You know that saying: “Those who can’t do, teach.” Well, us teachers don’t like that too much and we had to have someone to kick to the curb so we could feel better about ourselves so we came up with our own retort: “Those who can’t teach are administrators.”
Seriously though, the United States has a real problem attracting good teachers–only 23% of entering teachers come from the top third of their graduating class. The McKinsey Quarterly has a chart that describes the many reasons why the top students do not want to teach. The money quote:
The world’s top-performing systems—in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea—recruit 100 percent of their teaching corps from students in the top third of their classes.
A McKinsey survey of nearly 1,500 top-third US college students confirms that a major effort would be needed to attract them to teaching. Among top-third students not planning to enter the profession, for example, only 33 percent believe that they would be able to support a family if they did.
Wow, that is sobering. Yet, good quality teachers make a huge difference in the lives of individual students and the economic health of the nation. For instance, The Atlantic has a rundown of stories that discuss the economic benefit of a good teacher versus a bad one on the future earning potential of a class of 20 students. Some studies have pegged the dollar amount at $400,000. Now, I am not someone who thinks that we should measure the value of learning and teachers in merely economic terms. Nonetheless, if this figure is it at all in the ballpark it is hard to ignore.
However, I think it will be difficult to attract the top students to the teaching profession in the present job market–particularly within higher education since there is a huge queue of people with earned PhD that have yet to land a teaching job. The McKinsey Quarterly has their own ideas of how to do this but what do you think is the key to attracting great teachers?