About the Real Teachers Discussing The Teacher Shortage Crisis:
Kelvin is a recently resigned high school English teacher based in the Bay Area. Prior to teaching, he had experience working as a college consultant, where he helped hundreds of students stay on track to graduate, brainstorm and edit college essays, and guided them through the dizzying college application process. Afterward, he pursued a teaching credential and eventually taught English at the public high school level. Despite his love of teaching and the wonderful relationships he built with his students, he experienced a high level of burnout and made the difficult decision to leave the teaching profession in search of other opportunities. He earned a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Education from Stanford University.
Trina is a Bay Area public teacher, who has worked in multiple school districts and public schools. She has extensive experience in leading social justice-based reforms in education. She has implemented innovative programs, received recognition for her efforts, and is deeply involved in advocacy work related to gender equity. She earned her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and her masters in Educational Leadership from Cal State East Bay. She is a staunch advocate for Title IX implementation and completed a multi-district confidential study on the lack of implementation of Title IX in Bay Area schools. She is a vocal critic of the exclusionary equity work in K-12 education and has devised and led multiple equity-based pilot projects in her present and prior districts. She has prior experience running a domestic violence shelter and rape crisis hotline, and training domestic violence advocates on trauma response, crisis intervention, and harm reduction safety planning strategies. She has advised numerous feminist student unions over the years, and collaborated with Women’s March Oakland to organize her feminist student union’s involvement in the march—the first ever public school to do so. Read more about her in the blog entry entitled, “Out of the Darkness”.
Amanda has been a passionate full-time classroom teacher for 14 years. But, she’s also left the profession twice due to burnout and unforeseen family circumstances. She’s worked in a wide range of educational settings teaching students grades 3rd-8th. For the 2023-2024 school year she will be teaching 9th grade! No matter what type of school or grade she’s taught, engaging and empowering students has always been at the forefront of her work as an educator and teacher-author. Amanda understands that helping students find their voice is core to being an effective teacher and social justice advocate. Amanda shares insights about implementing equitable teaching practices on this website and podcast. She has her bachelor’s degree in English literature and Middle-Level Humanities.
Teachers are NOT the Problem, They are Part of the Solution
We are losing qualified teachers at a staggering rate. But, to be clear, teachers should never be blamed for the teacher turnover problems our country is facing. The shortage of teachers in America and the decrease in college students seeking a teaching career is a multifaceted and complex problem.
In this podcast series, we discuss exactly what got us to this crisis point in the U.S. education system. Click the links below to be directed to that part of the series. We recommend listening in order.
Part 5: How forced fidelity to canned curriculum stifles professional judgment, creativity, knowledge of student needs, and student engagement (coming soon!)
Part 6: Toxic school cultures produce lots of talking and meetings with little to no effective action being taken (coming soon!)
Part 7: Poor knowledge of reading instruction methods in the elementary grades and little to no remedial knowledge at the secondary level (coming soon!)
Part 8: Inequitable teaching practices, grading practices, and student behavioral policies (coming soon!)
In this series, Trina, along with myself, and many other educators from diverse backgrounds will explain the many layers of what is really going on. The shortage of special education teachers and math teachers is impacting schools (especially in low-income urban areas) tremendously. But, it’s important for teachers to understand the extent of this crisis. We are losing teachers in all subject areas.
We want to give teachers an extensive look at this problem from teachers’ perspectives. This is so teachers listening can share this series with other teachers, school leadership, the media, and even the governor of their state. The need to examine the causes of the national teacher shortage has never been more important.
This is part 4 of The Teacher Shortage Exposed series. It’s a discussion about the insane amount of time, money, and work it takes to becoming a teacher only to face even more red tape, expectations, costs, and time sucks from the teacher induction process.
This podcast series is from real teachers’ perspectives. Too much information is being spread about the teacher shortage from people who are not even teachers. It’s time to hear our side of the story. It’s time to hear from real teachers about why this teacher shortage crisis is happening and how to fix the problems.
