I have a friend who, after two years as a full professor, is back down to adjuncting part-time due to budget cuts. A former student of mine earned his degree in math and special education and has been subbing for two years in an outstanding district, but he simply can’t seem to get his own classroom. And even though I am (currently) employed by a local community college, I recently decided to conduct an experiment to see if I, with my soon-to-be twenty years of classroom experience, could land even a part-time position in any school district within a desirable radius. I updated my resumé and cover letter and applied to four local school districts.
Did I get a bite?
At first I was bitter, but now I understand. There are too many teachers and not enough jobs.
What does this mean? Well, theoretically, it could be a good thing for our children. If the pool of applicants is supersaturated, then – hopefully – the weakest candidates will be tossed away quickly, making way for the cream of the crop to land in our nation’s classrooms which, as we all know, are badly in need of help. Alas, I suspect it means that many positions will be “excessed” causing more teachers to scramble for fewer positions. It means greater numbers of students will be squished into classrooms, which will make it harder for them to learn. It means less adult supervision in the place where we really need them to receive specialized, individualized attention.
Meanwhile, I know plenty of people who have given up. Though stellar students themselves, each having received outstanding reviews during all phases of their student teaching experience, each has decided to leave the dream behind. One former student of mine just took an entry-level position at an editing/publishing company last fall, after three years of looking for an elementary school position. She sent out hundreds of resumés, attended dozens of encouraging interviews, but just never could seal the deal. For years, she worked as a substitute teacher, earning $75-85 a day (with no benefits). I think she files and makes people coffee now. Seriously. I’m not kidding. To do these things, one does not necessarily need to attend college.
“It’s ridiculous,” my former student says, “Spending all that money for an education I can’t use has been beyond frustrating. But really I had no choice. I needed benefits. And I needed to make money.”
How can we continue to allow good students to go through graduate school to become educators if the jobs are not there for them when they come out the other side?
So, my little experiment, though simultaneously interesting and humbling, meant little for me. I am one of the lucky ones: I have a job that I love.
For now, anyway.
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