- Behavior problems multiply. Some schools regularly track behavior data, but specifically limit those reports to office referrals. They do not take into account that some teachers prefer to take care of discipline in their classrooms without involving a principal. They also don't account for the ineffectiveness of some principals (How could they?). Some teachers like to establish a paper trail on students, strictly adhering to the process of a three strikes, you're out policy, while others see value in helping students through their issues with more of a coaching model. Still, in this point, we have to discuss the principal's support for the classroom teacher. If the principal is too busy taking care of district oversight, policing employees, crunching testing data, and attending meetings in another building, the undergirding support for a struggling teacher with a severe discipline issue will suffer. Teachers become disgruntled when they perceive that the principal does not understand, does not know how to solve a problem, or refuses to get involved.
- Educator turnover increases. We're seeing this issue pop up across the nation. Not only do people not want to teach due to the low pay, but they also see the writing on the wall as far as politics and social justice issues that loom. These things are no longer just on the horizon; they are in the front yard and on the playground. When teachers are constantly in danger of being sued for manufactured injustices, why would they want to be teachers? When teachers are being flooded with a barrage of time-sucking requirements that do nothing to benefit students and the community, they could do something much less stressful. When teachers have to take the blame for the system's failure, it quickly becomes time to go: time to retire, time to move, time to seek another career. No one needs the type of stress that comes from working hard (and working smart) and still being blamed for failure. If the system is losing teachers, and few are in the wings to replace them, the system needs to look at the system and see where the system is failing.
- No matter what, teachers believe the grass is greener elsewhere. It's pretty easy to see that the grass can be greener. Do you wonder how it feels to see students that you taught in the second grade graduate from high school and fall into jobs that pay more than yours? On one hand, it can be a source of pride as you were a part of the machine that got them there, but on the other hand, all of your hard work, inspiring countless students to success, prestige, and high-paying careers can be a downer. In decades of teaching, the teacher can only earn a certain position on the pay scale, and it's the same position that others share: it doesn't matter how effective the teacher is or how lousy, the pay is the same. There is no compensation for excellence and very little accolades to show for it. Unless a teacher can discount some of the feelings that go along with these things, the grass will always be greener elsewhere. What are the people in charge of the educational system doing to make sure there is a balance between the compensations for effectiveness and the feelings of inferiority that sometimes accompanies success?
- Employees are only allowed to use the district talking points. Zip it! If you can't support the company line, there's the door. One superintendent literally told reporters that he could always find other teachers to replace his employees that didn't agree with him: that didn't set well with "his" employees. Any time the my-way-or-the-highway line is pulled out, you know something must be wrong. Not only that, but how is anyone supposed to believe or trust what a teacher says if the teacher is never allowed to take any line other than the company line. This crack is going to lead straight into the next one which addresses dissent from the company line. This whole speak-with-one-voice approach should never be the set policy. If you want me to agree with you, then you're just going to need to win me over to what you're saying. Make me want to stand with you instead of trying to intimidate me into being your zombie/slave.
- Dissent is waved off. And while we're on the subject, can you not accept that your ideas may not be the best ideas? I'm talking to you, bosses and legislators. Can you not accept that your ideas may lead to the cliff? Can you not see that your ideas might be improved? If only you had an army of people who could help you find the best solutions rather than jamming things down the soldiers' throats! Do you mean to tell me that I can't disagree when I see you leading me into a mine field? Is that how you intend to win battles? I refuse to be the blind following the blind, placing my faith is a person who walks around with his fingers in his ears. Nor will I simply stick my wet finger into the air to see from which direction the wind in blowing on a particular day; in other words, I don't just operate my classroom on popular opinion. No, in the interest of helping us all conquer another hill, I don't think I can just bite my tongue and become sycophantic. Whenever you try to squash my voice and remove my freedom of speech - even in the interest of the company - that's a sign that something is wrong in said company.
Well, there you have them, just five more warning signs that the educational system is cracking. What's it going to take for just one school board, one superintendent, one principal, or one state legislature or educational department to say, "That's enough! We've played with this system for too long and received minimal successes, and now it's time to overhaul things or raze it all and start over"? It could get interesting.