Kelvin was a brand new teacher who decided to leave the profession, only two years after starting his teaching career. Trina is a teacher who has been in the profession for a decade now in a wide range of school settings. Amanda has taught many grade levels, both elementary and secondary, and has moved to three different states throughout her career as a teacher. They all discuss the personal challenges and sacrifices they had to make to becoming a teacher. They talk about the induction process and the exorbitant expectations placed on new teachers. Student loans, night classes, costly exams, paperwork, and formal observations are all the norm. Navigating a new career and all the challenges that come with being brand new teacher is already challenging. This episode exposes how completely inequitable, unrealistic, and onerous the process to becoming a teacher is and the toll it is taking on our education system.
Amanda (00:00:00) – Now we are with Kelvin again and we’re going to get his reactions as a teacher who went through the whole process to become a teacher, only to leave after just two years in the profession. And I am really, really looking forward to hearing what he had to go through to become a teacher. Do you want to say something, Trina?
Trina (00:01:07) – Well, I mean, when I went back and listened to it, um, I don’t know if it’s it’s totally clear that whichever pathway you go, it’s ridiculous, onerous, hard and not humanising. It doesn’t matter if you get a student teaching gig and you go that path or not. Um, it’s just really, really hard. And the other thing I don’t know that I make very clear is this idea of getting your masters and your credential at the same time. So what that is if you choose that path, because basically what I want everyone to understand is that if you get your teaching credential is practically a complete masters, it is to add the Masters is a couple of extra courses and a thesis and you’re so exhausted.
A lot of people choose not to do that. If you come into the teaching profession, having completed the Masters at the same time as your is your credential, you have a few more extra units on the step and column. You’re not maxed out to max out. You have to be at a 45 additional units. So really it’s like two master’s degrees. And I don’t think I make that clear because it makes it when I went back and listen to it, it sounds like, Oh, if you just take that class and do the Masters, you’re topped out for units in the step and column when you start teaching. That’s not true. So I just want to make that clear. Yeah. So it’s like four years of a college degree. I did two years of a teaching certification program. My program was two years and I didn’t get a masters. Me too. So if I wanted to get a masters, it would be another two years. So what is that, eight years? I could have a PhD if I was like a science.
Trina (00:02:01) – But yeah, but remember, it takes eight years to get a clear credential. So that’s what I want to get. Kelvin’s reaction to all that. Yeah. So, Kelvin, can you tell us, like, what did you have to go through to become a teacher and then maybe react to our episode or what, what, what thoughts do you have?
Kelvin (00:02:16) – Yeah. So my program is actually a one year credentialing plus master’s program. I have never been busier or more miserable in my life and included also, you know, like from whenever school started. So like 8 to 12, I was at my school site. Um, and I’ll talk more about this in a little bit, but this was during Covid. I did my master’s credentialing program during Covid. It was a nightmare. But anyway.
Trina (00:02:50) – I got my administrative credential and master’s in leadership during Covid. Oh, we need a support group.
Kelvin (00:02:56) – Yeah, it was, it was really tough online lectures are almost impossible to pay attention to after, you know, like teaching on Zoom, like for the first time, you know, just a lot going on.
But anyway, so it was like the morning 8 to 12 at my school site, I would still go to the school site even though I was teaching on Zoom. And then we would come back and then we would basically have afternoon class online from like 2 to 530. And then I would do the work I need to do, do the readings, and then do it all over again. Um, pretty, pretty much like every day. Uh, so yeah, that was, that was my experience and I want to 100% agree. It’s incredibly onerous. It is, it is a lot, a lot of work and a lot of investment. And I’m also in debt and now I need to go pay.
Trina (00:03:56) – Let’s get real because got I got 50 grand just for my credential and I didn’t have a masters and Amanda said 40 how about you.
