Where have all the teachers gone?

Indiana ranks No. 10 in the nation for teacher vacancies.  Why are so many teachers leaving the field? Because they are not paid enough? But numbers show Indiana has one of the lower costs of living in the U.S., which means low salaries can still allow a life comparable to states with higher salaries and higher costs of living.

So why are Indiana teachers leaving the field?

We all know you can’t solve every problem by throwing money at it. I don’t believe many people go into teaching to “make a quick buck.” Could it be that they love teaching?

I am a retired professor of 39 years college teaching, and though I never taught elementary or secondary education, I had plenty of students who were teachers in my university classes. We talked a lot about their experiences, and why so many were looking either to quit or take early retirement.

Here’s what they said:

First, the government requires too many mandated tests, which take up huge amounts of teaching time, and are designed to be given to ALL students in the state despite their many and deep differences.

Second, there was too much government intrusion mandating what a teacher may or may not discuss, may or may not teach, and even what words a teacher may not say in class. A good example is the ban on discussing same sex marriages, even though some teachers have in their classes children with two mommies or two daddies. 

Third, taking books out of libraries, without consulting the teachers who teach from them — removing some very fine books maybe because just one mother objected.

Fourth, low pay. 

Here is a wonderful quote concerning a survey that asked teachers why they were leaving:

“Last summer, I started traveling across the country,” says Becky Pringle, president of the NEA (which has nearly three million members) talking about the impetus for the survey. “Without exception, every stop I made, from Kentucky to Oakland, I heard those similar stories of educators who were exhausted, overwhelmed, feeling unloved, disrespected.”

Notice, they didn’t mention pay. But they did ask for respect. And respect means trusting them to know what’s best for their students.

Many expressed the idea that the government — and in Indiana it is a conservative government — was trying to push conservative ideas on young people while hiding under the sheep’s fleece of protecting the little dears from “disturbing ideas.”

Teachers are told not to talk about politics, gender, homosexuality, race, war, and a long list of topics of great interest to young people in a confusing and seething world, all while they are struggling to move through the mine field of puberty.

Put simply, keep the government out and let the teachers teach, as was the case when most of us were young. And it didn’t kill us to discuss the really interesting stuff. Hey, kids are going to talk about it after school anyway.