Do teachers complain too much, or would you quit if you knew what working conditions were like?
The True Story
This isn’t an easy article to write. As soon as I type the word “teacher” everyone has an opinion and all of those opinions are based on assumptions, not facts.
An even bigger issue is that teachers themselves are guilty of assuming they know everything about the K12 system, just because they work inside it.
This article is my attempt to set the record straight.
At the end of this article, I want you to comment your answer to the question: Would you quit teaching if you knew what was actually going on inside our K12 system?
It’s important people know what being hired as a teacher is like. There are thousands of books and articles about teaching, but no one writes about the first day of school like this.
A teacher is hired by the principal and on the first day of school, they are handed their class roster. As a first year teacher, the principal has assigned them the classroom with the lowest performing students in the building.
On day one, the principal walks with the teacher to their classroom door, shakes their hand and says, “good luck.”
Were you expecting more?
The truth is this is how teachers are hired and introduced to the profession every single year. If you think this is a new thing, then you know very little about education and how the system works.
What you should know is this description is from 1967. This is how my father started his teaching career in a high school in the South Bronx. The fact is that first year teachers are always assigned the lowest performing classrooms because the more experienced teachers DO NOT want to teach those kids.
And the principal shakes teachers hands and say “good luck,” because the principal, other administrators and every teacher in the building have no idea how to become an expert teacher.
If this is starting to feel like utter chaos theory, we haven’t even begun to explain the working conditions.
You’re the Safety Manager
In order for you to be able to answer the question: “Would you quit teaching if you knew what the working conditions were like?” Then you will need to be able to walk a mile in the teacher’s shoes.
The only way to do that is to put you in a similar situation that would make more sense to you. So let’s imagine there is a factory that is looking to hire a safety manager. The safety manager’s job is to maintain safety protocols and keep all the workers safe. In order to get the job, you must have a Masters Degree in Business.
The company puts out an ad and people apply. Every candidate has an MBA, and every candidate wants the job because of how important it is to the factory and to the co-workers.
The company decides to hire you.
You have a Masters in Business, not safety. So everything you learned in college and graduate school was valuable, but not relevant to this job. You assume the company will train you to do your job, but on the first day the CEO walks with you to your office, shakes your hand and says “good luck” and then walks away.
Guess what? You are now the safety manager. The lives of all workers at the factory is on your shoulders. There is no training. There is no support. There is nothing. It’s up to you to not let people die.
A School Miracle
What I don’t think teachers, administrators, parents and the general public fully grasp is that it’s a FREAKING MIRACLE our schools even function at all. Like, the fact that teachers don’t make life or death mistakes every single day is a miracle in and of itself.
It’s been this way for at least 50 years. I venture to say that the system is unchanged in the last 75 years, which means, America has done less than nothing for teachers and students for seven decades.
I know how frustrating the K12 system can be. I spent over 20 years working inside the mind-numbing idiotic insanity. What people need to realize is the problem isn’t the teachers. The problem isn’t the principals and administrators. The problem isn’t the students or parents.
The problem is that people would rather argue about being right, instead of facing the truth and just admit — we need to do better. This is ridiculous at this point.
Our K12 system is more incompetent than the keystone cops.
But there’s hope. There is a silver lining, even if it’s the thinnest lining ever.
You can make a difference. Yes, you, the person reading this article. If you care about teachers, kids and America, you need to stop shifting blame and responsibility to other people. Stand up and be counted for once.
I know you don’t like to read long articles, but if you care about our nation’s educational system, can you sacrifice the next five minutes for your country? I mean, our soldiers sacrifice their lives, but can you spare a couple minutes to read what I’m about to share with you.
Real World Solutions
I know most people throw up their hands when it comes to fixing the system. Everyone thinks it’s too big to fix and we should just start over. I’m not here to say that’s a bad idea, but what I want you to know is that I actually solved the K12 issue in my K12 district.
There were three programs I ran at the very same time. Each program addresses a different component of the K12 system, and you need all three because of the size of the system itself. One program just isn’t enough to tackle the larger issues.
Program One : Teachers
Program One is called The Teacher Development Program. This is a 2-year formal program that ends the shaking hands at the door and abandoning teachers. No more, “good luck” and walk away tactics.
This program has three layers of mentoring. This program shows teachers the fundamentals of teaching in the classroom and this program helps teachers become experts at teaching and learning. If you want to boost student achievement, start with supporting teacher growth and development.
Program Two: Students
Program Two is a 21st century skills curriculum. Regardless of how in love you are with teaching Algebra and Shakespeare, the truth is that kids need to learn 21st century skills. Unfortunately, charlatans like Bill Gates have paid for corporate advertising to convince teachers that computers are more important than real world skills. (Can you guess why he did that?)
According to a 2020 Georgetown University study, the five 21st century skills kids need to learn are: 21st Century leadership, team building, problem solving, sales and communications.
This new curriculum prepares kids for college, careers and life.
Program Three : Administrators
Program Three is a Principal’s Academy. The reason that principals say “good luck” to teachers is because they are sincerely hoping the teacher knows more than they do. In the safety manager scenario, can you imagine how the CEO feels hiring someone to do that job, when they have no idea how to do that job themselves?
Our K12 system has put administrators in charge of school buildings without the faintest clue what they are doing. That’s not the administrators fault, that’s a failure of a K12 system that should be fixed. This program fixes the problems administrators face on a daily basis.
What Do You Think?
The choice is yours. The ball is in your court.
The truth is the pen is mightier than the sword. I have outlined for you what is going on inside the K12 system. I have outlined for you how you would feel in the same shoes. And I have outlined for you how to fix the entire K12 system.
All I can do is write. What you need to do is something, anything, other than ignoring the problem. I can’t tell you what to do. But I can suggest that you share this article. I can suggest you make a comment. I can suggest that you tell people to stop blaming teachers and start solving the problem.
Pointing fingers is not a solution.
Now that you read the article, what do you think?
What would you do? Would you quit teaching, now that you know what the working conditions are really like? Or would you do something else?
I want to hear from you.
About the Author:
You can follow D.Scott Schwartz, M.Ed. on Twitter and Instagram under the handle “@theschooldoc” If you want to watch his LIVE weekly podcast, tune in to Instagram every Tuesday from 5pm Est/2pm PST. If you like this article and want to receive more like it, hit the follow button and the email alerts.
“The School Doc” is the CEO and Founder of Leaf Academy, the first online school for 21st century skills. He also works for Education Development Institute, which is an Education Think Tank that provides consulting to schools and businesses, trying to modernize in the 21st century. If you want more information follow the link in the bio.