Education majors should carefully choose teaching as their professions.
But before classes could begin in the School District of Philadelphia this year, more than 100 teachers brought a spotlight upon themselves when they quit, took leave or failed to appear in their assigned classrooms less than a week before students took to their desks. Earlier in the summer, approximately 100 others did the same.
While Jerry Jordan, the president of the Philadelphia Teachers Federation, told the Philadelphia Inquirer no one can blame teachers if they find “a higher salary and better working conditions,” it is questionable where those educators’ intentions lie.
If the School District of Philadelphia was too challenging of an environment for them, they should not be teaching at all.
This past school year, 44.5 percent of schools within the city’s school district passed the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test, compared to 85 percent in the suburbs. To say one group of kids needs more help than the other walks a fine line, but when there is a 40.5 percent distinction between the two, it’s obvious that leaps from the city to the suburbs are not necessary.
Educators never allow a student acing English but failing math to solely focus on the subject he or she is best at, yet those teachers who left the district to relocate — not including those who were sick — opted for an easier alternative.
“No one ever said teaching was an easy profession, especially in K-12,” said Ellen Linky, the director of clinical education for Temple’s Urban Education Collaborative. “Sometimes, [teachers] are the lifelines of children.”
As Smith pointed out, there is an added pressure on current teachers to ensure their students perform well on standardized tests. Since most students don’t jump out of their seats the instant they see sheets of blank, fill-in bubbles and No. 2 pencils, some educators find standardized tests to be “one huge extra burden,” Linky said. And in urban areas, she added, teachers are often faced with students who are not reading or doing math at their grade level.
“When you accept a responsibility, there are certain requirements that come as anchors with that,” Linky, a former principal in the School District of Philadelphia, said.
Such anchors should include the responsibility to remain dedicated to students, no matter how problematic some kids can be. In an urban area, there are bound to be troublesome children with difficult home lives or infested attitudes. Though this exists in suburbia as well, differing environments sometimes affect students’ approaches to the classroom.
To counteract this, teachers must have a range of methods to get through to a child. Every student learns differently.
Education majors nationwide should carefully consider their chosen professions and decide whether they are committed to fighting challenging battles before they are assigned a class of their own.
The National Education Association reported in a 2006 study that across the U.S., nearly half of all teachers quit after their first five years in the force.
Temple is currently working toward making field experiences a more intense requirement.
Tracy Rossi, a senior secondary education English major from South Jersey, said while she could have attended Rowan University for less money, less time is spent in the classroom there.
“At Temple you are in the classroom at least a year before student teaching,” Rossi said in an e-mail. “The focus is on pedagogical matters and strategies to get the main point across to your students.”
Rossi said while the stigma surrounding the School District of Philadelphia is “pretty intense” in South Jersey, she came to see it differently at Temple.
“The students in the Philadelphia school district are known to be troublemakers,” Rossi said. “As I started my field experience, I realized that it wasn’t like that at all. The students are just bored and therefore act out.”
Smith estimated that during the last couple semesters, “well over half” of his students have gone on to teach in the Philadelphia area. But the key, he said, is whether or not they have stayed.
“Persistence is not necessarily a common attribute,” Linky said. “Today’s generation is immediate. If the kids aren’t listening, the teachers get exasperated.”
Even as university students immerse themselves in the School District of Philadelphia, they should not be afraid if it seems teaching isn’t for them. There is no shame in choosing a different route because once a graduate is assigned to a classroom, fleeing for something easier should not be an option.
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.