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Across the Pond: The 64 Million Dollar Question


According to the BBC, more than 250,000 qualified teachers are no longer working in England’s schools. And between 2000 and 2005, nearly 100,000 switched careers--more than double the number than in the previous five years. The Tories, the country’s conservative party, point to “poor class discipline” and “red tape” among the reasons why teachers are fleeing the profession.

Member of Parliament and Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove, a Tory, said that teachers needed to be removed from “government micro-management.” In a statement earlier in the month before Parliament, Gove presented his country’s slipping education numbers: “…We have fallen from fourth to 14th in the international league tables for science, from seventh to 17th for reading, and from eighth to 24th for maths.”

Addressing the issue of classroom discipline, which is high on the list of teacher complaints at home in the United States, Gove asked a familiar question, “Why is there no determination to give teachers the power to impose effective discipline by excluding disruptive pupils without having teachers second-guessed by those outside the school?” Anyone care to tackle that one?


As an urban teacher in the US, I feel that classroom management issues grow worse as we move more towards a system that tries to scare students into learning so they can succeed on tests, and move away from teaching students from a place of intrinsic motivation -- in other words, connecting with their interests and aspirations. Furthermore, teachers are increasingly being fed standardized curriculum in order to help their students on the standardized tests. When will we get to the point where we step back and examine the real purpose of school? When will we begin to treat classroom teachers as the crucial nexus between the students and the curriculum, and challenge them to be innovative and creative -- and then learn from their successes? When the classroom is a place with creative challenges, for teachers and students alike -- it is alive! When it is the place we go to listen to a scripted lesson, life has been driven from it.

If you include all work related tasks, how many hours are teachers working?

Do you think that it's possible for teachers to achieve work-life balance? How?

You make some good points above.
However, I also think that this can be helpful to you:
Go to: http://www.panix.com/~pro-ed/

If you get this book and video: PREVENTING Classroom Discipline Problems, [it is in many libraries, so you don't have to buy them] email me and I can refer you to the sections of the book and the video [that demonstrates the effective vs. the ineffective teacher] that can help you.

If you cannot get them, email me anyway and I will try to help.
Best regards,


Howard Seeman, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus,
City Univ. of New York
20 River Court
Suite 1404
Jersey City, NJ 07310

Email: [email protected]
FAX: (586) 279-0935

Book, Training Video/CD:
Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems
The Educator's Support Forum

Well, shucks, if only the UK had talked to Dr Seeman........

The same issues apply in England, I'm sure, as apply in America....

Long hours; little respect; a corporatized media that makes hay by bashing education and educators; a body-politic that views education as a tax burden rather than an integral part of the national economy; growing anti-intellectualism (going all the way to the presidency) that views educated people as culturally out-of-step; a growing economic divide that is pitting middle-income people against each other...

Considering these issues along with the perception (though not necessarily borne out by research) that many kids today are incorrigible and enabled by their parents, and the fact that many educators are 'ripe-for-picking' by lucrative private-sector industries, it's no wonder that a large number of talented people leave education each year. Should we even consider the volume of people who may consider education as a career, but who dismiss it, due to the factors mentioned above, without ever entering the field?

Without compensation that is competitive with private-sector packages, there is little chance that this problem will go away. Yes, teachers now make more than many factory workers - a statement that could not be made a generation ago. But when compared to those with similar educational credentials, educators still lag far behind those in the private sector.

Compensation alone, however, will not solve the problem. As Mr. Cody stated above, many of the school reforms required under NCLB place a seemingly-unconquerable burden on teachers (even worse for administrators, who are the first to be fired under NCLB). We have to honor and cultivate the work of teachers as well, or we will continue to see this exodus grow and grow.

In my experience and research, classroom management is a school-wide, systemic issue. Adminstrators, teachers, and staff must be on board so that individual teachers are supported when reinforcing rules, regulations, and routines. Classroom management must be embedded in the culture of the school and not isolated in fits and starts in various classrooms.

