Aim for the Bottom

My husband and I enjoyed a delightful Shabbat meal with two popular and lauded teachers. These women taught different grades (lower elementary and high school respectively) in two different schools. Yet, they shared an important commonality. Both of them were getting less satisfaction from teaching than in the past. Both may stop teaching sooner than they originally expected.

They are not alone in thinking about leaving their jobs. Police officers, military personnel, and doctors are similarly finding less job satisfaction and more frustration at work. Perhaps this is because individuals in those positions who are best at what they do see themselves as having a calling. As the attitudes of those they work for and serve deteriorate, and increased external regulations transform their callings into mundane jobs, it is no longer what they committed to do.

There are bad apples in every field. There are also those who simply are not very good at what they do. Paradoxically, union rules, legalities, and political and economic considerations can make those employees extremely difficult to dismiss. There is much less support for those who are outstandingly effective at their tasks, and who just want to get on with it. Follow the dots and we can see that we are discouraging the best from entering these careers while frustrating the cream who are already in them.

Each field has its own challenges. The teachers we spoke to found that in contrast to even a decade ago, their students have seriously diminished attention spans and too many, encouraged by their parents, possess attitudes of entitlement and self-centeredness. It is said by many that in the 1920s, parents whose children came home complaining that the teacher hit them received a second punishment from the parent. The pendulum today has swung to the point that some parents feel that the teacher’s job is to give their child an A no matter how, or if, the child performs. If we tolerated boring teachers more than we should have in the past, today’s teachers are expected to prioritize entertainment over education.

What is driving this race to the bottom? It is happening in too many fields for it to be a coincidence. Some cultural force must be influencing this unmistakable trend.

Whatever is causing it, we don’t need deep analysis to recognize that few of us want less capable professionals in our lives. It should concern all of us when we hear that increasing numbers of veterans, police, doctors, and teachers are discouraging their children from following in their footsteps. Nonetheless, that is the road we are on.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Susan’s Musings post.
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