Where have all the teachers gone?

Bird Droppings January 29, 2022

Where have all the teachers gone?

I first wrote a variation of this essay nearly fifteen years ago. Over the past few days, I have been talking with a few new college seniors who are student-teaching. As I head around getting my odds and ends done for the week and feeding the critters in the office today, I could not help but notice the lack of young new teachers. I spoke with several principals earlier this week, and all said only a few applied this past year, and only they hired five new teachers although we have an Australian with an E3 visa. I spoke with this fellow from Australia and had to get my Crocodile Hunter questions first and then ask about E3 visas. It seems we now have an allowance of E3 visas, which allow indefinite stays to work. Of course, they apply to needed areas in specific fields of which teaching is one.

But why are we running out of teachers? I recall an article I read and my principal also quoted was that by 2010 the US would be seven million teachers short. I complain about no child left behind, and it seems by 2010, there will be a lot of children left behind because there will be no teachers left to teach them. Amazing how things work out. We survived that teacher shortage barely, and now more teachers are leaving the field than at any time in modern history.

I Googled the question Where have all the teachers gone? I had over seven million hits. The first hit was a paper entitled; where have all the teachers gone from nearly ten years ago.

“It was earlier noted that the quality of teacher preparation and the number of available teachers are not independent. A traditional interpretation of this statement is that higher preparation standards by limiting access threaten the supply of teachers and the staffing of schools. It would be unfortunate if the projected need for more teachers were to cause an erosion of standards for teacher preparation. This scenario leads towards lower student performance, less job satisfaction, higher teacher attrition, increased public discontent, and further erosion of standards. Easier teacher preparation programs and emergency permit hiring are expedient solutions to short-term employment needs. However, such expediency may bring about greater long-term problems. “Mark Eric Fetler, Ph.D., California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

This is not something that just happened. Dr. Fetler addressed the issue in 1997. I recall many years ago when I was an undergraduate student in education and experienced a class where the professor believed men should not be in elementary education. My graduate school classes have been enlightening and uplifting, as both colleges I have attended are progressive in their scope and views on teacher education. So why do we need teachers so badly? I should say, why do we need good teachers so badly? I keep humming the folk song where have all the flowers gone except inserting teachers instead of flowers.

Teachers are not created simply by a certification process contrary to the beliefs and understandings of many politicians. Teachers are not merely trained, and like an assembly line, we produce teachers, which so many people think happens. This may be a silly example. Something so simple as it takes a hundred years to grow a hundred-year-old tree may seem stupid, yet we do not want to wait that long in our hurry-up world. We genetically engineer, manipulate, and bring in exotics that grow faster in our climate and then sell old remaining trees to Japan.

A hundred-year-old tree isn’t all that old, considering the 500-year-old plus redwoods and sequoias on the west coast and other countries will pay fortunes for them. Easterners revere and honor the age of the wood and intricate and tight beautiful grains that produce veneers and furniture near priceless. Interestingly, a 500-year-old redwood takes 500 years to replace; Easterners understand such things as fast-paced immediate answers people do not.

Another interesting thought as I get started this morning I picked up a book, actually several, at Barnes and Nobles the other day and just got started on them. One was “The Tao of teaching,” which is so far intriguing. A comment is used that I like “the art of teaching.”

“When I see – I forget, when I hear – I remember, when I do – I understand” Ancient Chinese saying

As I go deeper into my reading, I will share, but teaching as an art form is engaging. Reading this ancient passage is akin to progressivism’s John Dewey thinking on experience and learning. As I consider the term art of teaching, it is like some folks will always be finger painting and others painting masterpieces from day one. School for a good teacher always starts tomorrow, and school for some folks never starts. It is just a job.

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.” Amos Bronson Alcott

Questioning investigating teachers should inspire, not constrict, such endeavor. I always go back to the famous Moby Dick question, “In your opinion, what was Herman Melville trying to accomplish with his writing of this book?” Ms. Stern did not appreciate how he was writing a historical fictional rendering of the whaling industry and its financial impact on the society of New England. I received an “F” and responded, “That’s the wrong opinion.” I never knew an opinion in the US could be wrong, maybe different, but not wrong.

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” John Cotton Dana

 Until recently, I never realized how true this was as I came back directly to teaching a few years back. I was going back to graduate school and reading more lately than when I was in school years back, all 12 years of public school and all 20 years of college and such.

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?” Albert Einstein

How in life do we make any lesson important enough “potent” to borrow from Albert (I am on a first-name basis now)? This came up over the years. A teacher needs to be excited about what they teach, which excites the students.

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Making something hard easy, someone who can make it potent, is always learning but is humble, and is a true teacher.

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” George Bernard Shaw 

As I look at Georgia Performance Standards, GPS’s, and all the standardized Testing and such,  is knowledge pursuing the child, or do we not teach enough art recognition in teachers’ teaching and too much mechanics. I can show anyone color and texture, and each will offer back a finished piece, and rarely will they be the same and, every once in a while, a masterpiece. We should search for teachers as we search for masters, find those who can, and then seriously educate children.

I was cleaning my vast store of old files in my closet. Things that when I saved them were crucial. I have thinned out the ten or so boxes to one now and found a spring of 2004 newsletter, “Reaching Out,” produced by Dr. James Sutton. An article on page five with only a paragraph or so about Stevie, the wonder snake.

“Frank Bird is a teacher in Georgia. He believes strongly that a classroom should have student appeal. After all, it’s about them anyway, so why not make it interesting. To this end, Franks classroom is pretty untraditional, even cluttered, but it’s full of all kinds of “kids stuff.” Frank has a classroom assistant, Stevie. Stevie is a Ball Python… a snake (a very large snake). Students will do anything (even work) to hold Stevie if Stevie can sleep in their laps. Now that’s a pretty creative way to keep a student in a seat.” Dr. James Sutton, reaching Out

It has been some time since I talked about this with James Sutton. But it reminded me of my central tenet in my classroom and during schools period. Kids have to want to be there to learn.

“Students will learn better when they are somewhere they want to be… Opportunities expand for learning when a student comes in wanting to be there… Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

If only teachers would listen in their Learning Focused Schools Seminars and Professional Learning sessions. If only teachers would respond to students as people rather than things, as Dr. Glasser points out in The Quality School. If only it is a big issue in education. Today I have been pondering a bit much about a critical issue and will please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart’s namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin 

(We are all related)


PS. “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: