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Harvard lecturer ponders why high achievers don’t go into teaching

Simple: Pay, chronic student misbehavior, and admins who aren’t very smart

If you are an exceptionally bright individual with a degree from a prestigious university, would you consider going into teaching at the K-12 level?

Heck, if you are a moderately bright individual with a degree from a state school, would you consider teaching in a public school?

Harvard lecturer Zid Mancenido — who taught social studies for a whopping three years at an Australian high school — “collected the stories of over 100 college seniors or recent graduates” as part of his PhD thesis in order to explore these questions in depth.

Mancenido offers the obvious when saying high achievers basically are conditioned by “interactions with family and friends,” through “others’ expectations of them and their careers,” and by “observing the career trajectories of their role models and their peers” … most of which are negative.

“[I]f we really want more people — more academic high achievers — to become teachers, we need to work on that social discourse,” Mancenido said. “We can’t just be thinking about the individual’s choice in becoming a teacher. We have to think about how everyone perceives and thinks about teaching and how that influences people’s decision making.”

I couldn’t find where Mancenido did his HS teaching Down Under, but apparently they have student discipline issues just like here in the U.S. In fact, they’re pretty bad.

MORE: Teacher shortage? Then allow teachers to discipline students again

Earlier this year, Mancenido (pictured) noted advice from the Australian Education Research Organisation on how teachers can deal with misbehavior.

However, as the organization is a government agency, its recommendations look little different from something the U.S. Dept. of Education, NEA or AFT would put out. (Just scroll to the bottom of the AERO homepage for its “land acknowledgment,” if you catch my drift.)

The lecturer’s views on high achievers read little different than AERO’s offerings, sadly — essentially flowery idealism, and wishing how things could be instead of dealing with the current reality.

Let’s face it: We can talk up how great it would be to go into teaching until we’re blue in the face, but someone with a 1580 SAT score and 3.95 GPA from an elite college is going to have opportunities right out of the gate to make a lot more money with a lot less stress than teaching.

(Not that teacher pay in various states is that bad, including the benefits. You’ll hear a lot about pay from the usual suspects, however, but student (mis)behavior more and more is the catalyst for teachers leaving the profession.)

Not to mention a very smart college graduate is likely to be a lot brighter than the administrators for whom he/she will work. Such teachers will be appalled at the lack of support with their classroom management, most especially admins’ invocation of “restorative practices” and other misguided DEI-related measures.

Contemporary school district officials are, for lack of a better term, “well-versed” in DEI and CRT, and even the most politically progressive fledgling teacher will quickly grow weary of chronic classroom chaos … and admins who smirk and shrug their shoulders.

It really is that simple.

MORE: Fed up with horrible student discipline, states bring back suspensions, expulsions

IMAGE: Stock four/Shutterstock.com; Harvard

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.