California Forum

Another View: We’re having the wrong conversation about teacher shortages

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial on the California teacher shortage focused on the wrong conversation (“A teacher pipeline in need of repair”; Editorials, Aug. 23).

I’m one of those veteran baby boomer teachers who will retire soon. I would love to teach longer, but public education is completely broken. I love teaching students, but no one seems to value our experience. Our voices are silenced by testing companies, government leaders and those who target teachers in campaign speeches.

Younger folks avoid teaching because teachers are no longer allowed to be creative and innovative in engaging and motivating their students. Failed programs like No Child Left Behind, and now the California Common Core Standards, which is like NCLB on steroids, have turned schools into assembly lines with teachers as McDonald’s managers.

Schools have become pressure cooker environments with heavily controlled curricula and set time blocks to “cover” the standards. Many younger teachers quit within two or three years, and it’s little wonder colleges have seen a huge drop in teacher candidates.

Our culture has spent the last decade blaming teachers for all the failures of society. NCLB, under the Bush administration, was a mass effort to close public schools in favor of corporate charter schools or faith-based private schools.

Standardized testing is simply a measurement of access to wealth that validates the status quo along racial lines. There is no process for students to see which questions they missed, or how to assess any personal connection to their test results. Standardized testing breaks all the rules of how students learn best.

Many of us concluded years ago that this current teacher shortage would emerge under NCLB, but our voices were ignored. We protested when the arts and vocational programs were cut under NCLB, but no one listened. Our industrial age schools with agrarian calendars can’t survive the rapid changes of the digital age economy and society.

We understand why many young people view the teaching profession as a dinosaur that will soon become extinct. Presidential candidates love to blame teacher unions for the failures of public education, one even suggesting the removal of all teacher lounges, but no one asks us our professional views on how to fix this crisis.

Everyone else plays the expert, and just as NCLB was created without major input from actual classroom teachers, the real cause of today’s teacher shortage will continue to be an exercise of others all having the wrong conversations.

Brian Hack teaches guitar at Roseville High School.