Teachers facing recent hardships

I recently asked some Alabama teachers whether or not they would ever encourage college students to major in education. The overwhelming answer was “No-not until things change.”

This may come as a shock to UNA students, especially to the many education majors who chose UNA because of its history as a teaching college, but I am not here to discourage students from teaching. Despite all the recent issues, my mother, who has been teaching for 26 years, said teaching can be the greatest job in the world.

In a time when so many children are not getting the role models they need from their families, teachers can shape those children and give them the knowledge, skills and goals to make them successful-an ability that puts responsibility on teachers.

But it shouldn’t be placed entirely on Alabama’s teachers. Yet, recent national, state, and local-level, morale-lowering changes have sparked negative outlooks on teaching from teachers themselves.

How many times have we heard about Alabama having the second lowest high school graduation rate in the nation? With the increasing public emphasis on teacher accountability rather than student or parent accountability, Alabama’s embarrassing ranking too often gets blamed on teachers.

And, as a direct result, teachers feel the pressure to raise graduation numbers-under the constant, ominous threat of the government stepping in to “help” but really just making it harder for the good teachers to do their jobs.

It would appear that the shifting attitude toward teachers is what caused a teacher exodus this past December, but what really caused it was increases in health insurance and retirement costs for Alabama teachers to reduce state costs.

Teachers scrambled for the exit before the changes took effect Jan. 1, but not without remembering the 62 percent raise that the Alabama legislature awarded itself in 2007.

Being a member of the legislature is a part-time job. Why should legislators receive such an obscene raise when full-time Alabama teachers, according to 2010-11 statistics, are paid almost $8,000 below the national average and have the 33rd lowest average salary in the nation?

Officials need to recognize that lowering teacher morale will only yield worse results from an already flawed American education system. Why not raise the standards for teachers in a positive way and treat them with the respect they deserve?

Alabama can’t afford to alienate the people who shape our next generation’s workforce.

My advice to education majors: enter the classroom knowing the system is flawed, and work to change it for the better. There are many bright spots in Alabama’s education system, and future teachers should aspire to make those spots even brighter.

To contact Alex, call 256-765-4364 or follow him on Twitter at @TheFlorAlex.