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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Poor, pitiful me' message discourages would-be teachers

The "underpaid-teacher meme" is discouraging college students interested in teaching from pursuing the career, according to new studies at the University of Maryland, writes Madeline Will in Education Week.


"Only about a third of students said they received encouraging messages about teaching from the media," researchers found, while "63 percent said they received discouraging messages."


Friends and family often told them that a teaching career offers fulfillment and job security, the students said. However, they were also warned about low pay. "Do you want to be poor for the rest of your life?" one father asked.


Media messages stressed "low wages, poor working conditions, and a lack of societal respect," writes Will.


“I’ve heard that teaching is maybe not as prestigious — really, as respectable of a job as other jobs,” a student told researchers.


In a second study, researchers interviewed 16 Black students with an interest in teaching. They worried about pay, respect and the “invisible tax” on Black teachers, who are often expected to serve as uncompensated disciplinarians or mentors to students of color in addition to their teaching jobs.

“The participants valued K-12 teaching, and they valued teachers,” said Tifanee McCaskill, a former math teacher who is now a third year Ph.D. student at Maryland, in her presentation. “But they perceived that the opportunity cost — both social and economic — [was] just too high to go into teaching as a major or as a career.”

Students agreed that teaching is not a well-respected profession.


Teachers need to sell the profession to future teachers, McCaskill said. Of course, higher pay would help.

Ditch the doomsday narrative, writes Chad Aldeman on The 74. More young people want to become teachers: The number of enrollees in teacher preparation programs rose by 6 percent from 2019 to 2021, according to recent data. There are small increases (3 percent) in traditional teacher prep and large increases (20 to 22 percent) in alternative programs.


Public schools employ more teachers than ever, despite declining enrollment, he points out. Student-to-teacher ratios are "hitting all-time lows."

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26 Comments


Guest
Apr 26, 2023

The AFTB and NEA have been very clever in negotiating lavish tax-free benefits rather than wages, that allow them to continue to complain about salaries. Few people know that public school teachers don't have to pay into social security. They have real pensions guaranteed by the taxpayer.

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phillipmarlowe
Apr 27, 2023
Replying to
Tax free bennies?

Damn, I missed out on them. Please give us the deets!

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Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Apr 24, 2023

In most US States, the mean teacher salary (MA with six to ten years experience) is close to the State median household income. Not bad for indoor work with no heavy lifting.

Teaching is fun if you like kids, you like your subject, and the kids want to be there. Subsidized school choice would expand teachers' employment options, improve the fit between the individual child's interests and abilities, on the one hand, and the school's curriculum and methods of instruction, on the other.

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phillipmarlowe
Apr 30, 2023
Replying to

Don't pay into SSA.


Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Son, I can not believe.

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Steve Sherman
Steve Sherman
Apr 24, 2023

My Mom was a retired teacher for a long time -I used to tell her I never wanted to be a teacher but I wanted to be a retired teacher. The one thing that bothered me about many of my kids teachers and mine was just how poorly trained and unknowledgeable they were. When I was in 10th grade I couldn't tell you how long it took me to teach the teacher that the sum of the angles in a triangle was 180.


Thankfully my kids graduated mostly before the 'change agents' showed up but when they did you could spot'em by the inverse relationship between actually trying to do what they were ostensibly being paid to do and ho…

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phillipmarlowe
Apr 27, 2023
Replying to

I attended a very well regarded Catholic high school in the DC suburbs in the late 1970s and had a number of sub standard teachers.

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Richard Rider
Richard Rider
Apr 24, 2023

My wife is a retired public school teacher. She loved her job. She mentored many student teachers, and taught grad teacher student classes at SDSU. I've handled about 20 teacher clients as a financial planner (CFP). Teaching can be hard work -- especially in the early years. But the total educator compensation in all but a few states can be quite lucrative. As your article indicates, potential students don't know how lucrative it is. NO ONE talks about the terrific GUARANTEED pensions teachers receive. Even the hiring school districts don't like to publicize what a good deal it is -- which defeats the very PURPOSE of having such pensions. Most states offer teachers all but guaranteed lifetime employment with as little…

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Richard Rider
Richard Rider
Apr 30, 2023
Replying to

So did my wife, and every other teacher I've ever known.

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Guest
Apr 24, 2023

I've been teaching for 26 years, I wouldn't encourage college students to enter this field, and it's not because of the pay.

--mrmillermathteacher

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Guest
Apr 26, 2023
Replying to

You demonstrate a remarkable degree of clarity and self-awareness. I'd like to have had you as a teacher.

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