A reality check for parents and administrators alike is long overdue. A child, like an adult, presents a different "social" face dependent on the "face" needed at the time. Again like adults, the child in Sunday School often differs from the child in a group of 22 students with only 1 adult in the room. Oftentimes, it is the judgement of their peers, not the opinion of the teacher, or a love of learning, that is the deciding factor in a child's behavior. Until we, the United States (and the United Kingdom) make education as important to students as a paycheck is to workers, school will always be a less than serious task, and less than important, for our students.

Thank you for your suggestion, Dr. Seeman. However, it seems to be just more of the same PD (Professional Development) that proposes to create and implement change via the "take one pill and the symptoms will go away" approach. Discipline issues are real and not something that can be addressed by one teacher with 30+ students after attending a workshop or watching a video. Parents have to be involved and supportive in order for the system to work. Educators must be allowed to create a curriculum that is both educationally relevant and stimulating in order to ensure engaged students. Engaged students are less likely to present as discipline issues. In other words, government and the beauracracy need to back off and let go, or else we are going to find ourselves with no qualified teachers and only the elite of society will be able to afford the privatized education that will be available.

I've witnessed and experienced this: teacher makes a complaint or request for support to the parent, parent backs the kid or is unavailable. Teacher makes a complaint or request for support to administration, administration questions the teachers competency or is unavailable. There are situations when even the best classroom management skills don't work and teachers need help with a student who is an extreme behavior problem. Teachers are sitting ducks at those times. There are great demands placed on us but nobody "has our back". And that would be why we leave!

Student behavioral problems are universal. You can't isolate the problem student you have to empower that student to make his/her own choices, compliance or consequence. It has to be a school wide effort from teachers, administrators and non-classified staff. In doing that you also need to create a positive environment. I would like to refer you to the Institute for Violence and Destructive Behavior at the Univesity of Oregon. They are doing amazing things with Positive Behavior Support.

Just wondering what careers 100,000 educators switched to within the 5 year period under review. The US may not be far from these statistics with the baby boomers retiring, increase in teacher attrition, and the decrease in teacher retention and school culture.
Discipline continues to be an issued within our school system. Giving "time out" is unacceptable and administrators have no viable answers to allievate problem situations as they occur. Directing instruction to fit the needs of the individual student by way of performance tasks or hands on activities eliminates disrtupive behavior, however, the opportunity to plan, monitor, facilitate, and assess with feedback student work timely for 25-30 students is a feat still under review.

I did a stint as a substitute. It afforded me a unique viewpoint into variable conditions within schools--paraticularly vis a vis discipline. Basically I was aware that there were schools where someone "had my back" and schools where I was on my own to sink or swim. It was seldom parents who backed me up--my time was too short (although when I encountered a student whose parents I already knew, it was a real boost for the whole class), nor was it generally administrators--they are too harried to provide much meaningful classroom back-up. It was other teachers. I could always tell if the staff of the school I was in worked together or in isolation. If they worked together, I would get a "hi, how are ya," from someone across the hall--or heads-up about something that was going on. Sometimes I was even introduced to someone I had subbed for before ("she's the one who left you all the notes"). But far more often I was isolated (and expected to fail) in a classroom and ignored in the teacher's lounge.

The interesting thing is that I didn't see a whole lot of difference between students from school to school. I saw a lot of difference between staff.

I teach in an urban school district with immigrants almost 98% under poverty level families. The school culture has changed since NCLB and Reading First. Basically teachers do not want to teach to the tests but feel they must. Reading first is not a research based program and it has added hours to afterschool prep for teachers. Teachers are upset feel unsupported and that they are being set up to fail.
Reading and math are all being taught no time for any others subjects hopefully the kids can figure out that the science text they read is important.
Teachers are used to change and following the new popular method. But overall this is the saddest period I've ever seen. Many more will leave.
As for valuing the profession remember not many men teach --it's a womans job-- ergo not equality in pay.

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Recent Comments

  • teachertech: I teach in an urban school district with immigrants almost read more
  • Margo/Mom: I did a stint as a substitute. It afforded me read more
  • PansyW: Just wondering what careers 100,000 educators switched to within the read more
  • Renee: Student behavioral problems are universal. You can't isolate the problem read more
  • Sylvia: I've witnessed and experienced this: teacher makes a complaint or read more




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