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To Teach or Not To Teach

July 22, 2018



“As many as 50 percent of all teachers leave the profession within the first five years.”   ~ Richard Ingersoll   

Professor at the Univ. of Penn Graduate School of Education and expert in teacher turnover. 


            Before leaving California, I distinctly remember sitting with a good friend and former colleague.  She left the profession to raise her kids.  Her husband made enough money with his company.  As I sat there with her family and another friend, they asked about my future. I told them I hadn’t landed a job yet.  Then her husband asked me a question I never truly considered: “Would you leave education?  I could get you a job with my company since they have a spot in Philly. You’d make bank. Think about it and let me know- I’ll help you out.  ” 

            Tempting, if only for a few sips of my beverage.  But I’m in education for the long haul.  This was reinforced on Wednesday when I signed on to teach senior English in North Philadelphia at TECH Freire Charter School.

            However, this got me thinking.  As the summer drags on and more and more teaching positions are left vacant, the question is not will those students have a teacher when the semester starts.  They will.  The real question is how effective will that teacher be?  More importantly, how will his/her effectiveness impact those students and their learning?   

            Our country has a teaching shortage.  In high poverty areas, where kids are most vulnerable, they are typically left with teachers on emergency credentials or ones who have little to no experience with the profession.  The teacher will struggle.  Because of that, the students will suffer.  Education is directly tied into the housing market.  Segregation in our housing markets equates to segregation in our public school systems.

            Education is a crucial component to community building- this we know.  This year, teachers across the country protested for more pay and more funding for schools.  This is our future.  We must commit to spending more money on our children; we must commit to spending more money retaining and attracting effective and engaging teachers. 

            Yet, similar to fixing the homeless epidemic, more money doesn’t always offer a solution.  We must hold our principals and teachers accountable.  We must be innovative.  New Orleans is a prime example of how they rebuilt a disastrous public school system and are now seeing a big uptick in positive test scores and graduation rates.

            As an experiment, take thirty seconds and think of five teachers who helped you sharpen your critical thinking skills and pushed you to grow either socially or academically.

            I hope you could generate five names.  My fear is that too many people in our country cannot.  This is a dangerous path we are on. The solutions aren’t simple, but we should start by attracting talented young men and woman to join the profession, the calling, of teaching in America.

            Yet in order to attract such talent, we must change how we value not only our teachers, but the future generations of our country.

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