Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Should we offer signing bonuses for unique and specialized teaching positions?

Let's get one thing straight... this blog post ins't aimed at devaluing or slighting any particular teaching position. Rather instead, it's acknowledging the realities of the world we live in as we aim to make the learning environment for our students as robust and effective as possible...

So, we know there are trends that have been emerging and continue to emerge when it comes to schooling and the overall approach we take to student learning.

District curricula are becoming more specialized and more personalized to the needs of students as they work toward being prepared for a world that will be completely different by the time they graduate.

Schools are taking note of blended learning models that embrace the notion of moving away from 'seat time' being the main driving force in the typical schooling model.

Even an entire country is making a shift away from teachers teaching 'subjects' in isolation.

The world of education is experiencing unprecedented pressure and force that originate from the world in which we live. The demands of society continue to evolve and increase in complexity and schools are being forced to change as a result... albeit more slowly. :)

But here's the thing...

When a secondary social studies position is open in a school district, there is never a shortage of potential candidates. Graduating from college with the proper certification to teach social studies puts you in company with plenty of others. 

Similarly, when an elementary 1st grade teaching position is open, schools have to swim through mountains of resumes and online applications to narrow the list down before ever even speaking with a candidate. Now, make no mistake, it takes a special person to teach 1st grade... go observe a 1st grade classroom if you don't believe me. But, the reality is, there are a lot of people out there who believe they are that 'special' person.

But what about that new coding class you are looking to start at your high school? Do you have anybody on staff who would be qualified to teach this course? What about physics... what about engineering?

What about that new environmental recycling and sustainability course you want to get off the ground at your middle school? Do you have anybody on staff who has the expertise and knowledge to lead this class? What about Chinese as a foreign language... what about robotics?

Or even that principles of engineering and design course you want to add at your upper elementary school? Who do you have walking your building right now that would make this class a success? What about elementary special education... what about an autism behavior specialist? 

My point is simple... we know there are shifts happening in education in regard to what our kids need to be learning and the experiences they need to be having.  

But the truth is education can't attract the types of people who have these types of expertise and experiences. Someone with these skills and experiences commands more money in the business world and that is where they often end up going.

I fear education as a whole, and most importantly, our students are missing out...  
So, what would happen if we started offering signing bonuses to individuals who had these skills and sets of expertise? What would happen if we acknowledged that some individuals have a skill-set that is more specialized and more 'rare' than others?

What would happen if we acknowledged some individuals are more in demand than others?

What is the downside of offering more money to teachers who can do something that most others can't?

What is the downside of bringing up-to-date industry trends and practices into our schools for our students to learn about and experience as part of their educational journey?

I'll end with one last question...

What is the upside if education started doing this?