Kelvin (00:04:05) – Yeah I am 35,000.
Trina (00:04:09) – Uh, yuck.
Trina (00:04:10) – So my program also had this kind of special loan in which if you, uh, taught for two consecutive years or four consecutive years, you can get some of that loan like lopped off.
Kelvin (00:04:22) – I did the two years and I got 12.5 K lopped off of the full 25 K for that loan in particular. So that leaves me now with about 35. It’s a little convoluted, but.
Trina (00:04:36) – Whoa, whoa, whoa. So can I ask a question about that? Because none of those loans were available. When I went in, there was a program where you had to teach at a Title one school for a very, very long time. I think it was five years to get a small, small portion forgiven. Can you tell us more about those? Did you was there were there conditions on the where you taught?
Kelvin (00:04:57) – Yeah. So I think it was, um. I want to make sure. I want to I don’t quite remember exactly the conditions, but it was $25,000 to borrow. And if you taught for four consecutive years in a public school and you know, you send in the paperwork to confirm that each year you work at this school, after four years, they would totally forgive $20,000.
Kelvin (00:05:27) – No, no. If you did half of that, so two years, they would prorate it and lop off 12.5 K from that.
Trina (00:05:38) – So it was so bad that you didn’t just stay those remaining two years to get it all forgiven. That’s how bad it is.
Kelvin (00:05:44) – Yeah, I. I really considered that. I was like, man, um, if I just did two more years, I would be in a much better financial position. And I just evaluated and I was like, You know what? I think it’s actually worth it to just get out of here and find another job, pay off my loans.
Trina (00:06:00) – So we’re at the situation I was in, which is where a lot of low income teachers find themselves. And if you get recruited into teaching when you’re not done with your credential yet, which is what I had done, they have all these like predatory or they’ve partnered with a predator. I don’t want to say they’re predatory because the individual people who work in them have good intentions.
Trina (00:06:21) – But the deal is they are extremely expensive. And I didn’t have any access to any of these forgivable loans. I don’t think a lot of people do who go that internship route who find they cannot afford to student teach. And the idea that the the very concept of student teaching, the way that it is currently set up, furthers income inequality, is something that is very new to people. I mean, you remember student teaching year, you were broke like, right?
Kelvin (00:06:49) – Yeah, I was. I was in debt, right? I was living on borrowed money. Yeah.
Amanda (00:06:53) – So I have a quick question. You said you’re teaching credential program was a year and it sounded like it was full time during Covid and you had to take out a $25,000 loan. Did you do a teaching internship? Like did you student teach to during that year?
Kelvin (00:07:14) – So that year I also student taught maybe I’m not totally clear on like the distinction between like internship and student teaching, but as part of my teacher credentialing plus master’s program like combination thing, I was required to student teach and you know, show up at my school site and then take classes afterwards.
Amanda (00:07:35) – Okay. Yeah. Because yeah. So how long did you do student teaching? It’s the same thing. Internship. I don’t know. I just. Okay, Interchanging internship is you’re actually, you have to interview and get hired on as a at a school district. Oh, yeah. That’s what I did. And you don’t have a mentor teacher? In theory, it’s you do a year of coursework and then at least the way my program was set up a year of coursework and then the second year you’re still in courses at night, but you’re also you have a real legit teaching job during the day. As it worked for me, I was actually teaching the whole way through it because someone hired me to teach on a 30 day per minute.
Kelvin (00:08:13) – Yeah. So I guess for for me then I didn’t do the internship. Um, it was like mentor teachers were reached out to by my program, and then they agreed. And then I was assigned to a mentor teacher, and I basically taught under them and created curriculum with them.
Trina (00:08:32) – So what about, what about the exams? Talk about all that. How was BTSA for you?
