Getting This Off My Chest…
Teacher stress, anxiety and workload levels are heavy on my heart tonight! Teachers are frustrated, crying, and spending countless hours trying to plan and play catch-up! Schools all over have multiple openings and are struggling to get good quality applicants for their positions. It is difficult to find substitutes. I wonder what we are doing to our poor teachers... Makes me sad, when I know all they want to do is teach, because that is their passion and purpose. The problem is they do everything else but... Hmmm, I will be reflecting this weekend!
Over the last 40 years, friends, students, parents and acquaintances, have said they appreciated teachers, but teachers take home has continued to decline from it's relatively low salary as insurance has gone up. In our state, (Florida average teacher salary is in the lowest 10% - 43rd in the nation). it is hard not to feel conflicted for the future of K12 public education in general. October of 2019, a retired educator broke it down pretty clearly for our Space Coast - teacher pay is not a priority - even though there is a national teacher shortage
We have had such a cultural, moral decline in our country that the task of teaching is overshadowed with parenting, nursing, fundraising, troubleshooting, analyzing data, individualizing accommodations, parent meetings, reporting, constant changes in directives that are often mutually exclusive.
I remember back at the beginning of my career (close to 30 years ago), a health services professional coming into our junior high school and warning educators to brace themselves for the next generation of children of parents with substance abuse (primarily cocaine). We have also seen a rise in latchkey children, children from 'broken families,' raised by relatives, in transition (homeless), autism, ADHD, and numerous other exceptionalities that add to the workload and stress on educators. These trends are further magnified in public education as we have seen many of the healthier, stable family, financially capable families pull their children out of public school to homeschool or enroll in private schools.
Public school teachers have an impossible job and many who have chosen to become or stay in teaching have nurturing, self-sacrificing personalities that have a hard time establishing healthy boundaries. There is always more the teacher (and administrator) can and should do. It is never enough and the psychological stress, social stress, financial stress, is tremendous. I was just thinking this week how most any job provides several breaks during a work day – as teachers, we don't even have bathroom breaks – we are supposed to keep our room secure, do hall duty and go for three-four hours sometimes before our 45 minute planning period. And our planning period is not at all a break- because it is then that we need to: make parent contacts, meet privately with several of the behavior problems or special needs students, try and talk to an administrator, get with the bookkeeper, straighten the room for the next class, respond to numerous emails, set up or tear down a lab, etc. There really is no opportunity to decompress when you are responsible for ~130 individual personalities with different needs.
And the notion of meeting all of those individual needs (as teachers) is not supported by the factory model our schools are built on. Students don't sit in rows like eager empty receptacles and receive knowledge as the teacher pours knowledge and skills into them equitably addressing each standard for the course. Learning seldom occurs like a gradual rising graph line for anyone student much less for a class of 24 students all at once. Rather it is characterized by moments of distraction, disinterest, inattention, failed attempts, discouragement, confusion, then boom! a sudden aha moment – and all of this at different rates and for different students -seldom all at once.
Even though I still enjoy going to work each day after 36 years as a science and technology educator, I would counsel my son or daughter (or anyone for that matter) to count the cost before choosing this career. I am concerned for the future of public education.