Friday, August 20, 2010



In the business world, poor service/products generally lead to the death of a company, but there are plenty of other companies happy to swoop in and fill the vacuum. That's because a company affords the opportunity for the entrepreneur to access wealth and autonomy, despite the enormous startup costs (time, money, energy, etc) and the lack of guaranteed success.

But who will swoop in to fill the vacuum of teachers at the bottom of the Times list who may lose their positions?

Don't get me wrong, there are teachers who should get the heave-ho. This list will be a wake-up call for some, and a confirmation of sinking suspicions for others. (I'm all for abolishing tenure as it currently operates, but that's for a later post.)

It's just that teaching as it is perceived by the public affords neither of the incentives the business world offers, neither wealth nor autonomy.

Because of budget cuts, there are many new teachers itching to fill the classrooms of the bottom listers. But a huge percentage of newbies drop out after less than five years. Some leave because they realize that even with the two months' vacation that lured them, there is still more work than a 9 to 5 position. Some leave because of the shock to their system that school isn't "Saved by the Bell." Some leave because it takes more than patience and love of children and good intentions to do this job. Some leave because the money disparity is silly, particularly for those with science degrees. Many leave because working conditions and demands are often ridiculous.

"Market-driven" implies supply and demand, and it works two ways in the education world. Is there a supply of teachers? Is there a supply of BETTER teachers? Has the certification process changed to reflect the realities of public school education and the findings of research?

Is there a demand for new teachers that is more than wishing? What I mean is, the public WANTS great teachers like teenage boys WANT Corvettes, but do you see teenagers driving Corvettes? No, you see middle-aged people driving them because they finally can afford to. Is there money to pay for the great teachers the public WANTS, or is the public just so many wishful teenage boys?

On the other hand, is a great teacher one who works for money? And that raises all other sorts of issues about human motivation and how that connects to the supply of teachers. As things stand, top grads tend to choose fields other than education, but some trickle into the classrooms because any profession that directly works with improving others is something of a calling. (And that's the subject of a later post, as well.)

There is no question that a great teacher is valuable, worthy of wealth and autonomy; our current system does not reflect that truth, rewarding equally the effective and the ineffective.

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