Teaching no “fallback” career

A great series of perspectives on the NY Times blog.  A few random highlights:

Some years ago I read the following quote: “No one, not even a farmer, works as hard as a caring teacher, but there is nothing lazier than an uncaring one.” I felt both intimidated and comforted by this — I had the option of working hard and being socially ranked just above farmer or I could be lazier than a pillow tester.

Today more than five million newly unemployed may find themselves contemplating these options. They should be encouraged to try teaching but should also realize that there is no way of knowing if they’ll be any good at it, the statistics say there is a big chance that they will quit within five years, and the president of the United States may try to get them fired.


As Malcolm Gladwell convincingly pointed out in a recent New Yorker article, identifying the quality of teaching prospects is as difficult as identifying what college quarterbacks will make it in the N.F.L. “There are certain jobs,” wrote Gladwell, “where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they’ll do once they are hired.”

The problem with teachers is that unlike N.F.L. quarterbacks they do not perform in public; they can hide in their classrooms with their captive audience of kids. As it turns out, once teachers are hired all they have to do is rise to the level of mediocrity, and in three years’ time they will be given tenure which essentially means lifetime job security.


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