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Easing the Teacher Shortage



In this week's StarrPoints, columnist Linda Starr compares two jobs available to today's young college graduates -- and asks the question, "Who wants to be a teacher?"

My son, holding a bachelor's degree from a state university, recently (finally!) started his first "real" job. In addition to his salary, he gets free indoor parking and subsidized membership in a fully equipped health club. (A personal trainer is available, for a small additional fee.)

He gets full tuition reimbursement for job-related graduate courses and partial reimbursement for all other courses. He's eligible for a yearly bonus, based on company performance, and for regular raises and promotions, based on personal performance.

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If you had it to do all over again, would you become a teacher? Share your thoughts on the StarrPoints message board.

Linda Starr, a former teacher and the mother of four children, has been an education writer for nearly two decades. Starr is the curriculum and technology editor for Education World.

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My son has his own desk, equipped with a computer, telephone, desk calendar, daily and weekly planner, and all necessary office supplies. Everything is provided by the company. A secretarial pool handles business correspondence and paperwork.

Business hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an hour for lunch. (Lunch can be purchased in the company cafeteria, at one of several fast-food kiosks within the company, or at local restaurants.) Coffee breaks and restroom breaks are at each employee's discretion. Overtime is required only when time-sensitive projects are in the works. In those cases, employees earn compensatory time. My son gets three weeks' paid vacation and 16 holidays a year.

Employees at my son's company are encouraged to attend at least one job-related convention a year -- at company expense. The company also offers frequent in-house training sessions, during working hours.

All employees and their families are invited to attend a company-hosted Christmas party and a summer picnic. Turkeys are distributed at Thanksgiving.

At the end of most working days, my son is free to relax and have fun.

My son's girlfriend, holding a master's degree from a prestigious private university, recently started her first "real" job. Her starting salary is $7,000 less than my son's. Her employer does not award bonuses, and raises are set contractually; no performance adjustment is allowed. Without a further degree -- for which no tuition reimbursement is available -- opportunities for advancement are virtually nil.

She does get free outdoor parking in a lot patrolled by security guards and the reassurance of metal detectors at all building entrances. She stays in shape by walking up and down several flights of stairs each day and by frequently eating lunch standing up.

My son's girlfriend has her own desk, equipped with a desk calendar, a daily and weekly planner, and a few basic office supplies -- most of which she purchased herself. Computers are housed in a central location and can be used before and after regular business hours. A telephone is available in the main office. Employees handle their own business correspondence and paperwork.

Business hours are from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., although employees seldom leave the building before 5 p.m. They are allowed 20 minutes for lunch -- if they have don't have any other assignments scheduled. Lunch can be purchased in the cafeteria or brought from home; employees are not permitted to leave the building during business hours. Coffee breaks and restroom breaks can be taken during lunch (in the absence of scheduled assignments) or before and after regular working hours. Emergency restroom breaks are permitted if supplementary job coverage can be arranged. All tasks are time-sensitive. Most cannot be completed during regular business hours.

My son's girlfriend gets three weeks' paid vacation and eight additional holidays throughout the business year. She spends most vacations catching up on paperwork. She will also get an additional eight weeks' unpaid vacation during summer months. During that time, she'll work a second job to make up a portion of the starting salary gap.

Employees here are also encouraged to attend at least one job-related convention a year -- at their own expense and on their own time. The company strongly urges employees to attend in-house training sessions -- most of which are held after regular business hours.

All employees are required to attend several evening functions throughout the year -- none of which involves food or frivolity. Employees are, however, permitted to host holiday parties at their own homes, provided their behavior at those events doesn't reflect badly on themselves or on their employer.

At the end of most working days, my son's girlfriend completes that day's paperwork, prepares for the next day's tasks, then goes to bed.

It's not hard to figure out which of these young people is a teacher. Is it so hard to figure out why there's a growing shortage of bright young teachers?