Guest Column
I’m a Pinellas classroom teacher and here’s what I think of DeSantis’ hire-a-vet plan | Column
How about emphasizing teacher retention instead of attempting to incentivize retired cops and firefighters and military veterans to risk further hazardous duty in a classroom?
Public schools in Florida are down 9,000 teachers.
Public schools in Florida are down 9,000 teachers. [ MIAMI HERALD | Miami Herald ]
Published Aug. 26, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis, I know you’re a busy man, what with running Florida with an iron fist and all, but what’s up with your scheme to shove non-teachers into the state’s public schools? There’s a teacher shortage in Florida because trained educators are leaving the profession in droves due to your policies; they’re over the relatively low pay and the lack of respect that comes from being constantly vilified by self-serving politicians looking to pass along blame. So how about emphasizing teacher retention instead of attempting to incentivize retired cops and firefighters and veterans to risk further hazardous duty in a classroom?

Chris Fulton
Chris Fulton [ Provided ]

Governor, you’re a military veteran yourself. Do you honestly think you’d be a good teacher? Being condescending and judgmental may work when in an unquestioned position of authority, but it’s a lousy strategy when it comes to the classroom. Kids — unsurprisingly — don’t appreciate being talked down to by arrogant adults. Like the way you scornfully denigrated students for wearing masks not that long ago, calling them “ridiculous.” That was not cool, governor, not cool.

Fact is, most kids aren’t bootlickers (not yet, anyway), and while many can be intimidated, building resentment isn’t a good plan for compelling kids to buy in, nor is using them as pawns for a narrow political agenda.

Sure, students might find a retired cop or firefighter or armed forces veteran interesting for a few days, but unless said “teacher” is engaging and has firm knowledge of a given subject area, well, let’s just say kids can smell ineptness and BS from both a short distance and a long way off. Great teachers are born, not made, and all the college degrees and/or subject area knowledge in the world do not necessarily a good teacher make. Same goes for those who possess (albeit irrelevant) “real world” experience. Think it’s a good idea to send an unprepared teacher into a hostage situation or a burning apartment building? Well, the converse holds true as well.

Teachers present what amounts to a continual sales presentation every day, in my case six times a day to a bunch of jaded teenagers; it ain’t no picnic. And while good salespeople would, generally speaking, make good teachers, good luck finding a successful sales rep who’s willing to take a huge pay cut — plus properly prep — in exchange for a bit of extra time off.

As far as the veteran end of things, what does Florida being ranked 48th in the country for veteran teacher pay say about the governor’s public education policies? The attrition rate speaks volumes. I know the governor claims that corporately run charter schools are the ultimate answer, but who’s going to teach at them? Charters pay less and offer fewer benefits than traditional public schools, and once the best teachers and students are cherry-picked for select high-profile charters, where will that leave the other kids? What educational leftovers are they going to receive?

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All of which leads to this bit of irony: How can a guy who professes to have all the answers instead generate so many questions?

Chris Fulton teaches Cambridge Literature/General Paper classes at Tarpon Springs High School. He has been in the classroom for more than 25 years.