Teacher Shortages In Struggling Schools

That’s the subject of this article, one that seems to appear in a new form every year about this time. The article points out that the worst schools have the hardest time finding qualified teachers.

Why? In my opinion, two big reasons.

First, principals are extremely bad about checking e-mail and returning phone calls. I know I have personally contacted (via phone and e-mail) at least one principal mentioned in the article, briefly informing him that I am a highly qualified teacher who is interested in a position at his school and asking if we could set up a time to meet about the opening. Never heard back.

Second, in general, the worse the school, the more the work for the teachers, yet the pay is the same for all teachers in the district. That is, whether you teach at Caddo Magnet (good) or Fair Park (bad) you get paid the same. But at the latter you have all the paperwork and other administrative headaches that come from being in the shadow of state takeover. Most (not all) of your students are at best totally indifferent to anything you do, and at worst hostile to you. Throw in metal detectors, constant police presence, weapons, drugs, poorly maintained resources, and all the other problems, and you get a very lousy place to work.

It should not surprise anyone, then, that the people who teach at Fair Park are the people who could not get a job anywhere else. I know, I know, teachers ought to be folks with stars in their eyes whose only goal is to save the children. Schools like Fair Park have the most kids who need saving. Thus, teachers ought to be beating down the door to work there. That sounds nice, it’s what I call “The Myth of the Super Teacher.” It is total b.s. Teachers are no different than any other professional. We’re folks who are just trying to do our job, and we are no more, nor less, likely to look out for our best interests than anyone else. So when we see two jobs that each pay the same, but one is twice the work as the other, most of us would do just what anyone else would do.

How to solve the problem? Make the pay enough to overcome the many serious disincentives to teaching in the bad schools. As long as we rely on the myth of the super teacher, these schools will not have enough qualified teachers.

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