Why the mass teacher exodus will benefit your business

Teachers around the country are leaving the world of education behind; not because they lack skills and experience, but because they have all the skills and experience. Yet when businesses see a teacher applying for a job at their company, why do they reject teachers? Here are some statements I’ve heard about my own profession, and the reasons why they are completely false.

Teachers are lazy

I really don’t know where this idea came from, but I can state with confidence that even the laziest teacher (and I know there are many) is working hard. Long gone are the days where a teacher is given a book and teaching from it. No, these days teachers may have a book, but also must provide online tutorials, supplemental work, formative and substantive assessments, data driven curriculum that has at least two national standards attached. And that is just for the lessons. On top of that, they are communicating with students, parents, administrators, and support staff on an hourly basis. They proctor state assessments, grade, and reassess on a constant loop. They mentor and lead other teachers. They collaborate to make sure instruction is perfectly aligned. They usually coach or advise at least one extracurricular.

No wonder our students think we live at the school. To them, we really are there much of the time. In this “hustle” society we have built, very few people can work as hard as a teacher.

Teachers expect things to be handed to them

I heard this the first time a few weeks ago. I laughed. This is so far from the truth. For example, you know those books I mentioned in the paragraphs above? Most of them are out of date. And many schools can’t afford to buy books. That means the teachers are scouring the internet to find lessons. In my case, I usually just create the content myself since I really don’t have the time to look up pre-made lessons.

As for classroom supplies, I know I’m fortunate to get $50 a year to spend on my classroom. I’m a high school teacher, so I spend it on a year’s supply of dry-erase markers or binder clips (but not both). I weep for elementary teachers who come in a month ahead of time to make their rooms inviting for the little ones with rugs, chairs, softer lighting, colorful paper for bulletin boards, organizer cubbies for supplies (with the supplies sorted for each child). On average, an elementary teacher will spend $300 a year on their classroom out of their own pockets because they know the benefits for the children to make that classroom feel like a safe place.

To get our hands on any extra funding, I recall spending many hours to write for a grant to get my art classroom 3 Mac computers to replace the six computers that were still running Windows 95.

That was in 2010, folks. How many businesses do you know that were still using that operating system in 2010? If you are looking for an employee who has ingenuity to work with what resources are available, a teacher can do that.

Teachers will fuss if things don’t go their way

Let’s go back in time, shall we? The day is Monday, March 16, 2020. My state started the first shutdown due to the pandemic. When I left the Friday before, we were just told they would complete a deep cleaning over the weekend. I didn’t even remember to grab my Chromebook charging cord.

I got the call from the school’s alert system on Sunday night. It said that we wouldn’t be back until at least the first week of April. Okay, I thought, I can handle that. I checked my work email, and was told that I had to come up with work for my students for that week, and make sure I was able to reach every single student to see if they had internet at home or not, so I could support them with creating paperwork. How I would get it to them with the school closed? I had no idea.

By the start of the following week, I had completely changed my pacing guides, which are detailed outlines of our standards and curriculum expectations, to fit the complete online learning we were to teach for the rest of the academic year. We maintained contact with students, found creative ways to reach them, led virtual classrooms on Google Meet, conducted mental health checks, and graded the new work. I also had to buy a new Chromebook charger because my school didn’t open up to the teachers (we had 15 minutes to get everything we needed–it was like Supermarket Sweep!) until the middle of April.

Since then, we have had new protocol every few days. Is this something I want to do? Hell no! But I do it, and so do all the teachers across the country. If the job calls for adaptability to changes, a teacher can handle it with ease.

Teachers can’t handle the work hours

I’m a seasoned teacher. Today, actually, is my fifteenth year with my school (I was hired mid year because my predecessor was killed in an auto accident). So when I tell you that I have honed my skills to a point of incredible efficiency, I mean it. Before March 2020, I would come into work at 7:45, school starts at 8:20 and ends at 3:18, and I would stay to grade and prep for about another hour. I get a 25 minute lunch break. I was able to create the boundary that I didn’t work on weekends, so that would add about an extra hour to my work week to compensate for some weekend work time. My weekly average was about 46 hours. I get paid for about 37.

That was pre-Covid times. Last fall of 2020, I was exhausted by the end of October and wondered why. The next week I logged my hours. After thinking I was seeing things or not doing correct math, I sent my spreadsheet to a friend. I was working 68 hours. Tired was an understatement.

But that’s not all! Like the majority of teachers under the age of 40, who taught during or after the great recession of 2008, we have had pay freezes, and if we happen to get a salary increase, it doesn’t even usually cover the insurance increase for the year. What do we do if we don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck? We take on second jobs. I’m lucky to be a portrait photographer, which helps pay for some of my travel that I like to do. This spring, I’m planning on getting another job to help me pay off my furnace faster.

I’m confident a teacher can handle the work hours of your business. They may even want to hug you for how modest it is.

Teachers won’t understand the language of our company

Do you know what the following acronyms mean? IEP, EDP, IDP, BP, CCSS, NCLB, ESSA, IDEA, FAPE, ELA, ESL, ELL, and PAM.

I’m betting that if you didn’t know any of them, you probably looked them up on Google. That works both ways. Teachers are actually very good learners. That teacher that you are hesitant to hire? They are going to catch on very quickly. It doesn’t matter the industry, a teacher will do what it takes to learn the nuances of your company.

What are you waiting for?

Take advantage of the applications that have “Teacher” in bold letters under the heading “Experience”. Give them a call. Set up an interview. And take advantage of the hoards of teachers leaving the classroom. I have a very good hypothesis that you will be glad that you did.

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