How changes in teacher employment are making it more difficult to attract science teachers

The brief essay shown below about how teaching is now a less attractive profession was written by Drew Isola, a physics teacher at Allegan High School in Allegan, Michigan and a 2011 winner of the American Association of Physics Teachers Distinguished Service Citation.   It was distributed by a national science teaching organization.

One further note on this:  I posted yesterday on the dramatic increase in physics enrollment in high schools in Leon County.  That has happened because – and only because – of the passion and effectiveness of the district’s physics teaching community.  As I now say often, it is all about the teachers.  We must find ways to bring more talented and passionate people into the science and math teaching profession.

I think this is more a reflection of the continued erosion of the status of teaching as a profession and less a statement on becoming a science teacher.  Becoming a teacher these days is very, very different than it used to be even as recent as 10 years ago. Take-home pay has gone down for many teachers over the years as salaries have stagnated or been reduced and benefits have been greatly reduced. Teachers who enter the profession now can no longer count on a pension or enough of a retirement account to be able to live on. Job security is a thing of the past with many teacher tenure laws being gutted or abolished and teachers unions legislated to powerlessness. Districts can easily let go their most senior, highest paid teachers now for no reasons whatsoever other than cost savings. Benefits, retirement and job security used to be the tradeoffs that teachers accepted in exchange for low pay. But these are no longer an option.

My daughter is a senior in high school this year and she has expressed an interest in becoming a HS chemistry/biology teacher. She is exactly the type of role model the teaching profession needs in years to come. She has been a top AP student all through HS. As a junior she earned college credit thru AP for Calculus, Chemistry and US History. She scored a 31 on the ACT. She is active in sports, her community and with social issues. She is enthusiastic about math and science. Exactly the type of female role model the STEM education community needs. I am sorry to say that as she progresses into college, and many opportunities open up for her, I will strongly encourage her to NOT go into teaching and to look closely at her other options. As a caring father, I do not want her to have to be subjected to the difficulties that lie ahead for our next generation of teachers.

Hopefully our legislators who have successfully managed to reduce the teaching profession to such a low level are on this listserv….but they probably aren’t.

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