Net pay, evaluations and programming

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Net pay will frequently decide whether or not some people leave teaching for more lucrative fields. I have seen excellent teachers exit the profession for financial reasons, especially those in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Quality teachers in these fields are hard to replace. Almost all our students still learn programming in college because we lack the staff to teach this skill in our public schools.

The increasing burdens from nonteaching responsibilities are falling on teachers in all areas. During some weeks last year, I spent more time preparing documentation for the administration and/or delivering standardized testing to students than I did preparing and delivering instruction. For years, my distribution of time has been skewing towards the creation of data and away from actual teaching. My hours kept getting longer, but my pay raises never reflected this fact. In the meantime, my evaluations keep getting longer and less friendly. The last one ran over 20 pages, taken from a cookie-cutter rubric that evaluated myriad tiny details, sometimes whether those details had been observed or not.

Teachers teach because they love teaching. As teaching becomes less and less a part of educational positions, STEM teachers develop a greater incentive to slip away into alternative fields. Young STEM teachers are particularly likely to exit education. Why not take that programming position that pays double and frees evenings for videogaming and fun? If you are lucky, you may even be able to work at home in your pajamas. As education’s reputation as a fun and rewarding, if not particularly lucrative, field becomes tarnished by negative press about teachers and punitive evaluation systems, we will lose teachers to other fields where they can make more money and receive more praise.

Periodically I read articles about how we ought to teach programming in high school. I have friends who are programmers and I don’t know a one of them who would consider working in a public school. Realistically, less money and tougher working conditions, combined with punitive evaluation systems designed to “improve” performance, will ensure that capable programmers avoid education, while simultaneously ensuring that aspiring programmers have no choice except to pick up their skills in college.

Eduhonesty: When will we start trying to attract teachers to the profession? Fortunately for America, teaching is a calling. Many people will enter the field despite worsening working conditions. Fortunately, too, new teachers don’t remember a time when they had autonomy in selecting materials and could then tailor those materials to students. Still, the crazy’s getting crazier out here, and I am frankly baffled by these people who expect programmers to decide en masse to enter the teaching profession. Umm… what would motivate these highly employable professionals to enter public education?

horse to water

P.S. I didn’t create the above meme, but I have found this horse all over Facebook and the internet. He resonates with teachers, that’s for sure. They keep sending him on to me. In one picture, my meme explains why programming will remain a college or university subject, at least in the near future.