I’m usually a pretty nice person, but what I’m about to write might be considered by some to be somewhat mean.
I was friendly with a woman in college. She had the same major as I did — English Education. She was a sweet girl, but let’s be blunt — she was dumb as a rock. The prospect that she would be a teacher used to make me feel very uncomfortable, and I would never have wanted her to teach my children. She wasn’t smart enough to be a teacher, in my opinion.
I can’t remember where, but in the EduBlogsphere of late (I would appreciate links, if you have them), I have seen more than one post about education majors having low test scores and grades compared to students in other disciplines. The implication is “those who can’t, teach,” and as a teacher, I just know that you are not going to make it if you aren’t intelligent. You won’t be able to answer student questions. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” If you have to say it all the time, then one must wonder why you’re in front of a classroom. Teachers have to know something in order to teach it, don’t they?
My friend didn’t make it as a teacher very long. I reconnected with her when I was back in college finishing my degree. She complained to me about an English Education professor she said was “mean” to her, who had discouraged her at every turn. I couldn’t bring myself to say so, because I am just not that direct when I know it could be hurtful, but the thought definitely crossed my mind that her English Education professor was trying to do the best thing for both that woman and her future students and convince her that she wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. Predictably, she lasted about year and quit teaching. I wonder about the high statistics involved with teachers.
According to research by Richard Ingersoll, a professor of sociology at the University of Georgia, 11 percent of teachers leave the occupation after one year on the job. After two years, 21 percent have quit; after five years, 39 percent have quit.
I agree that it is sad that so many teachers quit because they feel a lack of support. I myself have been in that situation, and it is absolutely insufferable. I can remember hating my teaching job so much that I cried on the way to work, especially after a break, and I checked off days in the calendar so I could say to myself that I made it through one more day and was one day closer to the end of the year. It is a sad state of affairs when adminstrations allow discipline problems to become so pervasive that teachers feel as if students run the schools, and it is equally sad when teachers are blamed for those problems instead of supported and assisted.
I included this information to make it clear that I am not saying that I believe a majority or even a sizable percentage of teachers quit because they can’t cut it intellectually. But there must be some, and I do wonder what part of that percentage they make up. There is a notion that teachers are not intelligent, and it doesn’t come from nowhere. And what do you do if you have a colleague that doesn’t cut it? I’m not sure there is really anything you can do, except complain about it (not necessarily to the administration).
I think one way we can solve the problem is to make teachers a part of the hiring process. After all, we are the ones who will be working most closely with these potential colleagues. Should we not have a say in who those colleagues will be? Some schools have implemented this sort of hiring process, and I myself have been involved. I think I could have interviewed my friend for about five minutes and discovered she wasn’t going to work out. I don’t think principals can always do this alone, especially if they are interviewing someone outside their discipline.