Teachers’ Work: A Cross Cultural Analysis of a Profession in Crisis
The history of the teaching profession is a complex story. Issues related to gender, social class, politics and geography have all shaped the progress and status of teaching. Presently teachers are better educated and paid at higher levels than earlier generations of educators could have ever imagined possible, and yet, despite these gains, the profession is in a state of crisis. Increasing demands for accountability and restricted opportunities for teacher leadership and autonomous decision-making have created a scenario where new teachers often emerge from teacher training enthusiastic about their newfound profession only to find themselves assimilated into a profession where the morale is low and the rewards few and slow to come. Teacher retention is at an all-time low and school administrators throughout the world are struggling to fill empty positions with warm bodies possessing varying levels of competency. The advancement and improvement of the teaching profession is critical to any successful school reform efforts. This paper will examine the professional lives and work of teachers in the 21st century within a social, historical and political context. In this paper, it will be argued that the problems associated with teacher’s work have led to a crisis in the profession. The author’s research on teacher moonlighting in both the United States and Jamaica will be used to highlight the professional crisis facing contemporary teachers. Additionally, research will be consolidated into a “picture” of teacher’s work in the 21st century accompanied by recommendations for teacher leadership in the reform of the profession.
Keywords: Teachers, Teachers’ Work, Profession of Teaching, Teaching and Learning, Teachers’ Lives, School Reform
Dr. Eleanor Blair Hilty
Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership & Foundations, Western Carolina University