Op-Ed: North Carolina teachers shouldn’t protest — they should quit

Op-Ed: North Carolina teachers shouldn’t protest — they should quit
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This month, thousands of teachers traveled from all over the state to the capital in Raleigh. They were there to sloganeer, demand better pay, and push for more public education funding.

Spoiler alert: they won’t be getting any of it.

That sounds cynical. It’s also true. North Carolina teachers can’t strike or collectively bargain. The North Carolina Association of Educators, who organized the protest, isn’t a real union. In fact, unionizing is illegal for teachers in North Carolina.

Legislators know this. They’ll continue dolling out enough small raises to entertain their bases during election seasons, but neither party is ready to pull the trigger on a significant salary increase.

Salaries won’t hit the national average. Local school boards will continue to ignore concerns. Administrators will let the crap roll downhill. There’s only one option left.

Hey, N.C. teachers. It’s not time to protest — it’s time to quit.

I recently went to a BBQ with some friends from college.

Each of us had education degrees and teaching licenses.

Each of us worked for four full years to become teachers.

Each of us has since quit the profession.

And each of us is extremely happy about the decision. Why? Because a love of kids and a passion for teaching aren’t enough to build a sustainable career. Those qualities, the strongest elements keeping good teachers attached to their jobs, are not valued by North Carolina lawmakers.

Legislators aren’t willing to bet on teachers, so it’s time for teachers to bet on themselves.

Some teachers seem to have internalized the General Assembly’s and the public’s view of teachers as glorified babysitters with no real skills.

In fact, I’m sure the GA is counting on it. It’s simple capitalism: you pay people what you think they’re worth, and people accept what they think they’re worth. The legislature clearly does not believe teachers have the skills to warrant a higher salary.

Let me tell you what skills teachers have. Project management. Data analysis. Segmenting. Communication. Identifying growth areas. Manipulating trends. And that doesn’t even include specific subject area skills.

Translate these skills correctly on a resume and the private sector is going to treat ex-pat teachers a lot better than the state does.

And for those teachers who don’t want to go into the corporate world, it’s time to take your passion for your subject and turn it into creative and public outlets. Would you rather have administrators hassle you all day, or start a comedy podcast about Shakespeare and rack up sponsors? Would you rather have to explain to a new principal every year why art is important, or spend all day painting and trying to get your stuff in galleries?

It’ll be hard. Money might get tight. But if you won’t invest in you, who else will? Not the General Assembly.

Teachers know how to grind. They know how to push. It’s time they spend that energy knocking on doors that actually have a chance of opening.

You’re not leaving your students. You’re leaving a system that wants to take advantage of your love for them by paying you next to nothing.

Make the jump, North Carolina teachers. If the state doesn’t value you, it’s time to find someone who will.

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