Lemme get this straight……

Ok.  Let me just get this straight.

If I want to be a classroom teacher in the United States today, I have do do a few things, and I have to accept a few realities.

If I want to spend my life teaching children to read, to write, to understand math, to become educated voters, I have to go to college.  OK.  Then I have to get a Master’s Degree. Oh..Kay….(lots more cost, lots more debt, but I get it.  They want me to be well educated.)

After I finally get my Master’s Degree, I have to take and pass several exams that theoretically qualify me for the job.  I have to pay for these exams myself.

If I pass, I get to apply for teaching jobs.  Fun!

And once I get a job, I have to submit to a CORI check (just to make sure that I am not a pedophile or anything.)  AND I have to be fingerprinted.  In case I passed my CORI check but somewhere in my past I committed a crime.  I have to get in line, pay out of my own pocket, and go through the very same process that purse snatchers, rapists, drug runners and murderers go through.  I have to swallow my embarrassment,  push down my discomfort and submit my fingerprints to the local police.

Even if I’ve been teaching for 25 years already and this is coming far too late to do anyone any good.

After all that, when I have finally achieved my dream and gotten a teaching job, I have to accept the fact that people who have never, ever , ever taught one single child one single skill will be the ones who pass laws that define my job.

I will have to come to terms with the fact that giant corporations intend to make millions of dollars off of my students, my classroom and my school.

Once I have become an actual, real life elementary school teacher, I will have to find a way to work 22 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to score every rubric, plan every lesson, follow every teaching guide, gather every bit of data and make sure that every student meets every standard.

I will have to accept the fact that if I actually follow the “Teacher’s College” reading and writing program, I will be losing all of my language impaired, learning disabled, hearing impaired, emotionally impaired students.

And I will have to grin and bear it when my administrators follow the state guidelines on teacher evaluation and pop into my classroom for ten minutes at the very end of a Friday afternoon and then write up a scathing report on how our students are “failing to work toward a uniform goal.”

All of this for the chance to earn an average salary with average benefits.  All of this so that you can check the news every day and see some airheaded politician referring to “our failing schools.”

So I have to ask:

How stupid do you have to be to want to be a teacher today?


8 responses to this post.

  1. I teach on the international schools circuit and have to say, I come across this a lot from American teachers. The thing about this, is that it is how the vast majority of the western world world, outside America, and most countries have been doing it for decades. If I can play the devil’s advocate…. I know and work with american teachers, who have been teaching in US private schools (Deerfield Academy, Webb, Loomis Chaffee, Idyllwild Arts) for thirty plus years and none of these people has a formal teaching qualification, just an undergraduate and sometimes a masters degree in something. Coming into the international system, each of these teachers has been required to record their curriculum electronically, design course outlines and send away their student’s results for international moderation. Not a singe one of my US counterparts has ever done this in their teaching careers in the US private system. Not only that, they rebel against the fact they even have to do it. So my point is this: it is almost beyond reckoning to teachers outside the US that you can be employed in schools without a formal teaching qualification, police check, an understanding of the need for formal curriculum, standards and practices and so on. Likewise, none of my US colleagues had ever undertaken school sponsored professional development (like a week at the IB conference in Singapore for example). You may believe that you don’t need this kind of training to be a good teacher, however all the literature is clear on this point. Teachers who have formal training, up to date professional development, and so on, are more effective.

    I’m not hating on the US education system, just pointing out that the rest of the world (I’ve worked in ten different countries in the last 25 years) operates in the way you have described, with most of these countries requiring annual registration to national or state teaching association (paid for by the teacher at somewhere about 100 bucks a pop). It has meant a professional, globally mobile, educated teaching fraternity. Whilst I know a great many outstanding US educators, there are many international schools that would prefer not to hire them (I tend not to hire US teachers if I can), because it is invariably difficult to drag them into line with what is done internationally and by and large they are reluctant to teach even a little outside their preferred years. For example, the last Australian couple I hired, ostensibly middle school teachers, were happy to design, implement, teach and assess a course outside their preferred subject area, and even down into elementary school, far outside their comfort zone. Trying to get some US trained teachers to do this was like pulling teeth – they were reluctant to even teach outside their preferred grade level, where in the global scheme of things, there’s no such thing as a grade 8 English teacher.

    As to your last point – “who’d want to be a teacher today?” This is a great question, and the main reason why every American teacher I know moved internationally. It’s a travesty that US teachers in general are paid so poorly, and I can say this fairly, almost without exception the US trained teachers I have worked with (ok one exception out of 100) have all been extremely committed, thoughtful, hard workers. It’s terrible that a teacher with 10 years experience in the US gets paid less than the starting wage for a new teacher in every Australian state, let alone a teacher with 10 years experience who earns double or more what their US counterpart earns. In international schools the pay scale varies, but with great healthcare, free housing, flights home every year and so on, it is always a considerably better deal that the US. So why would you stay home?


    • Wow, long comment, thank you for taking all that time!!!! I’ll reply on a couple of points: In Massachusetts, where I work, we not only need a degree in education to teach, we also need a Master’s Degree in education. We also need ongoing professional development in the form of graduate courses, conferences, specific training. I have been licensed and certified in this state since 1986, and have continuously updated my credentials through training and coursework.
      We are also given a criminal background check as part of our employment, and that is updated every three years.
      Finally, we have professional goals that we set every year, along with data on how we are working toward those goals. We are observed by our administrators and scored on our progress toward those goals.
      We design and create curriculum every single day. We consult with colleagues, with administrators, with curriculum coaches.
      I don’t mind any of that.
      What I mind is suddenly having to ALSO submit my fingerprints, an action that I can only equate with criminal suspicion. I also object to being held accountable for the scores of students who have just moved into my classroom from another state or country, who are autistic, hearing impaired, vision impaired or emotionally troubled. And I object to being vilified on an almost daily basis in the press because I am a part of “our failing schools”.
      I’d retire in a heartbeat if I could afford it, but I can’t. And its pretty daunting to try to recreate myself at 60……..


      • Your comments about being held accountable for things that are clearly beyond your control are one of the main reasons I abandoned the public education system a year after I started working in it. I understand completely your frustrations on this level, and I’m imagining you don’t get any extra support ofr funding for special needs children.

        As far as reinventing yourself goes… you actually sound like a perfect candidate for an overseas teaching job. The sector is expanding and needs experienced teachers. I have many friends in their 60’s on the international circuit in all parts of the world. If you are interested the first thing to do is look up a recruitment agency like Search Associates. They are the biggest and run a job fair in the states every year, as well as Melbourne, Bangkok, London and a few others. It sounds daunting, but no one I know who joins the circuit ever really goes home to work. You get paid more, get a flight home every year, get 12 weeks or so of holidays to travel with and get great health care and so on.

        I can give you more information if you like, but as a teacher, it is the best decision I have ever made. Ever.

      • Well, much as I’d love to travel, I am married to a wonderful man with a great job here. I am also living near my elderly Mom and my three adult children and soon to be a grandchild. No overseas job for me right now!

  2. You certainly have to be a masochist!


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