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The Therapy Sessions
Monday, March 22, 2004

Here comes the teacher shortage!

It is a problem that comes up every year: the Philadelphia region teacher shortage.

It is misnamed: the region cannot attract enough math and science teachers.

I wonder why....


It might have something to do with the fact that people with math and science degrees have numerous options in the private sector.

People who majored in say ... fingerpainting .. consider teaching to be the ONLY option of getting gainful employment (and rightly so).

I've never read a story about the dearth of English or art teachers (although occasionally, there are shortages of Spanish teachers and school psychologists).

The logical response - therefore the response any business uses - would be to pay more to get the people that are most in demand.

A business would never pay an acutuary the same as an accountant. Both do work with numbers, but any business that tried to cut costs in that way would soon have no acutuaries.

But the NEA would never let such an idea go through. Why should a calculus teacher get more money than an English teacher? They both teach!

The real reason they oppose it, however, is that it would fragment their union. That would be bad for the NEA, but it would be very good for education.

Union-types never understand supply-and-demand issues.

People who work at McDonald's make minimum wage. This is not because McDonald's is a greedy expolitive corporation. McDonalds has to keep its costs as low as possible. Anybody can do a burger flipping job, and such workers are easily replaced.

Calculus teachers are hard to replace (hence the shortage of them). Higher pay will encourage some to stay, more to teach math, and more mathematicians to consider teaching as a profession.

Hence, it would solve the problem.

Thus, it is the last thing the NEA wants. The union doesn't want to solve the problem, because creating a "teacher shortage" is their whole strategy.

Only then can argue that all teachers need higher pay.

But most teachers make enough money. With a bachelor's degree, a few fluffy teacher certification courses and three months vacation a year, a teacher shouldn't be living the high life. Especially not on the taxpayer's dime.

Philly isn't close to figuring this supply-and-demand issue out.

The problem in Philly's schools is more acute:city is not attracting or maintaining the best teachers.

But Philly thinks its only problem is monetary compensation. They think that if they can solve that, the problem is solved.


They're "thinking:" If we paid more, the best teachers would come to Philly, and our students would begin to excel. (Strange, but that is exactly what the teacher's union believes, too!).

Such logic works when you are talking about a nice place to live.

But Philly is a dying city, suffocating under oppressive taxes and a corrupt government.

I taught general chem at the college level for five years, and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. I am a young technical professional, but I would not mind teaching at the high school level for a few years, if for no other reason than to feel that I was helping things. Pay would not be huge concern if I felt I was doing good.

What holds me back from teaching in Philly?

Three things.

1. I'd have to move and become a resident of Philly. The hell with that.

2. I'd have to spend money and time getting certified (and I am allergic to bullshit classes). Fuck that.

3. I would be told how to do my job, and my job would be babysitting a bunch of undisciplined, little shits from broken homes. The idea that I would expect students to attend class and do homework would be challenged. I would be told to pass students who knew nothing, and not to rock the boat. No way.

Expecting kids to actually learn in such an environment is ridiculous.

No, Philly.

Your problem is more than your pay. Washington DC spends more money per student, and pays its teachers more; its schools are even worse.

The problem is that your schools are run by a bunch of bureaucrats who don't understand that the feeling of doing a job well is just as important as the monetary compensation (bureaucrats rarely feel that way).

A job in Philly's schools is akin to asking a skilled mason to build sandcastles. Each day he builds a masterpeice, but every night a high tide comes and washes it away. His bosses expect him to start from scratch each morning, happy to do it all again. And meanwhile, they invent rules forbidding him from using bricks or cement.

Teaching in Philly is an exercise in frustration.

$150,000 a year wouldn't get me to take a job like that.

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