Soaring above the tree line that surrounds my house this weekend was a majestic sight. Enjoying a sunny evening, with an amazing view, I watched as a bald eagle gracefully flew through the skies looking for food. I sat in awe as just a decade ago, this species was endangered. Once revered as a national treasure, this majestic creature was all but extinct as poachers destroyed its environment making it hard to thrive, making it almost impossible to meet its needs, and forcing it to retreat and almost become non-existent. A national treasure almost wiped out.
The same can be said about teachers in America today. They are disappearing from the landscape at an alarming rate. Some are disappearing due to angry poachers who are chasing them off of their land. Some are leaving because they cannot find the means to put food on their table. Teachers are majestic. They are a necessity to the American way of life and we must protect them at all costs.
Some states and communities are attempting to respond to the teacher shortage by treating teachers like a commodity. They allow anyone to step in to a classroom and teach for a year with or without a valid certificate. They allow districts to hire and fire at will. They allow long term subs to step into classrooms and take over. They pass out certificates based on an individual’s ability to prove content knowledge on a singular test, without ever proving a love for kids and a passion for growth.
In America today, almost every single child has been exposed to a great teacher. They have had the opportunity to witness compassion, empathy, and persistence first hand, yet for some reason, fewer and fewer young adults decide to pursue this career for themselves. Compare that to the number of young people who watch an NFL game on Sunday afternoon and decide they will chase the dream of becoming a professional athlete. Or the young child who hears their favorite pop song on the radio and determines to become the next Taylor Swift. Young people see fame and fortune and begin to believe anyone can achieve it.
Compare the route of teacher certification to the route required to become a doctor or lawyer today. Imagine showing up for surgery and learning that the doctor who will be cutting you open is just there on a trial run for a year. They are subbing for a certified specialist because there was a shortage, but it’s OK because they passed their anatomy exam. Or imagine you are put on trial for a crime you didn’t commit. Standing beside you to defend you is a person who never went to law school, never passed the bar exam, but took a US History course in their undergrad, so they are entrusted to protect your future.
In America today, seemingly every child wants to grow up to be a doctor, a lawyer, an athlete, or a musician.These are all amazing careers, put on display daily, not because of how easy they are to obtain, but actually because of how hard they are to reach. Medical school, the bar exam, being drafted into the professional ranks, and signing a record deal are no small feats. They are difficult, require tremendous amounts of work ethic and discipline, yet we are in no shortage of people pursuing these dreams. Perhaps, just perhaps, if teachers were treated like precious gems instead of an easily exchanged commodity we would actually be able to solve the problem we have created.
Sometimes we have to tackle a problem with reason, not with quick fixes. To some it makes sense to say, “We have a shortage, so let’s just get more people.” To some it makes sense to say, “We can’t afford to pay for the best, so let’s just pay for a lot.” The truth of the matter is, in order to attract more teachers, we actually need to make teaching more attractive.
Take a look at the US Marine Corps. In their attempt to recruit more young people into their ranks, they did not say, “We will take anyone.” They celebrate that they will take “The few, the proud…” The US marines are touted as an elite organization and as such they recruit the elite.
In America we need to get back to protecting and preserving what matters. If we want to address the teacher shortage in America, let’s stop looking for more quantity and instead begin to promote more quality. By treating teachers like the amazing resources to America that they are, perhaps they will no longer find themselves endangered, but instead find themselves soaring like they once did. Teachers are in charge of our collective future. They are not put in place to just teach content, but to inspire a generation. If we want the next generation to be the best generation, let’s make sure those who are the architects behind it are treated like they deserve to be…
but these are just my thoughts. I could be wrong.
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