Bill Maxwell tells his story of formerly encouraging people to become public school teachers, but he can no longer do that:
Are you seeing this? Why do you think it is the case that teachers are leaving?
Back then, while recalling my public school teachers and having recently completed two transformative years at the University of Chicago in graduate school, I would passionately encourage my brightest students to become teachers. Many followed my advice….
Why, you ask, would I want to become a teacher under these ugly conditions? Why? Teaching is our most important profession. It is a calling, and excellent teachers are some of our greatest heroes. That’s why.I dropped this spiel more than a decade ago.
Now I wouldn’t try to encourage a student to become a public school teacher in this toxic environment. Even a lot of people who don’t hold teachers in contempt easily speak the popular rhetoric of disrespect.
With perhaps the exception of anti-intellectual Australia, the United States is virtually alone in the world in being profoundly contemptuous of its schoolteachers. The negative results — vengeful layoffs and firings, increased class loads, evaluations based on unreliable standardized tests, and the hurry-up establishment of charter schools and vouchers — are damaging the profession beyond repair.
After analyzing federal surveys of attrition rates in schools nationwide, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Department of Education and Teach Plus, a nonprofit organization, found that teachers are leaving the profession in droves. Nearly half of those entering the field to replace retiring baby boomers leave within five years. The joint analysis shows that teachers with only one year in the classroom constitute the largest single group of teachers.