Real talk....the teaching profession is not attracting talent because talent is not and will never be obtained by merely preaching the altruistic aspects of the job.
There I said it. It was me.
In our meritocratic American society, money is thrown at job positions that we deem valuable. Especially if there is a shortage. To make my case and point, just look at the tech job sector.
According to ZipRecruiter the national average salary for an entry-level programmer is $53,000 a year. It is entry-level salaries like this that motivated a nation of talented individuals to start teaching themselves how to program, stories of self-taught programmers that boasted of getting hired after only 5 months of training with huge financial payoffs, sparked a national craze that led to a career field that once experienced a shortage, to explode with new potential talented candidates.
How do I know all of this? Because I was one of them. I was working as a teacher while teaching myself how to program with no intention of staying in the teaching profession at the time.
"I was working as a teacher while teaching myself how to program with no intention of staying in the teaching profession at the time."
Why? Let´s list it out for our reader's convenience.
I was young, ambitious and saw no way to reach self-fulfillment in education.
I am financially independant....meaning, I can´t expect my parents or extended family members to be able to give me any financial support, ever.
I have a desire not to have any debt (e.g., student loans, car loan)
I want more financial autonomy (i.e., being able to fund my own start-up now, not in 20 years)
I almost feel afraid to admit the last reason. A lingering symptom of PTSD developed after going to job interviews with administrators who made it clear that there would be little room for salary negotiations with comments made such as "well, you know teachers aren't paid a lot because they don´t do the work for money, they do the work for the kids."
"Does the desire to have a salary that reflects the specialized skill set and expertise of my job as a teacher, make me less of a teacher?"
Something that left me questioning, does the desire to have a salary that reflects the specialized skill set and expertise necessary to do my job as a teacher, make me less of a teacher?
A stark contrast from the interviews that I went on for sales positions at logistic companies. In those instances, I was expected to talk as if money ruled my world but was often uncomfortable because it doesn´t. However, quality of life does.
What is, the rat race?
The dark days are over. We live in a day and age in which the employee is more empowered than ever. It´s no wonder that Millenials are driving this new era of the workforce wherein 'Freelancers (are) predicted to become the U.S. workforce majority within a decade, with nearly 50% of millennial workers already freelancing' according to a study done by the freelancing community and upwork.
The jig is up!
But why are Millenials turning to self-employment instead of turning to the job security of a corporate career?
Let´s break out the listicle again.
1. The jig is up! We don´t believe in job security anymore. We know that corporations don´t love us and that our administrations will cut the cord on us if need be. We saw it happen to our grandparents and parents.
2. and I can´t stress this enough....WE WANT WORK-LIFE BALANCE!
Sorry, Boomers and Gen X'ers. While we Millenials seek out the job that aligns most with our ideals and passions, we also strongly believe in self-care. That means good luck trying to convince a Millenial to work overtime without getting paid, with stories of that one legendary employee (nobody actually knows the name of) that clocked out when their shift was over but continued to work anyways, forgoing overtime pay to make their employer happy, AND get the job done.
Yes, this is also a true example of a story told to me by a boss from my time spent as an employee in the corporate world.
How does this affect the teaching job sector?
We know that there is a teacher shortage. But the leaders of our society have been unwilling to do the one thing that would quickly eliminate the teacher shortage and attract talent.
Make teacher salaries competitive again. Which begs the question, does American society even care about educating their people? Or is education reserved only for those who can afford it? Because right now, unless a student is going to school in a district where the zipcodes bring in a high tax bracket, chances are, that student is being taught in a school where there may not even be certified teachers, or in some cases being taught by other students, like what is happening in Detroit.
The point I'm trying to make is that before you can be a tech guru, businessman, doctor or lawyer, you have to be a student that completes the K-12 grade levels.
If American society valued education, then that value would be reflected in the salaries of teachers. The people who are helping the children of the future unlock their hidden potential, discover their passions and inspiring them to become who they choose to be.
While it´s true, teachers tend to possess a lot of altruistic values, let´s be real, we aren´t monks or priests or any other line of work that signed up to take a vow of poverty. We´re just regular people who happen to love what it is that we do. We too have lives, hobbies, and interests beyond our work.
What eventually helped me make up my mind to stay in the teaching profession was discovering that the first woman and the first person of color to win the Democratic presidential nominee happened to be a Black woman named Shirley Chislom. Shirley Chislom was also a teacher.
Eventually, the analyzation of data, the scientific experiments conducted to enhance student learning and engagement, the fight for education equity,
the socialization process of American students, and a love for children helped solidify my passion for teaching which influenced me to stay in the teaching profession. That and the belief that I could be like Shirly Chisholm, who once said, “I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.”
So here I am, daring to speak openly and candidly to say, I love teaching. I feel that I was born to teach. But I´m also aware that the classroom isn´t the only place and space to teach, and without a salary that allows me to maintain a balanced life, that reflects respect for the specialized skill set required to teach, I can´t guarantee that I will stay in the profession forever either, despite my passion for the job.
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