From managing the low teaching salary to making do with inadequately supplied classrooms, teachers are forced to tackle these issues daily, while simultaneously being expected to successfully fulfill their initial objective: educating the youth. Such poor working conditions have led to a decrease of educators, despite the passion these individuals hold for uplifting and bettering their students.
As the working conditions of educators become more evident to the public through personal experience, news articles and even the trending hashtag “Teacher Tok”, the question of what possible solutions may be more frequently arises. In order to examine possible solutions for arising issues, it is important to first ask why these issues arose in the first place. Pinpointing the root of a problem can help find a better understanding of this situation, therefore how to unlearn these mindsets.
The continuous ill-treatment of teachers has been partially accredited to the profession being considered a “woman’s role.” In fact, teaching was the first form of work that women were legally allowed to take part in. While this opportunity gave women room to experience occupational and financial independence, teaching was not considered a valid profession at the time. Historian John Rury explains in Education and Women’s Work, that within the 1800s emerged a “two-tiered system of employment in education, one in which women did the bulk of the teaching under the supervision of an increasingly authoritative cadre of male administrators.” Since then, this underlying foundation of the United States educational system has remained and teaching is still a widely feminized industry.
Women populate 80.5% of primary school teachers and 74.3% of teachers in general. It is also important to note, other industries that are societally recognized as female-dominated, such as childcare, nursing and clerical work pay overall lower wages than those of non female-dominated industries. Paying teachers less based on historical and institutional biases is not an excuse for the clear distinction between how the U.S. views and compensates male-dominated industries versus female-dominated industries.
One of the most obvious sources of teacher’s current substandard working conditions is the pandemic. The pandemic forced students to put their education on the back burner. It is evident the morale in schools is noticeably lower since returning to in-person classes. Additionally, students feel like they no longer have the same capacity to pay attention as long as they used to, or remember as much as they once could. This is justifiable as the world just experienced a global pandemic and that, in turn, will significantly affect people. As a result, teachers in the year of 2023 have every right to feel extremely powerless against the norms that manifested in education and society for nearly two years.
Teachers are also shown a lack of credit by administrators, parents, and politicians. Insufficient federal and state budgets as well as less opportunity for students in lower-income areas are a point of frustration for teachers. However, what has caused this frustration to reach a peak, is the insertion of political, cultural and social matters into educational settings. Discourse pertaining to political and social matters have allowed many to lose focus of what is of the utmost importance: keeping children educated and safe. Allow teachers to do their jobs and allow students the right to make up their own minds. To teach is to impart knowledge of, not the opinion of.
The surge of teachers leaving the profession recently isn’t the fault of educators themselves, but the fault of society. The first step is simply making a conscious effort to dismantle the habits that have been normalized in regards to educators. Alternatives to combat the distracting thought processes need to be considered. The learning consultancy of Sweden explains, “educationalists talk about the whole system being less target-driven and more child-centered. Children feel less pressured by external exams. High taxation means schools are well-funded.” A new mindset such as these values the teacher as well as the student. However, in order to properly take care of students it is necessary to properly take care of those directly handling their education. Maybe then, it can truly be shown that investing in children’s education is an investment in the future growth and development of this nation.