Bucks County High School Closed on Friday, Nov. 12th – Not for Covid

There was a surprising instance of “hive mind” last Friday, when high school teachers at Harry S. Truman School in Levittown, Bucks County, decided to call out, that is to say, not show up for work.

It was the day after Veteran’s Day, a holiday.

Hive mind is like the behavior of bees, or ants, when people act together to do the same thing. Like make a four-day weekend. Covid was not involved.

In this case, seemingly separately, 33 teachers called out and left the high school without enough staff to hold classes on Friday.

Word went out on the school’s email notification system to parents, through Facebook posts, on the Truman school website and through whatever kind of tom-tom students use these days to spread the word: “Oh, snap.”

Bristol Twshp School canceled 1 1 - Bucks County Beacon - Bucks County High School Closed on Friday, Nov. 12th - Not for Covid

Usually substitutes would, you know, sub. But subs are hard to come by. So Truman pulled the plug.

Even regular teachers are scarce. Consider what it is like to teach while wearing a mask. All the guidelines to follow, and make the students follow. The worry about catching Covid from those germy kids. A record number of teachers have left the field, joining the Great Resignation.

In July alone, 4 million people quit their jobs in all kinds of fields. These were not retirees. The minds at Harvard did some number crunching and decided that the ones most likely to split were not those know-it-alls just out of college. It was the 30- to 45-year-olds who got restless – people in midcareer, according to the Harvard Business Review. It was that “Is that all there is?” time of life whether it was doing tax returns or teaching 13-year-olds to diagram sentences, listening to someone learn to play the saxophone or putting up with an idiot boss.

In October, the Pennsylvania State Education Association rang the alarm bell on the low numbers of people graduating with teaching degrees. The PSEA also said that substitute teachers were in such high demand that certain school districts, like Trinity, in Washington County, were contemplating raising their pay to $125 a day, and crossing their fingers.

The Bristol Township School District, which includes Harry S. Truman High School, pays $90 a day for a substitute teacher, although it is thinking of accepting people who have bachelor’s degrees, but not teaching certificates. They would be called Substitute Guest Teachers.

That seems like a sign a desperation.

Is teacher pay so bad that no one can afford to teach?

While full-time teachers have contracts to provide benefits and paid time off, what value does substitute teaching provide? Definitely not benefits or paid time off, not a W2, and not even $12 per hour, at most schools. It doesn’t even provide consistent work.

As the Great Resignation continues, is substitute teaching just one more job that will be impossible to fill, because it pays so little and asks so much?

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Linda Lee

A former editor and reporter at The New York Times, Linda Lee has written seven books, and started a magazine about real estate and design in Miami. While her interest lies in Bucks County, her family lives near Harrisburg. She has a Shih Tzu named Yolo.

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