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Teachers the Most Important People

June 20, 1985

The June 8 article by Elaine Woo and Steven R. Churm on the growing teacher shortage missed the most important reason for the shortage. The most important people in the education of students receive the lowest pay, little prestige and no respect. More than 50% of new teachers quit within five years, and they are in the 25- to 35-year-old age bracket. They become totally discouraged by the way they are treated by administrators who have forgotten or never knew why they are in education.

There are 800,000 credentialed teachers in California who are not teaching. Dr. Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, surveyed many of them. A majority stated that they would like to go back to teaching but only if the working conditions were improved. They resented being treated like children and having no say in what they taught. They resented being put down by principals who know little or nothing about what they are teaching. They resented having to put up with disruptive students, with no support from administrators.

Recently, the former presidents of the local California Teachers Assn. (CTA) chapters met. They had been out of the classroom for a year. They had been treated with respect in their positions. All of them suffered from culture shock when they returned to the classroom. They could not believe how bad it was. That is why all principals should have to return to the classroom periodically as required under pending bills AB 888 and SB 997.

Despite all the talk about reforms, mentor teachers, etc., most new teachers are on their own and must learn to sink or swim by themselves. They often have to walk from class to class and they are given the worst classes, sometimes not in their field of study. It's a wonder that any of them get beyond the first year under such conditions.

I appreciated the article because it did outline an important problem.



Arthur is a member of the ABC Unified School District Board of Trustees and an assistant professor of education at California State University, Los Angeles. He is a former high school and adult school principal.

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