Going, going, gone! Teachers walking away is not the problem

It’s been five days since I last set foot in my classroom.

My classroom, that’s a phrase I can’t say anymore. If you haven’t been reading this blog since it’s inception, last Friday was my last day teaching. In the past month, I chose to walk away from the classroom and devote my mind and passions to doing more outside the classroom.

Today I started researching the frequency of multiple teachers to depart the classroom and their motivations for doing so. The first thing I found whilst browsing online was that this is not a uniquely American problem.

What I mean by that is a bit hard to explain. Bear with me.

If you pay attention to any news, at some point you have probably heard that teaching standards are lower in the United States, and that the rate at which teachers leave the profession here is higher than the norm across the world. In addition, there’s a push to make standards, assessments and the overall curriculum more rigorous in the United States. We see in some reports that adolescents in Asia are performing better than their American counterparts, and that they go to school longer and have better instruction.

I feel better about my decision to leave the classroom based on an October 2015 report by Sky News. Just in the U.K., an astonishingly high number teachers — 50,000 — hit the road for a different career in the past year. The Labour party, the U.K.’s moderately liberal party, reported that almost 160,000 new teachers would be needed in the coming years to fill the openings and provide an education to scores of students. Opposing political parties in the U.K. say that Labour is using fear and false statistics to change policy.

Here in Indiana, the shortage continues. Here’s what the Associated Press reported last year:

New data from the Indiana Department of Education show the state’s teacher shortage continues with 21 percent fewer initial licenses issued during the 2014-2015 schools year.

I won’t comment on what I think about any of this — yet. It’s not about left or right, but it’s about right and wrong. There is a lot wrong for teachers and students in this world. I’ll elaborate more on that shortly.

When I think about this — the drop in quality teachers even wanting to teach, I worry. Not just for that country, not just for our country, but for all countries.

Pay is one reason teachers leave. The hours, too. It’s also stressful to control rooms of students, no matter if kindergarteners, preteens, or those on the verge of being full-on adults.

I think there is a bigger problem facing teachers and students. This problem is part of our future, and it will require a drastic change in the way we prepare teachers and the way we direct information at students.

So, now you’re probably wondering what the problem is?

I’m prepared for backlash, but this is firmly what I believe the problem is: TECHNOLOGY.

Yes, the influx of technology. It started with the television. It became the go-to babysitter. It was followed by the computer, and the growth of mobile computing. Just a bit later came the rise of cell phones for younger children, followed by tablets and smartphones.

This isn’t to say there is something wrong with the digital age. Technology, especially the access to it, has made us a more connected, more aware society. The change it has brought to the way children are raised hasn’t resulted in a completely positive outcome. Today, more than ever, children occupy their time with technology. Where do they learn to do this? Their parents, as well as what’s modeled to them by the media — whether it be from the internet or television.

I do not think there is a necessarily “easy” fix for all of the problem.

We can blame parents and tell them to do better. That doesn’t make them feel good though. So that would be bad, right?

If we blame the technology industry, that isn’t good either. The industry has made money for schools.

Teachers can be blamed, but I don’t think they deserve it. They have been given all of this technology to use in classrooms, but the fact that they are given it doesn’t mean they have been taught well how to use it. Not to blame tech support in our schools, and master teachers who go on to be technology coordinators, but they can’t help everyone either. If this was the fix, then every teacher would have their own, dedicated tech support person.

After all of that, I feel like we are out of people, organizations, things, etc. to blame.

I mean, we could blame students, but wouldn’t that cause them to feel bad and lose focus in their studies. I certainly don’t blame them. They haven’t been properly trained. They are supposed to be the digital natives we were told to expect, but really, they are not. They are learning, just as much as we are. There isn’t really a terrific measure of how to who who is a better digital native.

So, are we at an impasse?

Do we keep trying new things? Do we give up and revert to the old ways?

Do we keep being worried?

I don’t know what the answer is. I do know that I’m happy with my decision to leave. I hope on my journey towards what comes next, that I will be able to help make the education system better. I hope that I’ll be able to support the fantastic teachers I worked with who give a damn about the students and want the system to do nothing but help them. 

 

 

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