Now that the unfortunate Motoko Rich has reported in The New York Times that there’s a teacher shortage, and Frank Bruni has editorialized about making teaching jobs more attractive, we can repose in the stability of inertia, one of two normal responses to trouble in the ed biz.
(The other response is to launch a futile and abortive revolution such as NCLB or RAT. The Didact’s Dictionary proposes a definition of inertia (n.): The normal state of education. The revolutions usually said to punctuate inertia are in fact extensions of it because nothing continues to change.)
Nonetheless, I have a few suggestions for dealing with the teacher shortage.
1. Determine that public schools are a public good and that their teachers, like soldiers and police, should be shielded from the worst effects of the business cycle.
2. Do something about the fact that teachers are dead last among jobholders for their relationship with their supervisors.
3. Get rid of the demonstrably worthless ‘metrics’ used to impose false accountability on them.
4. Train them truly and then trust them truly, as the Finns do. No fake teacher education, and no top-down management.
5. End wasteful and unsustainable personnel management (e.g., lower 24% annual turnover rates to acceptable levels).
6. Take school administration out of the hands of incompetent monsters of the deep.
7. Bring up children like Jane Eyre’s Adèle, to be obedient and teachable.
8. Do not impose unreasonable teaching burdens. Instead, like the Finns & Japanese, allow teachers time to do their work at school.
9. Do not entertain false notions about the ease and simplicity of teaching, or think by reductive fallacies that it can be reduced to a series of steps that can be captured by software.
10. If you insist on leaving teaching a miserable job, at least provide good pay and job security until that time in the unimaginable future when the world beats a path to education’s door.