Imagine a teacher’s job thirty or more years ago. Most likely...
A textbook would be at the center of the teaching. The textbook would tell the teacher what content to teach and in what order (scope and sequence). The textbook would provide plans and materials for daily lessons. To start a lesson, all the teacher would have to do is say “Class, open your books to page 117. Let’s begin”. In short, teaching lesson planning was minimal and largely optional.
The teacher’s job was to present the content, the students’ to learn it. When students didn’t learn, it was presumed that they, the students, were at fault. It was commonly accepted that many students, those with various disabilities, just couldn’t or wouldn’t learn.
The school day ended around 2:30. Teachers had time, during regular business hours, to plan, grade, hold meetings, communicate with parents, and leave on time to be able to transport their own children to and from school and activities. And after all that, they could still be home in time for dinner and spending time with family and friends.
Teachers had three months(!) off in the summer. In that time, they could vacation with family, supervise children who were out of school themselves, work a second job to earn some extra money, de-stress, and plan from the coming school year.
Teaching was a well-paid and well-respected profession, especially for women, who (sadly) had limited opportunities in other professions. The teaching profession attracted many of the “best and brightest” college graduates (again, mainly women) and most teachers weren’t thinking they’d be better off in another profession.
Fast forward to the present…
Teachers are expected to plan lessons in a much more rigorous way and, often, to build them from scratch. They study academic standards (states’ descriptions of what students are supposed to learn in each grade level), find texts other resources for lessons, design quizzes, tests, and writing assignments. They try to sequence lessons in a coherent way so that they build on each other. The amount of planning is so large that planning could be a full-time job in itself (and it is a full-time job called "curriculum developer").
Teachers are responsible for making sure all students learn and are blamed if they don’t. This includes students with special needs, students who don’t speak English, and students who, for various reasons, are academically far below grade level. Teachers are expected to differentiate--that is, to make different versions of lessons for different students depending on their strengths and weaknesses academically and social-emotionally.
Many teachers work in schools with extended school days and extended school years. These innovations mean more academic time for students, which seems especially important in schools where many students are academically far behind. The extra time in the classroom, we hope, allows them to catch up. The extended school day and school year also means less time for teachers to plan, grade, hold meetings, and communicate with parents--not to mention, less time to spend not working and being with family and friends.
Teaching is no longer a well-paid and well-respected profession, for men or women. Few graduates from top colleges and universities pursue teaching. Many teachers leave the profession to pursue jobs with better pay, fewer hours, and less stress (even if it means they have no time off in the summer!). Women, who (happily) have greater opportunity in other professions, are no longer stuck in teaching. Good for them and good for society, but it means the teaching profession is no longer able to keep as many talented women in the classroom.
What to do about it…