Only Martyrs Teach Now In America: A Teacher Explains Why The Profession Is On Fire

January 12, 2015

An aspiring teacher posted on an online forum that "I really want to be a teacher, but I'm afraid of the environment I'll be teaching in" in hopes for teachers to respond with their experiences teaching in urban environments.

This teacher's response explained what the real concern is when it comes to teaching...

teachers martyrs
Getty Images / Brand X

"Your environment will be the least of your worries if you are considering studying to be a teacher right now. When it comes to students and environments, not only do you get to love the kids in most places and EARN respect if you're actually a decent teacher, if you really don't fit in a place, you can find another job; this is not the "good ol' days" where teachers never moved; right-to-work idiocy has contributed heavily to the kind of teaching where you never really get tenured or established in one place unless you really, really want to.

What you SHOULD be worrying about is the absolute annihilation of the professional nature of teaching at all, especially if it's going to be five or more years until you begin. In 2014, I ended a ten-year teaching career, and I advised my students strongly against entering the field. It was hard for my generation, yes, with the whole NCLB issue (which was ratified while I was in college) and the massive restructuring of all educational funding around quantitative data. That was our burden to carry, but the burden your generation of teachers will carry? It's almost too much to ask anyone to deal with. You will be required to become very proficient in your field, spend exorbitant amounts of money on education and training, and then, with new nationalized curricula and districts and principals desperate for money, you will be given no academic freedom to implement what you know, unless what you studied was statistics. Students are no longer individuals with individual needs; they are an aggregate of data that determine whether a school will receive operating funds or not. The past few decades have stripped away every vestige of professionalism from teaching. Your work will far more closely resemble that of a number-crunching accountant or a Wal-Mart associate working from a script than that of a Masters-degree holding professional allowed to create a unique learning environment suited to your students based on your analysis.

Moreover, the educational bubble is going to blow soon. I worked successfully for 10 years, have never bought a new car, or owned a home, but the $35,000 salaries I never exceeded were simply not enough to pay off the $40,000 of college debt I incurred. I will default on them this year. This nation has made a deliberate attempt to defund primary and secondary education over the past few decades and the business of education can be summed up as such: you're expected to be a professional, but given neither the freedom nor the compensation or authority to justify such a position; you, your school, and your district will be so desperate for money and resources that you'll feel like you're living in the third world, and the division of parents between those who have truly given up on education and those who will helicopter the shit out of their brats out of entitlement and desperation has become complete. There is no happy middle that I have seen.

Man, there are no upsides to being a teacher unless you are a St. Sebastian kind of martyr, and things are going to get WAY worse very soon before they get better. Your question is a common starting question. I have worked everywhere from the inner-city, metal-detector school in northern PA to the podunk, 300-person middle school in rural Florida. Forget your superficial concerns, the whole discipline you're considering is on fire, collapsing and destroying the lives of a huge number of people involved in it. Pay and respect have never been lower, and the sheer amount of side work has never been higher.

Only martyrs teach now in America."

Credit: PaterTemporalis

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