What’s the biggest challenge teachers face today?
Linda Valler: Class size. Smaller class sizes, or having an aide in the class, would help teachers better differentiate instruction (target instruction to meet individual children’s needs) and provide smaller group time. Smaller numbers of kids also yield a more calm, relaxed classroom.
Simon Anton: Job security, under the current political administration. With their emphasis toward vouchers, which will divert funds away from public schools, I worry that many qualified and successful teachers may lose their jobs.
Christy Betts: By far, the biggest challenge teachers face in California, especially in the Bay Area, is low pay. We’re looking at the majority making an average of $45,000 a year. With rising housing and living costs, educators are forced to either work a second job or change careers. Neither of these foster quality schools; talented teachers are leaving the workforce, while others are exhausted from second shifts and can’t perform optimally in the classroom. With a mass exodus of retiring baby boomers expected in the next 10 years, schools are going to be forced to rethink teaching salaries to retain educators. There simply won’t be enough teachers. This is especially true for the Bay Area, where potential teachers can easily find nonteacher jobs that pay 20 to 30 percent more, right out of college.
Jackie Dodge: Consistent funding and a one-size-fits-all approach. When the state is doing well economically and the tax dollars are flowing, districts are willing to try new programs and offer students more. However, when the economy begins a downturn, so do the programs. The state needs to find a consistent way to fund schools so critical programs aren’t cut in down years. As to a one-size-fits-all approach, I see this as a challenge for districts like Alameda that have schools that are Title I and those that don’t, or schools with a high English Language Learner population and those that don’t. AUSD has an approach to teaching ELL students that works well in a school with a high ELL population. It does not work so well in a school with a low ELL population. And we have received pushback when we want to try different methods.
Kelly Russi: A lack of trust. People need to understand that teachers don’t get into teaching because they don’t like children. We have the best interest of the child at heart. I find it very difficult when I make recommendations to parents and they question my intentions.