National teacher shortage? I wonder why…

I recently heard/saw a story on NBC that exposed a serious threat to America’s future:  A shortage of classroom teachers.  I was once an aspiring teacher, but have long since abandoned the public school teaching profession for a number of reasons, many of which have thinned the teaching community to dangerously low numbers.

Nepotism – Several districts in the area will hire from a small pool of under-qualified would-be teachers who are either related to or friends with a school board member or administrator.  I actually overheard a conversation in a school in southern Ocean County where the office workers commented on the two hundred applicants trying for a teaching position who were “wasting their time” because the niece of the superintendent was getting the job.  Toms River, Berkely Township, Lacey Township, and many other districts have common knowledge (though not advertised) policies where it is isn’t what you know as much as who you know.

De-clawed/Neutered/Powerless Teachers – Between the “Winter Recess” vs. “Holiday Vacation” stupidity and students getting away with murder because they are “Clinically Over Agressive” or suffering from “Chronic Social Regression Syndrome”, teachers have had their ability to discipline stripped from them by overzealous parents and weak, cowardly school administrators.

Low Pay  – No big shock there…  Our country pays teachers fairly poorly overall (except in incredibly wealthy districts) and as a result they set the bar for incoming teachers firmly in the “Mediocre” range.  If they used merit pay increases with reachable objectives, things might be different, but as it stands even the worst teacher (often a school board member’s unqualified son or daughter) will get steady pay increases and even get tenure in three years.

Incentives aside, it is going to take a major shift in our nation’s thinking to get our country back on track.  Keep the parents out of the schools (unless it is absolutely justified) and keep potential teachers from teaching in districts where they have relatives or friends on school boards since it is a blatant conflict of interest.  If you give good teachers more power, the low pay will seem less of an issue than it is now.

Example:  I was actually threatened by a parent in front of a superintendent who did nothing to support me.  I disciplined his daughter, and another girl for calling another student a “dirtbag” and he requested a meeting with myself and the ranking administrator where he told me he would take care of me personally if I ever did something like that again.  He said that his daughter was right and that the other student WAS a dirtbag and I’d better not try to discipline her again.  Yes, Superintendent Fogg was a poor administrator indeed.

I could continue discussing my opinions regarding the sorry state of our nation’s school system, but it is just making me more and more disgusted.