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Will we lose CS teachers to industry?

If we properly prepare CS teachers, won't they just jump ship and take tech industry jobs?

I hear that a lot.

Tech pays big. Teaching? Not so much. Tech workers are respected and have flexible jobs. Teaching? Again, not so much.

Those chanting these refrains advocate the current simple teacher "training" - scripted lessons, minimal pedagogical content knowledge, even less real content knowledge. That will keep them in the classroom.

They're wrong.

People fearing an exodus of prepared CS teachers don't get education. True, many young CS teachers will leave the profession but that's because many young teachers leave the profession. Why do young teachers leave? Regardless of subject area some of the reasons are:

  • It's much harder than everyone thinks it is
  • Low pay
  • Lack of respect
  • Overworked
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Being scapegoated for poverty
  • It's become about testing, not teaching

None of these are unique to computer science teachers so the argument that CS teachers who know too much will leave is really saying, "we have to keep our teachers dumb enough to stay - make sure they don't have outside options" rather than "let's make teaching a desirable profession to be in."

Of course, this is bred from a lack of understanding about what drives teachers. It's typical of politicians and business leaders and short term temps like TFAers who came in for a cup of coffee and now know how to solve the education problem.

Teacher don't become teachers to get rich or to do better than the other guy – I know I didn't. We enter it to do good - to uplift the have nots. This is why business models like stack ranking and bonus or merit pay just don't work. A school is a team and we're all in it together. Our job is to take care of our kids, not to be better than that other guy. We wish we had more time to work together and to improve things for our entire population.

Back to computer science.

My contention is that you might lose some teachers to industry but they either weren't meant to be teachers anyway or they couldn't afford to be teachers or the system beat them down. None of these are reasons not to properly prepare them. Besides, all teachers in all subject areas could work their way into an entry level tech job via a summer coding boot camp.

We can also look to the past to allay concerns. While it's true that for hiring purposes, English teachers are a dime a dozen and candidates typically have fewer outside options (although great English teachers are harder to find), Math and Science teachers generally have options. I know many top Math and Science teachers who could easily get non teaching jobs - the Math teachers in finance the science, certainly in pharmaceutical companies over in NJ. These options exist yet we manage to populate our classes with teachers. True, it's difficult at times, particularly in Physics, but these are due to the lack of respect teaching gets as a profession.

If we prepare CS teachers properly, yes, we'll lose some, but we'll keep the ones we're supposed to or if we lose them it will be due to other factors. Additionally, by having proper CS teacher preparation programs, we'll also provide an entry path to those people meant to be teachers but prior had no way of getting in.

As a nation, we're moving away from prepared, knowledgeable teachers and towards drill-masters. Let's not let CS Education go the way of all ed.

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