Michael R. Hillis, Ph.D., and Stephen P. Blum, JD
The other day a district superintendent shared how difficult it has been for the past few months to stay focused on his job. Why? He’s too busy filling in for a substitute teacher when his district faces a staffing crisis.
Like other sectors of the US economy, the education field is scrambling to find people to fill critical roles. In many ways this is understandable – teaching is hard work made even harder by the circumstances of the past two years. Whether it’s teaching online or trying to manage social distancing within a classroom, the job of teaching can be exhausting and often thankless.
However, children and families in our communities need dedicated, creative and skilled educators more than ever. The academic development of children is critical and has suffered in significant sections of the population. Additionally, the shift to online and quarantined teaching situations has impacted the interpersonal development of children, as evidenced by the increase in reported mental health issues in public schools.
So why would people choose to enter the teaching profession when so many people choose to retire or leave for other jobs?
First, let’s be honest and explain why many people reject teaching before they even think about it – money. While we support the argument that teachers are not paid enough for the work they are expected to do, it is also true that many, if not most, educators have been able to support themselves and those of their families through their positions. This is not to ignore the fact that many teachers take on extra work during vacations and summers, or find other ways to earn extra income. Many have spouses who also work.
However, there are compelling financial reasons for considering the estate. A teacher’s salary typically starts in the mid-50s and reaches near or more than six figures. The job usually comes with good health and social benefits. In addition, teaching offers a defined pension that allows most teachers to retire and receive a lifetime pension between 50% and 100% of what they earned while working. Education is generally a ticket for the middle class in America.
Also, many people are attracted to the profession because of the nature of the work. Although we often hear negative stories about teaching in the media, most teachers we know love the job and see the significant impacts it has on their students. In fact, most people enter education precisely for this reason. They want to make a difference in the lives of their students. They want to exert a positive influence on America. They strive to be part of the solution.
We often ask student teachers to explain what motivates them to enter the profession. Almost without exception, students will tell the story of a teacher who touched them and their desire to do the same. Whether it’s the energy and excitement a teacher brought to the classroom in fourth grade or an important piece of wisdom and motivation imparted by a high school teacher, these things have an impact on students.
Therefore, these future teachers come to us with a passion to impact their communities. They possess a dynamism that cannot be underestimated. We recognize that teaching is not always easy and can feel undervalued. It is during these times that teachers are reminded that they have chosen a noble profession and that their career will result in inspiring, teaching and impacting students and improving their lives and make their communities better.
Finally, we would say that there is no better time to become a teacher than now. There are multiple financial incentives ranging from grants to scholarships, an abundance of job opportunities, and many communities in desperate need of people committed to the next generation. Teaching is a fulfilling career. This is the perfect time to join the profession.
Michael R. Hillis is Dean of the Graduate School of Education at California Lutheran University. Stephen P. Blum is an adjunct faculty member and former high school teacher, coach, and president of the teachers’ union.