Kelvin (00:08:37) – Um, I think is now under a different name that I already cannot remember, but induction now. Induction induction. There you go. Uh, yeah. Induction I found. Um. I found it. Probably like one of the banes of my teaching existence is just I don’t understand why I’m showing up to these meetings and why there’s all this paperwork. It’s very confusing. Uh, and I just, I, I felt very angry at being asked to do additional labor when, like, the admin have observed me and they see that I’m doing a pretty good job. They see that, you know, things are at least under control. Why am I doing this? I just can’t be observed.
Trina (00:09:24) – Yeah, it’s why it’s this idea that they have to somehow weed us out. It’s quality control. I actually had a professor in my leadership program because they started doing the same stuff for administrators.
Trina (00:09:38) – Remember the CalTPAS? Remember those? Did you do the CalTPAS?
Kelvin (00:09:43) – I think it was called EdTPA for us. I think it’s like the whole like 50 page thing where you write. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Okay.
Trina (00:09:51) – I had to do four of those. I don’t know, maybe they’ve changed it. Maybe they’ve made it less. Maybe they realized, what are we doing? But they do them for administrators now too. And because I got my administrative credential during Covid, there was no way for us to do. They call the Cal APAs the administrative performance assessment. So they gave me the credential without it. But I have to go back and do those. But then you still have two years of induction. And my feeling of at first of all, if you’re a California teacher who’s my age, I’m 48, who who went into this profession right away, I don’t think you definitely didn’t do this. So you need to hear us talk about this. It is so ridiculous and it is so unhelpful to.
Trina (00:10:32) – As for you as a teacher to grow your practice, you’re already being heavily scrutinized and writing a very specialized lesson. Plans for these administrators that are coming in and watching you teach to then have to also write up these just pages and pages of stuff that gets heavy. I remember for one of my bits of cycles, my induction cycles, I actually wrote up a legitimate reading intervention pilot that I was already working on. Um, and I refused to finesse it to make it fit what they wanted. And I barely passed the first, the first cycle I did, I did it exactly what they wanted and it was all just baloney fluff. And I passed with flying colors. This is how ridiculous this is. Sorry, I didn’t sleep well. And it’s. And on top of all of that, it’s your first year ever teaching.
Kelvin (00:11:24) – Yeah. It’s like I. I think I understand the purpose of this. In theory. You want new teachers to reflect on their practice. I think it doesn’t account for how busy and how much labor a new teachers are already providing and for the for the requirements to add on this whole induction process.
Kelvin (00:11:45) – You know, adding on these like, oh, before, during and after, like reflections on your own lessons. Yeah, like I did a lot of fluff work. I didn’t really think super critically. I just wrote basically an essay that I didn’t think about and then it was fine. I passed. But in retrospect, it’s like I don’t think that I genuinely, genuinely reflected what I was doing, was just doing, you know, like, like coursework, you know, just fluff. It was all it was a lot of fluff. And it made me very frustrated.
Trina (00:12:22) – When I’m hearing you talk because I’ve done a lot of, like leadership work. I’m working on district. And by the way, you guys, it’s just like this thing we do to sort of prove that we’re looking critically at our data and trying to make things better for the kids. Okay. But hearing you talk, Kelvin, I’m actually thinking bits up, which we sorry, we now call induction. The work is actually a fantastic introduction, but not to teaching and critically analyzing your practice, but to what you can expect in education.
Trina (00:12:54) – It is fluff. It is not effective or authentic, but it looks good on paper. And we get to say that all of our teachers have been put through this wringer of reflecting on their practice when they haven’t. I mean, they have maybe, but not because they did induction, right? And then did you have to pay for induction or did the district pay for it for you?
Kelvin (00:13:18) – The district paid for me, so that was very kind of the of whoever decided to make that a thing. I think they maybe they understood.
Trina (00:13:27) – But so then they didn’t get the units to not get add up to your stuff and column either because the district paid for it, right?
