While there's nothing glaringly wrong with this list, it just felt wrong. In fact, I agree with each point; these things would help with the teacher shortage.
I wasn't sure what bugged me so much about this particular tweet until someone else tweeted his response to list:
"Honestly, I suspect No. 5 is the whole game. There has never been, and will never be, a labor shortage for *any* role in any organization that actually pays true market wages."
SIDEBAR: The guy who wrote this is someone whom I don't know personally, but know enough of him and his family to respect his intelligence and expertise in this particular area. (He's much more adept in the business world than I.)
At this point, however, I knew what bugged me. The ignorance of and lack of respect for the profession, coupled with the disparity between level of education to take home pay, have existed for as long as I've been aware of education. Nobody becomes a teacher for the prestige, accolades or money.
Granted, I'm all for true market wages for teachers. But a pay increase will never be the deciding factor for whether or not I--or any number of the exceptional educators I work with in person and learn from online--leave the profession, and the thought that money was "the whole game" felt insulting. (Though I know that wasn't the author's intent; I think he does make a good point.)
Still, the thought that better pay would keep teachers in the profession smacked me square in the heart.
The reason it hit me so personally because I was damn-near that statistic, being one of the 40-50% of teachers who leave education within their first five years.
Let me be clear: Waverly High School and District 145 is an incredible place to work. My administration, colleagues and students are all beyond incredible. I love the people in this community. They support me and each other. As a district, they do what they can to look out for and care for everyone. I love it here, and I don't see myself ever leaving. (Sorry, #theVikeLife; you're stuck with me.)
Still, by my fifth year, I was overwhelmed. I was permanently in survival mode. I clocked 60-80 hour weeks between teaching and directing, and I didn't know if that made me an exceptional teacher or a bad one. (The fact that I didn't know the difference is very telling to me now.) I never said "No" to any committee work or volunteer opportunity, and I was convinced every one of my colleagues were just as busy, but somehow they had the magical formula of BALANCE figured out.
Every level of my health--physical, emotional and spiritual--was suffering. I didn't know how to make everything work. I was beyond desperate and drowning in hopelessness. Everything I touched was so inadequate to what I knew it should be and what I knew I and my students were capable of.
And if somebody came to fifth year Mr. Tobey and said, "You just need a pay raise to make this work," I would have probably given them a good throat-chop.
I didn't need more money.
What I needed was the time and ability to do my job fully, to not be spread so thin by classes and extracurriculars and committees and meetings and grading and innovating and grant writing and volunteering. I needed to lighten my load. And more specifically, this time needed to happen during contract hours.
I have learned the hard way that time is greater than money. (Huge shoutout to Mrs. Morgenson for teaching me this.)
At this point in my career, I took stock of what I wanted as an educator. I wanted to my students to say, years after graduation, that it was Mr. Tobey's class that prepared them for life at the next step. (Many of my colleagues whom I look up to have earned this distinction.) I wanted the theatre program to be what our school was known for. When I was at my lowest, I looked up at my colleagues who were on a completely different plane of existence, and I recognized the main thing they all did was simplify. They pared down their responsibilities to the essentials so they could maximize their effectiveness in that realm. These incredible educators said "No" to many things so they could say "Yes" to becoming the best educators they were capable of. Their impact is profound and far-reaching.
And that is what I wanted as an educator. It's what I'm working for now as an educator.
I asked my digital PLN what one thing they needed to be better teachers for their students, and not a single one mentioned more money. The overwhelming response was time, collaboration, more manageable class loads and more freedom within the classroom. Protected, sacred time that is just ours during our contract hours is an absolute necessity. It allows us to assess well, reflect, innovate, improve instruction and reach the needs of our students. And when this happens during our contract time, that allows us the time to invest in our families and our own self care so that we can, in turn, be better versions of ourselves for our students. It is a positive, upward spiral of goodness.
I agree true market wages are needed for educators. (I'm not holding my breath, but that is what's right.) But if we're talking about what's going to stem the tide of educators leaving the profession, providing the sacred time we need to have the time to do what we do well is priority number one.
Here's to a little more time for you and yours this holiday season and in the new year.