Opinion: Where have all of Florida’s teachers gone?

Matthew C. Woodruff

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Empty Classroom(shutterstock)

Everyone can remember a special teacher who inspired, motivated, or guided us to that singular level of excellence. We each had that one teacher who was an understanding listener who helped us navigate the travails of growing up. What motivates certain people to become teachers, a job that is arduous, long and demanding, at the best of times, and where have all of Florida’s teachers gone?

In a study of 283 persons who chose teaching as a career, it is seen that extrinsic (pay, time-off, holidays), altruistic (helping children and society), and intrinsic (personal satisfaction and love of teaching) motivations all play a role when choosing teaching as a career. Teaching is a nation-building profession and teachers are the first and sometimes only wholly interested adults a child may have in their life. The study concludes that of the top seven reasons people choose to become teachers, the number one reason is, ‘to make a difference’.

Why now then is there becoming a severe shortage of people taking up the mantel? Let’s look at Florida and the shortage this year of 9000 education professionals. According to Market Realist, a news site that provides an in-depth look into various global events, the reasons are simple to understand.

The COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to put a strain on the educational workforce. Teachers got sick, some died, some did not want to come back.

Some educators have quit their jobs in the wake of recent controversial legal decisions signed into law by Florida’s governor. Advocates say low pay and a hostile climate toward educators, particularly around LGBTQ+ issues and race, are pushing people out of the profession in droves. The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “Stop WOKE” Act have made some educators feel big government is dictating what and how they should teach, when those decisions should be reached mutually between teachers, parents, and the local school board. One teacher was quoted as saying, “I cannot fathom being in a classroom where I cannot support my kids to the fullest of my ability because there are now laws that tell me what I can and cannot do to support my kids.”

And some professional educators, who have painstakingly gone through years in college and professional courses, are very dismayed that now someone with just a high school education will be allowed to teach in Florida, thanks to another decision by the Florida governor.

The solution to Florida’s teacher shortage is now obvious. Remove state government from educational decisions, they do not belong there. Hire well-prepared teachers and provide them the resources they need. Increase teacher salaries. Allow experienced teachers to earn multi-year contracts, for security.

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Teacher Mentoring Student(classroom.clipart.com)

Teachers need to feel valued by the communities they serve, not be seen as political tools trying to further a political agenda. When we under-value teachers, in the way Florida has, we risk the chance of our children not having that one special mentor they may desperately need, and the same chance we all had as students to be encouraged to excel, and to feel special.

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Matthew is a free-lance journalist, and an internationally award-winning author best known for Dark Humor/Lite Horror/Supernatural short stories, as well as an ordained minister who served as a domestic missionary. He is a lover of the unusual, travel, cats and the spark that makes people tick. Matthew is based in Florida, USA.

Gainesville, FL
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