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A troubling trend in teaching

The numbers are staggering and disappointing.

And, if you have a child or know a child in the current education system, you should be lighting a candle pronto, because, in the next year or so, that student may show up in a classroom looking at a blank chalkboard with no one in front of it.

Current teacher retirements are up 44%.

And, even more troubling, the numbers out the door are not matched by those coming in. In fact, college students enrolled in teaching programs are down 70% over the last eight years.

Do the math.

It’s ugly.

So, what’s going on?

According to a new survey of 5,000 Michigan educators, what’s going on, as Marvin Gaye used to sing, is teachers feel they are getting no respect from politicians and parents.

They obviously would like higher salaries, but they also want more input into those decisions that are handed down to them from the Legislature in Lansing. As one teacher put it, “We have a lot of people talking to us, but not with us.”

Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association, is even more concerned about that problem as she takes a glance at the retirement cue.

“There are more than 18,000 eligible to retire right now and another 12,000 eligible for early retirement,” she said. “Many of them are considering it after the pandemic. This would throw our K-12 system into a state of disarray that we have likely never seen before.”

Her fellow union president over at the Michigan American Federation of Teachers has his own lamentations.

Looking at the survey data, David Hecker offers: “This is somewhat heartbreaking to see how our state educators are still struggling to find satisfaction (as Mick Jagger use to sing). Only 30% of teachers would recommend to people that they go into this field.”

There’s no question that the lives of teachers have changed dramatically from the time most of you were in the classroom. Some believe there was more discipline applied to bad behavior and, when that happened, the child not only got it at school, when they got home, they got another dose from Mom and Dad.

Now, the drill is a teacher trying to correct behavior does so at his or her own risk, as mom and dad may come after them with, “What are you doing to my child?,” instead of a “thank you” for helping him or her.

Back in the day, every student was not given a ribbon, or an award for just showing up. You usually had to excel at something to get a pat on the head.

Now, the critics contend, every student is treated equally for fear that to do otherwise would hurt the feelings of those left out.

Which brings to mind a story that you former school band or choir students will vividly recall.

Remember trying out for chairs?

Every band member played something and was judged by the director and, based on that performance, the best player got first chair in each section and the worst player sat in last chair.

But, nowadays, musicians in the lower and middle grades have no chair assignments, for fear the less-talented students will be embarrassed.

Does anybody stop to ponder that life itself is a game of “chairs,” and not everyone can be first, and those who are last have two options: practice harder to move, up or just give up?

Either one is a life lesson to be learned.

And, on another front, even COVID-19 has reared its deadly head in this teacher shortage dilemma.

Prior to the pandemic, many teachers were increasingly fed up with the system and were seriously thinking about hanging it up. Turns out, COVID-19 was the last straw for many that pushed them over the edge.

“I think that is true,” President Herbart says.

Of course, the next question is what to do?

Respect for the profession is not going to flip overnight.

Salaries are not going to skyrocket to keep some in the fold.

Hence, the trend will likely continue unless somebody finds a solution ASAP, before the only option left will be homeschooling, where the “teachers” can’t retire.

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