Kelvin (00:13:33) – Uh, possibly. I was not aware of that. Um, honestly, the, the whole induction process seems shrouded in mystery for me. I just. I just went through, I did the paperwork like, Please leave me alone. After I did this paperwork, I already reflect on my lessons. Like every single time I teach them I was improving them period to period.
Kelvin (00:13:52) – Man, I just hate that I have to do this paperwork. And like. Like you’re saying, I think it’s like. It’s more for the district to have some kind of paper trail that, you know, hey, we’re proving that we do this. But in reality, on the ground, it’s the teachers just being like, I’m just going to get this over with. I’m not going to think too critically about it. Yeah, just turning the paperwork. So.
Trina (00:14:16) – Well, it’s another example of outsourcing. Even though the CTC handles induction, it isn’t done in-house. Like we’re not vetting and training and mentoring in-house because of two things. A There’s this idea that we don’t know how to do it, and the reality is we don’t have time, like, right, We don’t have enough people around to really support teachers in those first few years. But then B is we should pay someone else to do this because they’ll do it much more quickly in authentically. But we can check a box and say that it’s done.
Trina (00:14:50) – And these this, this thinking of outsourcing, the vetting of our new teachers and the mentoring of our new teachers to this stupid that’s basically a test is endemic. It’s endemic. And all of the problems in education. And I have to come back to the fact of like this idea of very sexist attitudes in our profession. Ours is the only professionally credentialed profession in the nation where we don’t get to shape our own profession. We don’t sit on boards that get to shape what our own requirements for. And the process for vetting and mentoring our new talent like that is all outsourced. That’s not the that’s not the case with other professionally credentialed careers. Um. Well, I don’t know. I feel like I have a few things to say because I got my credential in Washington State and Fort 15 years ago, but I had to go through a lot to move states. Right. And I’ve moved a lot of difference to a lot of different schools, a lot of different locations, and had to shell out money for lots of tests, had to lose years of experience.
Amanda (00:16:12) – I think when I moved to my current district. I can’t remember the exact number of years that they would they took from my past. Like yours. I think it was only six maybe. You know Trina, like how many years they actually like if you talk, there’s no consistency, right? Like, there’s no consistency in our pay that is connected to actually with the cost to live there. There’s no consistency in how many districts, how many years of service just districts will take in your step and columns. Some districts three. Some five. Uh, but you don’t get to take all of them if you have more than five anyway. Don’t think. More than five. Well, our our current district, without naming it, is five. And I know the union is fighting right now to to change that. And they took a survey of how many teachers started in our district at more than five years and had to take a pay cut. That’s crazy. Um, yeah, this is all just so appalling.
Amanda (00:17:17) – And I really, really do appreciate you so much, Trina, just shining a light on all of this. You know, I feel like a lot of us just, you know, because we’re teachers and kind and caring and believe that, you know, people are generally good and, you know, and we want to help. And it’s like we don’t really question these things and we don’t really look closely at what’s really happening happening or at least I haven’t. And all of these years. And yeah, I just thank you for, for shining a light on all of this. What I’m hearing from Calvin, too, is that the scales have tipped, right? So the teaching shortage problem is exacerbating and growing exponentially because the the problems of what it costs to become a teacher, how much it cost to live. Um, the conditions on the ground floor, which is another episode of what it really feels like to teach. And then this growing understanding of we need to protect our mental health, we need work life balance.
Trina (00:18:26) – This pandemic taught us we need to take better care of ourselves. We’re losing it right like so. And his generation is is is doing that for us. They’re not going to put up with this. And what does that mean for the future of our democracy? Because we’re already not teaching our kids to to read really, not really as we should. And we’ll talk about that more later. But so that this is why I feel like it’s so important to get the young perspective. So thank you, Calvin. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kelvin (00:18:55) – Of course. Love to dissect these things and discuss these things. I think it’s really important that people hear about it and yeah, just thank you all for. For doing this. It’s really good.
Amanda (00:19:07) – Yeah. Okay. Thank you for listening. And that’s a wrap.