much longer when we all with good voices will have them no longer.

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    • I understand what you are saying, and I didn’t mean that only the patriots that want to protect public education should rise up. I meant everyone that did not vote for or support Trump … but that will never happen. Even in the Revolutionary War, most of the 3 million colonists in the 13 colonies did not fight. The population was split between the loyalists to the British Empire, the majority that wanted to be left alone to live life without strife, and the few that took part in the rebellion and that included most of the wealthiest colonists.

      “But as the colonists discovered how difficult and dangerous military service could be, enthusiasm waned. Many men preferred to remain home, in the safety of what Gen. George Washington described as their “Chimney Corner.” Early in the war, Washington wrote that he despaired of “compleating the army by Voluntary Inlistments.” Mindful that volunteers had rushed to enlist when hostilities began, Washington predicted that “after the first emotions are over,” those who were willing to serve from a belief in the “goodness of the cause” would amount to little more than “a drop in the Ocean.” He was correct. As 1776 progressed, many colonies were compelled to entice soldiers with offers of cash bounties, clothing, blankets and extended furloughs or enlistments shorter than the one-year term of service established by Congress.”

      https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/myths-of-the-american-revolution-10941835/

      I also understand how powerful peaceful, passive demonstrations are but they only work when they take place in a country that is a participatory republic where public opinion counts more than nationalism or racism or hate. Trump road to the White House with a message of nationalism, racism, and hate. he doesn’t care what other people think if they don’t support him. Many in the ALEC controlled GOP is the same kind of people. This group makes up the foundation of a future tyranny. For sure, the autocratic billionaires behind the move to destroy labor unions and the public sector do not care.

      The results of the 2018 election will be the harbinger that will signal to real U.S. patriotic willing to risk all to do what they will have to do? For instance, if the GOP holds its majority in both Houses of Congress, then Thomas Jefferson’s words will be more important than ever. But if one or both Houses are lost to the Democrats and Trump is impeached there will be no need to listen to Jefferson.

      Public education isn’t the only element of our Republic that is under attack. Trump wants to privatize the VA. He has hinted at privatizing the military and much more. The U.S. Constitution is under attack by Trump every day and many in the GOP ignore what he is doing making them just as guilty.

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    • Your view that organized protest is the one which I can support. It would demonstrate our investment in our democracy, and make it clear that we really want it. It also means that there will not be acrimony later to deal with. More than to defeat Mr. Trump and the libertarians is to have a nation which is good for its citizens and one where the democratic ideals are upheld.
      The Russians likely interfered in our elections, which says that our cyber defenses need improvement. But the democrats lost the election, and for a number of reasons. One would be from the shabby manner in which they handled Bernie. Elections are hard work in the trenches, where for a long time people go out house to house to garner and measure the votes. The other thing is to get the voters out on voting day. It seems to me that the dems failed to do those simple things, not glamorous but essential for winning. They failed to do what they needed to do.
      Hopefully the Democratic Party will not make that mistake again; they will not hope that anger with Mr. Trump will be enough to deliver a victory in 2018, but will try with might and main to get every voter out to the polls. Deliver a vote at the polls which will state in no uncertain terms that people are not pleased.

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  6. […] Doctors attend patients in poor communities. They still earn high salaries – maybe not as high as they would serving the wealthy, but they have to be able to survive, to pay back the loans they took out to go through medical school, etc. So do lawyers, accountants and specialists of all kinds. That’s just capitalism. If you want someone to provide a good or service, you have to pay them a competitive wage. Otherwise, they’ll move on to greener pastures. […]

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