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The New Unicorn

Once upon a time, there were more people who wanted to be teachers than there were teacher jobs. As a career educator and school administrator, I recall the Good Old Days where I could expect to have almost 30 applicants per teaching vacancy. And a vacancy for something like P.E. or social studies? 50+ applicants for one vacancy were not uncommon.

That has all changed. Now almost no one wants to become or remain a classroom teacher.

Pretty soon, they’ll be as rare as unicorns.

We saw this coming, of course. We saw teacher-candidate pools begin to dwindle 15 years ago. Principals have been training non-teachers how to become teachers for the past decade. Most universities now graduate almost no education majors.

After 35 years in the profession, I hung up my teacher-cleats. In all those years, I was an elementary, middle and high school teacher. I was a principal for 20 years and an assistant principal for nine years. I had a blast the whole journey, having the opportunity of making a difference every day for K-12 children on their one-way trip through school.

In truth, my salary and I were uneasy companions because I rarely even knew exactly how much money I made. Most of the time, I was so excited and energized by being on the front lines of educating our Leaders of Tomorrow, I didn’t pay much attention to salary.

But most people did and do care about how much they see on their paycheck at the end of each month.

And why shouldn’t they? You do. Most people can’t buy a house on a teacher’s salary. Most people who are currently teachers figure they should at least be able to maintain a middle-class lifestyle after working 40 hours a week at a school PLUS the additional 15-20 hours they put in off-hours every week to come to school prepared to teach, with exams and homework reviewed and corrected.

Oh yeah: they also pay out of their own pockets – from their meagre salaries - for supplies for kids who have little or nothing. As a teacher, I remember I had multiple kids who would come to my class every day with nothing to write with. I’d give those kids a pencil or pen every day and they’d lose it by the next day. Weren’t their parents teaching them some self-respect and personal responsibility?

Apparently not.

When I hear non-teachers grouse about teachers “having the summer off”, I laugh sarcastically because I know that most teachers spend that “summer off” taking courses, teaching summer school (to kids who didn’t care enough to get it right the first time when they already had every chance) or working as servers at a local food joint to make enough money to move into their own place. Summer off? After working 50-60 hour weeks for 10 months? Get real.

Speaking of getting real, most of the world will spend a nanosecond thinking about why they would never be a teacher – yet spend gobs of time complaining about those who actually have the guts to get in the education game and teach the complainers’ kids.

Who really does want to be a teacher these days? Fewer and fewer with each passing month.

This is a crisis of, well, critical proportions. And what are our esteemed political leaders doing to ensure that we have a steady supply of intelligent, caring, thoughtful, and sacrificial human beings to step into schools and actually teach the Leaders of Tomorrow that those same politicians pin so much hope on? Well, they're actively driving teachers out of the profession.

So why are people leaving teaching or not entering it in the first place?

  • Better-paying options without disconnected parents complaining about their work.

  • Lack of support from principals who blame the teacher before blaming the parent.

  • Politicization of curricula. Extremists shout down and threaten others over inconvenient truths.

  • Giving credence to people who think they're experts in educational matters because they went to school as a kid. That’s like saying you’re qualified to be a dentist because you brush your teeth every day.

  • State legislatures who are setting up laws for parents to sue teachers if the FACTS in history make their kids “uncomfortable.”

  • Pandemic challenges. Are we virtual or in-person?

  • Violence in schools. You know teachers have to practice herding and quieting kids to be prepared for the next active shooter on their campus, right?

  • Standardized testing. Get this, people: it’s not teaching. It’s mind-numbingly uncreative teaching-to-a-test.

You’ll notice that all of these are factors TOTALLY UNDER THE CONTOL of non-teachers. Looking for someone to blame? Just look in your mirror.

Want even more reasons? Just ask a teacher, if you have the guts and 30 minutes.

Teachers don’t need your “thoughts and prayers.” They need your respect and honor.

Come on, you non-teachers. Wake up and grow up. Your self-imposed ignorance is too costly for those of us who know how hard it is to find a unicorn.

©️Copyright by David Samore. Excerpts in part or whole may not be used without the expressed permission of David Samore.

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