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The Whiteboard Jungle: More teachers are needed, but too few students enter the field

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

A question asked of all children numerous times throughout their growing up years.

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Firemen, doctors, video-game designers.

What kids don't want to become is teachers.

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Teaching is the one occupation that all students job shadow — 13 years of it, 180 days a year. Yet it is still not enough of an appeal to pull in quality candidates, a career choice not even on their radar.

Is it because they are simply tired of school, and the idea of continuing to go to school for the rest of their lives is unbearable?

I asked some of my students if they have ever considered becoming a teacher. Some had, but few will.

The positive reasons they give to go into teaching include connecting with students and preparing young people for the future. One student elaborated that a teacher "can impact, guide and inspire children especially those who may be struggling."

I then asked what would change their minds. Nearly every student mentioned that a higher salary would attract them. Many also added that they would go into teaching only if they taught disciplined, respectful kids.

"When I see all the work teachers put into just having to get students to quiet down, it seems stressful; students can be very disrespectful to teachers," was one response.

Clearly, enough negative experience is absorbed by students that by the time high school graduation arrives, most will never return to a public K-12 school except as parents.

College freshmen majoring in education is the lowest it has been in nearly half of a century, 4.2% in 2016, according to UCLA's Cooperative Institutional Research program.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reported a decrease of 55% of those students entering a teacher training program from 2008 to 2012; a 70% drop in the last decade.

In 2015, California needed 22,000 teachers, yet only 15,000 students earned teaching credentials.

Schools can't find enough qualified candidates, which means there are plenty of jobs to be had by those who are not properly trained.

In order to fill vacancies, districts hire people who are not fully prepared to enter the classroom.

These individuals bypass course work and actual teaching practice, then are given the keys to a classroom to teach young people. As a parent, are you OK with that?

Would hospitals staff operating rooms with surgeons who did not finish medical school just because of a shortage of doctors?

Several steps should be taken to make teaching more attractive, which future columns will explore.

However, clearly students can see on their teachers' faces that teaching, too often, is not fun.

This finding was confirmed in the most recent MetLife survey of teachers in 2012 which revealed that only 39% were very satisfied with their job, a 23-point drop from the satisfaction rate of 62% in 2008 — troubling to imagine where that figure would be today. And teacher shortages are on the rise across the country.

Teachers, as a group, have a golden opportunity to plant the seeds in their students' minds of joining the ranks of educators.

No other profession has such an inherent advantage in showing youngsters how wonderful it is to teach. Sitting right in front of them every day is a prospective employment pool.

But when so many obstacles are present in schools, it is challenging to overcome them and share one's passion for learning with youngsters.

One of my few students who plans on entering the teaching field said, "I hope that more individuals will enter the teaching field and raise our education system from where it is now."

We need more than hope right now. We need an army.

BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of "Smart Kids, Bad Schools" and "The $100,000 Teacher." He can be reached at www.brian-crosby.com.

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