Teaching in Contemporary Times

Teaching in Contemporary Times
We explore why individuals choose teaching, illuminating intrinsic motivations, the influence of role models, the pursuit of lifelong learning, and the aspiration to impact society.

We hold teachers and the profession of teaching in high regard. In fact, teachers are often considered the bedrock of any progressive society. Teachers wield the power to mold young minds and shape the future. Serving as guiding lights for students, teachers play a critical role in fostering intellectual growth and nurturing curiosity. Despite being a demanding career choice, the allure of teaching lies in its potential to influence, inspire, and ignite a love for learning.

Why People Become Teachers

Why would anybody want to join an underpaid profession, micromanaged and often disrespected? It's an interesting question in 2024. On the other hand, when you look at the reasons from an altruistic perspective, motivation, role models, lifelong learning, and influence all come into play. So, let's look at each of these reasons.

Intrinsic Motivation: A key driving factor that compels many individuals to enter the teaching profession is the intrinsic satisfaction of educating young minds. As per the study by Klassen et al. (2012), teachers often express immense gratification in witnessing their students' academic and personal growth. This emotional reward, they argue, is a major motivating factor. I personally can attest to this motivating factor. It certainly wasn't the financial compensation that made me want to teach.

Role Models: Men and women who have taught us often leave lasting impressions. Such role models can inspire individuals to become teachers. Positive experiences with former teachers are some of the reasons people become teachers.

Lifelong Learning: The field of education offers opportunities for continuous learning. Teachers tend to be intellectually curious throughout their lives. It's part of their DNA.

Influence: Many individuals are drawn to teaching to impact society positively. By shaping young minds, teachers indirectly shape the future of a nation. American schools currently rank in the middle of the pack globally, so we need more teachers influencing young minds.

Routes to Becoming a Teacher

There used to be only one way to become a teacher. You earned an education degree at college and got your teacher's license. There are a couple more ways to become a teacher these days.

Traditional Path: The conventional route to becoming a teacher involves obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Education or a related field, completing a teacher preparation program, and obtaining state licensure. This structured approach allows for comprehensive teacher training

Alternative Certification Programs: For those with a Bachelor's degree in another field, alternative certification programs offer a path to teaching. Programs such as Teach for America or the New York City Teaching Fellows are designed to facilitate this transition.

Online Teaching Certification: The rise of digital education has made online certification programs increasingly popular. These programs offer flexibility and accessibility, appealing to many aspiring teachers.

Teach for America and similar programs: These programs provide an accelerated path to teaching, typically in high-need areas, allowing graduates to make an immediate impact while gaining teaching experience.

This video explains how to become a teacher.

Compensation, Retention, and Teacher Shortages

Teacher compensation varies from state to state. Tenure also varies. Teacher shortages seem to occur in districts that manage their staff poorly and don't pay them enough to live on. Teachers are typically paid their annual salaries over 10 months, leaving them the summer months without compensation. Let's examine each of these points.

Compensation: The average salary for teachers varies significantly across different states and school districts. Research by Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel (2019) indicates that low teacher pay relative to other professions is a critical factor impacting the profession's attractiveness. Low teacher pay calls into question the substantial financial cost of a four-year college education and attendant licensure and teacher certification preparation. One has to ask if it is worth spending $100,000 or more for an education that yields an annual salary of $50,000 or less.

Retention: High stress, lack of administrative support, low compensation, and inadequate resources contribute to high teacher turnover. According to Desiree Carver-Thomas and Linda Darling-Hammond in their 2017 paper Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It, improving these conditions can significantly enhance teacher retention.

Teacher Shortages: An ongoing issue in the education sector is teacher shortages. As I have noted, disrespect for teachers is the paramount reason for a teacher shortage. Teaching is a demanding way to make a living. So, when the administration, school board, and parents create a toxic work environment through micromanagement, disrespect, and poor compensation, it's not hard to see why teachers resign, move to an area with better working conditions, or leave the profession entirely.

This video offers a look at why teachers leave the profession.

Political Impact on Education and Teaching Profession

Political interference in education takes many forms, but the worst is the failure to pass effective gun laws. Nobody wants to work in a place where they and their fellow community members can be targets for some mass shooter. The other thing that politicians increasingly seem fond of doing is to micromanage items such as curriculum, and what teachers can and cannot say in the classroom.

Education Policies: Federal and state education policies influence several aspects of teaching, including curriculum, standardized testing, and teacher evaluations. Such policies can both aid and impede educational progress. Unfortunately, federal, state, and local education policies frequently are at odds with each other. Moreover, those contradictions seem to take a long time to resolve.

Funding: Political decisions significantly impact school funding, teacher salaries, and resources available to teachers. Reduced funding often leads to larger class sizes, less individual student attention, and fewer resources.

Teachers' Unions: Teachers' unions play a vital role in protecting teachers' rights and advocating for favorable educational policies. Unions have significant influence over the teaching profession and education policy. The teachers union in a school district is usually affiliated with a national organization, such as the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers, as well as a state organization. The three levels of union membership give teachers a voice at all levels of government.

School Choice and Charter Schools: While school choice and charter schools sound like good ideas, the problem is that they draw their funding from the same source as public school funding. This means that school districts receive less financial support. Furthermore, private schools and charter schools are not accountable in the same way that public school districts are.


While fraught with complexities and challenges, the teaching profession is a critical pillar of society. Despite the difficulties, the impact of teachers extends beyond classrooms, permeating the fabric of our future. As such, we must recognize and address the issues surrounding the profession. We must support our teachers and constantly find new ways to improve our education system.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @publicschoolreview

#TeachingProfession, #Education, #TeacherShortage, #EducationPolicy, #TeacherRetention, #TeacherCompensation, #AlternativeCertification, #LifelongLearning

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Teaching in Contemporary Times
March 04, 2024
Teaching in Contemporary Times
We explore why individuals choose teaching, illuminating intrinsic motivations, the influence of role models, the pursuit of lifelong learning, and the aspiration to impact society.