“Tapping” for Teachers

This past October there was a debate on the existence of a teacher shortage in Indiana. The majority the legislature agreed that one does exist, but seemingly disagree on why one exists. What could explain the 30% drop in the number of people licensed as first year teachers? Any student who has taken a class in microeconomics could hypothesize about the cause of the drop in the supply of teachers. Those hypotheses would include things like worse health insurance, worse working environments, lower salaries, and no tenure. All ailments are encompassed in a broad category as “lower job benefits” which would shift the supply curve in.

Another cause might be a drop in the respect for the profession in recent years. Teachers were villainized by former state superintendent Mitch Daniels calling teachers the “privileged elite” and overall ineffective in the classroom. His new accountability system put the burden on teachers to inspire kids to participate and learn in the classroom. If the kid wasn’t trying, it was the teacher’s fault regardless of the parental involvement. A single conversation about the state of the teaching profession with any  teacher in Indiana will show you that teachers are not happy- a fact that is reflected in the classroom.

High School teachers have a very special  position. They are involved in the career and college application process. As students are deciding what careers they want to pursue, teachers are there to help them realize their dreams, writing recommendations, editing essays, and talking through concerns. This puts them in the perfect position for “tapping.” Tapping is a small solution t the teacher shortage where teachers “tap” students on the shoulder that they think would be good teachers and recommend the field. This initiative has been implemented in Butler University, a private university in Indiana. The idea is that high school teachers could use their connections with students to advertise for the teaching profession. Unfortunately, unlike Butler Professors not suffering from lessened benefits, teachers probably will not advise students to go into the field that they themselves are not happy in.

The idea that high school teachers will “tap” students into teaching shows a huge disconnect between the teachers and the state. This disconnect might be the reason for the problems in the first place. While state officials might think it’s a free solution to a massive problem, teachers are doing the exact opposite. I had considered going into the profession myself, but when I shared my interests with my teachers, they advised against it. “The pay is too low,” “There si no respect,” and “The state policies are a nightmare,” are just some of the reasons they gave me. My parents, both Indiana public high school teachers forbid me from going into teaching. If I went into teaching, they warned, they would not help fund my college education.

Teachers will not be “tapping” students anytime in the near future, and the shortage will continue to grow. As the number of licensed teachers drops, schools will be forced to be less selective in hiring teachers, and the number of “bad teachers” will rise. It appears Mitch Daniels’ policies to improve teacher quality may have backfired.

By: Francesca Polizotto, University of Pennsylvania class of 2019