Report from Louisiana: Why is there a teacher shortage?

Readability

Report from Louisiana: Why is there a teacher shortage?

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT – In my post last week I attempted to take you inside the Com­mon Core class­room, to pull back the cur­tain and show the com­plete and utter loss of auton­omy and cre­ativ­ity teach­ers have expe­ri­enced under this pro­gram to the point that teach­ers are not even allowed to use their own words; we work from scripts, pre­pared slides, and pre­pared teacher notes.

From my post last week:

In this way, the­ory goes, every child across the dis­trict gets the same les­son on the same day in the same way. There are no “rock star” teach­ers who have an unfair advan­tage over less capa­ble teach­ers. The play­ing field is lev­eled, and this helps mea­sure how effec­tive these lessons are in meet­ing the cri­te­ria for stan­dard­ized testing.

There are many prob­lems with this approach to teach­ing, only one of which is that every stu­dent is taught in the exact same way. All that train­ing we received on diver­si­fied learn­ing styles was appar­ently hogwash.

Another prob­lem is that some teach­ers are afraid to speak out for fear of recrim­i­na­tions, so we don’t really know how bad this really is. Some of us just close our door and teach the way we know stu­dents learn. We use our own words and our own activ­i­ties devel­oped with spe­cific stu­dent needs in mind. Then when the test scores come back, and they are won­der­ful, it looks like Com­mon Core is working.

Let’s restate that: teach­ers are silently rebelling against this bor­ing dri­vel and teach­ing as they were trained, and they can’t speak out for fear of get­ting in trouble.

Other teach­ers are just leav­ing the pro­fes­sion. The nation­wide teacher short­age is epic.

Con­sider this teacher from Geor­gia; explain­ing why she left the class­room she writes:

You start talk­ing to teach­ers, try­ing to fig­ure out where their fire for edu­ca­tion has gone – why they appear as robots, or automa­tons, sim­ply going through the motions. What has hap­pened? You dig deeper and learn of pre­scribed and scripted cur­ricu­lum; teach­ers are expected to be at the same point in the same les­son every day. For tran­sient stu­dents that idea seems based in rea­son, but the prac­tice has been detri­men­tal to teachers.

You learn of the pres­sure felt by both teach­ers and stu­dents to per­form well on stan­dard­ized tests. You learn of the auton­omy stolen from teach­ers to make any deci­sion beyond a seat­ing chart in their room. You learn of the com­plete lack of empow­er­ment (and active process of dis­em­pow­er­ment) of the teach­ers and then learn this is a wide­spread issue. Teach­ers across the coun­try are beg­ging for a shift away from this robotic sort of teaching.

Some are leav­ing the field. I did, and, while I ulti­mately found myself work­ing toward my doc­tor­ate, I knew the k-​12 space was no longer an option as I refuse to leave my brain on the side­lines and act as a robot. Feel­ing dis­em­pow­ered was a non­nego­tiable for me and for many educators.

It’s all about the test.

When did it quit being about the students?

Michael Desho­tels at Louisiana Edu­ca­tor writes:

Remem­ber the term aca­d­e­mic free­dom? This is an almost for­got­ten con­cept in today’s world of test teach­ing and scripted learn­ing. But aca­d­e­mic free­dom has allowed the Amer­i­can edu­ca­tion sys­tem to fos­ter cre­ativ­ity in both teach­ers and stu­dents for many years before this recent trend of stan­dard­ized edu­ca­tion. It was an edu­ca­tion sys­tem that has made the U.S. the world leader in sci­en­tific achieve­ment, lit­er­a­ture, and art. It is not a good idea to aban­don aca­d­e­mic free­dom in hopes of small increases in stan­dard­ized test score.

As a vet­eran edu­ca­tor it hurts me to see this hap­pen­ing to stu­dents. I don’t teach Eng­lish: I teach kids, and I care deeply about my stu­dents. To see their eyes glaze over when the slides come up and the infor­ma­tional texts come out, when the script is read, is so dis­heart­en­ing. So yes, I’m that teacher that goes off script. But I’m also speak­ing out. Ten­ta­tively and yes, with some fear. I love my job and don’t want to lose it.

At this point I can only hope that this fad goes the way of all of the oth­ers that I’ve seen in my twenty-​three years. These pro­grams hang around for five years or so and then we rein­vent the wheel and do some­thing else. I hope I can sur­vive this one.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port. She is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cam­mie Henry and her Cir­cle at Mel­rose Plan­ta­tion. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – In my post last week I attempted to take you inside the Common Core classroom, to pull back the curtain and show the complete and utter loss of autonomy and creativity teachers have experienced under this program to the point that teachers are not even allowed to use their own words; we work from scripts, prepared slides, and prepared teacher notes.

From my post last week:

In this way, theory goes, every child across the district gets the same lesson on the same day in the same way.  There are no “rock star” teachers who have an unfair advantage over less capable teachers.  The playing field is leveled, and this helps measure how effective these lessons are in meeting the criteria for standardized testing.

There are many problems with this approach to teaching, only one of which is that every student is taught in the exact same way.  All that training we received on diversified learning styles was apparently hogwash.

Another problem is that some teachers are afraid to speak out for fear of recriminations, so we don’t really know how bad this really is.  Some of us just close our door and teach the way we know students learn.  We use our own words and our own activities developed with specific student needs in mind.  Then when the test scores come back, and they are wonderful, it looks like Common Core is working.

Let’s restate that: teachers are silently rebelling against this boring drivel and teaching as they were trained, and they can’t speak out for fear of getting in trouble.

Other teachers are just leaving the profession.  The nationwide teacher shortage is epic.

Consider this teacher from Georgia; explaining why she left the classroom she writes:

You start talking to teachers, trying to figure out where their fire for education has gone – why they appear as robots, or automatons, simply going through the motions. What has happened? You dig deeper and learn of prescribed and scripted curriculum; teachers are expected to be at the same point in the same lesson every day. For transient students that idea seems based in reason, but the practice has been detrimental to teachers.

You learn of the pressure felt by both teachers and students to perform well on standardized tests. You learn of the autonomy stolen from teachers to make any decision beyond a seating chart in their room. You learn of the complete lack of empowerment (and active process of disempowerment) of the teachers and then learn this is a widespread issue. Teachers across the country are begging for a shift away from this robotic sort of teaching.

Some are leaving the field. I did, and, while I ultimately found myself working toward my doctorate, I knew the k-12 space was no longer an option as I refuse to leave my brain on the sidelines and act as a robot. Feeling disempowered was a nonnegotiable for me and for many educators.

It’s all about the test.

When did it quit being about the students?

Michael Deshotels at Louisiana Educator writes:

Remember the term academic freedom? This is an almost forgotten concept in today’s world of test teaching and scripted learning. But academic freedom has allowed the American education system to foster creativity in both teachers and students for many years before this recent trend of standardized education. It was an education system that has made the U.S. the world leader in scientific achievement, literature, and art. It is not a good idea to abandon academic freedom in hopes of small increases in standardized test score.

As a veteran educator it hurts me to see this happening to students.  I don’t teach English: I teach kids, and I care deeply about my students.  To see their eyes glaze over when the slides come up and the informational texts come out, when the script is read, is so disheartening.  So yes, I’m that teacher that goes off script. But I’m also speaking out.  Tentatively and yes, with some fear.  I love my job and don’t want to lose it.

At this point I can only hope that this fad goes the way of all of the others that I’ve seen in my twenty-three years.  These programs hang around for five years or so and then we reinvent the wheel and do something else.  I hope I can survive this one.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport. She is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.