Why has the teaching profession become so unsexy?

Berlin’s education senator announced last week that there will be a shortage of almost 1,000 teachers in Berlin’s schools in the next school year. The new record tells the story of a descent. Although it was still frustrating last year that almost half of all newly hired teachers were career changers, there are now not enough career changers to fill all the vacancies.

Much has gone wrong with political control – both at the Ministerial Conference and at state level. But that is only half the truth. The school in Germany has largely missed out on 30 years of organizational development – and the job it offers no longer suits young people’s fantasies and modern CVs.

I recently met a smart woman named Isabell Probst, who used to be a teacher. For a while, being a teacher was her dream job, but then she felt more and more that she was becoming unhappy in the school system. Today she works as a coach. She earns her money by advising teachers who would love to leave their subjects but who lack the courage to do so. Or do not know what to do afterwards. Or know exactly what they want to do afterwards – but are afraid of financial insecurity.

Maybe we in Berlin have thought too much about sideways – and too little about side dropouts. Their number is growing and tells us why we have an urgent need to modernize the teaching profession. And also why the subject is becoming more and more attractive for older people who have little choice – and less and less attractive for younger people who have many choices.

The students turn their backs on their studies

This has been observed in Berlin for years: that more and more students are giving up on the road to becoming a teacher. They disappear after the first semesters, after a bachelor’s, master’s or preparatory service, they disappear to other cities, educations, professions – and no one knows exactly why. Therefore, Berlin’s education administration now wants to launch a so-called whereabouts study to research students’ motives. But the XYZ generations, spoiled with opportunities and sometimes even confused, will probably think carefully about whether there is a good relationship between effort and income in this subject.

The financial return is still pretty good. In any case, there are few countries in the world where teachers are paid as well as in Germany. And of course, the great job security in an increasingly disruptive society is also a promise. At the same time, the sluggish and very officially organized German school system is, so to speak, the opposite of disruption – and innovation.

The school as a place hostile to innovation

A few days ago, a prospective teacher student told how she presented herself at the school she was assigned to in Karlshorst. When asked if the school had WiFi and that she would like to access her teaching materials via the cloud, the school principal responded very unkindly and said, “No, of course there is no WiFi at my school.” The young woman said this unkind no. among other things, to work in the Ministry of Education rather than at school.

In her book Ausgelehrt, Isabell Probst writes that it is the idealistic and passionate teachers who turn to her. Because their ideals are increasingly being broken by the resource-poor reality of the classroom. Because the demands on what teachers have to do are rising – and at the same time the disrespect in dealing with them. It is also a fact that what with the incentives in the German school system does not work. For the best performance is not rewarded at all – and the non-performers are not punished at all. Probst talks about the lack of vertical and horizontal mobility that deters many people today.

As soon as they leave school, especially the young people want to go out into the world and try a variety of things. And teacher education is then more like a job guarantee for them, which they may fall back on later. And conversely, there are many people in the middle of life who discover the good sides of the teaching profession themselves – and notice what a rewarding task it can be to prepare children for life. Our schools need to change to be even more open to these applicants and to be attractive to young people again.

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