Now that it’s the end of the school year, a lot of people will be experiencing major changes to their lives.  Congratulations to the graduating classes of 2014.  I wish you much luck and success!  Your lives are about to change!  Big time!  But at the moment, I’m more interested in the opposite side of the classroom equation: the teachers, no matter what education level or subject they teach.  The end of the school year marks a point of change for our educators.
Before going any further, let me acknowledge that teachers are among the most valuable and underappreciated asset we have as a society!  Those who dedicate their lives to helping others learn deserve far more credit, recognition and pay than they receive.  The devoted few who pursue instruction as a career do not typically do so expecting to get rich; they do it because (we hope) they want to help others learn and grow!
Tenured instructors leave the school year fairly secure they’ll have a job to return to when the fall semester starts.  Provided their university or school district doesn’t suffer major financial meltdowns, their confidence isn’t overly misguided.  But the very fact that so many educational institutions are suffering financially is leading to a great deal of trepidation among teachers rightfully concerned that they may not have jobs in the fall.
But by the end of the school year, many teachers are burnt out.  After coping with overcrowded classrooms, combative and underperforming students, frustrated parents, underfunded budgets, a lack of supplies, and administrators stuck in the dark ages, for many teachers the school year ends with unfulfilled promises, exhaustion and an erosion of their motivation to help students achieve.  They ask themselves, “Why do I do this this?” They wonder if the seemingly dwindling rewards are worth their efforts.
When students succeed and thrive, teachers feel more fulfilled and satisfied they have made tangible contributions to their students’ lives.  But with budgets so tight, benefits and retirement plans in jeopardy, and teachers regularly spending money out of their own pockets for supplies resulting in less money to live their own lives, it is easy to understand why teachers waver their interest in retuning to the job.
And there is another wrinkle causing teachers to question whether to return to school. Violence on school campuses – primary, secondary and institutions of higher learning – have all seen a sharp upturn in violence this past year.  These incidents are not limited to inner cities.  Shootings, stabbings and physical assaults are taking place on school grounds regardless of location or economic conditions, putting teachers, faculty and students in harm’s way. When you add in the increasing number of parents and others who go to campuses to threaten students and teachers, there are plenty of reasons for teachers to not return to the classroom.
I don’t have all the answers to these problems.  Part of the solutions lies in the need for stricter gun control laws. And another part of the solution lies in the responsibility of parents to teach their children more about nonviolence, respect and responsibility.  Parents and teachers need to unite to and stress that violence against others, in any form, whether through the use of weapons, verbal or physical abuse is wrong. And schools need to be better aware of who is on their campuses so that those out to do wrong can be spotted and hopefully stopped before trouble erupts.
But I also worry about those who are thinking of making instruction their own career.  Will all the violence and insecurity of the job dissuade potential teachers from entering the field?  I hope not!  I hope that future teachers will recognize that there is a far better chance for a teacher to positively influence a growing mind than there is they will directly encounter the horrors that we have seen in the news.
I don’t buy into the old adage: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach!”  Wanting to instill and further someone’s curiosity, help foster ideas and creative thinking are not incompatible with success in the work place.  For some, the desire to share their knowledge and training to help others grow, learn and experience is a powerful draw. There’s a lot of beauty in watching someone’s passion be ignited, and many teachers contribute to that daily.
Sure, a teacher’s work continues hours after students and they leave the classroom; there are papers and tests to grade, the associated administrative tasks, and not everyone is always appreciative of the work you they do. But you do get summers off.  So, if you’re one of those special people who want to nurture curious minds and help others appreciate the importance of learning, then you need to teach.  The world needs you!  Heed the call!
For more ideas on teaching as a career, or any other career, job search, career development and related topics, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com or contact me.