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Is Teaching In South Florida A 'Toxic' Profession?

The annual report points to issues such as a scarcity of certified teachers in subject areas such as general science, physics and chemistry when compared to other fields.

Teachers are becoming increasingly frustrated with their profession, according to a new poll from PDK. The study, called "The Public’s Attitude Toward Public Schools," found that half of teachers surveyed have considered leaving the profession in the past few years.

That sentiment is being felt by many teachers in Florida, including Jonathan Carroll in Lake County. His Facebook post describing teaching in Florida as "a toxic profession" recently went viral. Among the reasons Carroll listed for leaving the profession included active shooter drills and the move towards arming teachers in the classroom.

With the start of the school year for thousands of Floridians beginning next week, Sundial invited a panel of educators from Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties to discuss standardized testing, school security and arming teachers and the fight between public and charter schools statewide, among other topics. 

Joining us on the panel were four teachers from across our region. Ellen Baker is in her 19th year at William Dwyer High School in Palm Beach County teaching special education. Sarah Lerner is in her sixth year teaching English at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Broward County. Sara Maldonado has been teaching for six years, she’s currently a science and writing teacher at Beacon College Prep in Miami-Dade. And math teacher Marjorie Rodriguez is in her 37th year at Key West High School.

An excerpt of the conversation: 

WLRN: Sara Lerner, you have the unfortunate distinction of being a teacher on this panel who – you haven't been through the shooter drills alone. You've actually been through this horrible situation yourself.  And so after that happened, did you ever question, "Why am I in this profession if it's this dangerous?" 

LERNER: No, not at all. I'm quite the opposite, actually. When Columbine happened I was 19 and I was in college when Sandy Hook happened. I was teaching at a different school and I had a son in first grade. And you always think, “This will never happen here. This will never happen to me.” And you know, fast forward to 2018 and here I was, in the thick of things and at no point did I ever consider leaving the profession or leaving my school. I love what I do. I love where I do it and the kids need me. I have PTSD. It is very real and you know can be debilitating but if I am not working here I don't know what I would do.

Sarah, do you feel safe?

I do. And I know that might sound crazy to some of the listeners. I do feel safe and I have never not felt safe but if they have they change things around campus to make it safer. Yes, there are or have been additional things put in place, additional campus security and campus monitors and school resource officers, and they've worked to improve fencing and things within the school itself and around the perimeter and I do feel safe here. 

Marjorie, you were talking about security a little while ago. I'm curious for your thoughts on not just beefing up security on campus but this idea of staff or teachers being armed.

RODRIGUEZ: That's a double edged sword. I personally, I am not a proponent of that. I would not carry a gun in school. However, there are a number of capable people in my district and particularly in my school, administrators, teachers, who could carry a gun and I would feel a lot safer I guess if they did. But across the board, I'm not a proponent.

Ellen, I wonder if you've heard from parents about school security.

BAKER:  Absolutely. And I was with the Parkland kids up in Tallahassee when they testified. I testified myself. My cousin's daughter was killed in Newtown so I have a little bit of a different perspective. We've also had some weapons that were found on kids at school. We've had some students that were just part of the big gang arrests that they made in Palm Beach County. So, I think I have a little bit of a different perspective. I am in an older school so some of the classrooms are very safe and some are not. Now, we did have parents after Parkland have a big discussion and they were willing to buy wands and security. They wanted to have the airport security type scanner, or whatever they're called, and have students go through it. I mean, it makes me cringe to think that this is what we've come to. The parents were told by the district that they weren't able to do that. 

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.