The looming teacher shortage has been a hot topic among educators for more than a decade, but it’s only entered the conversation among the general public within the last few years. As more and more states scramble to fill open teaching positions, educators, parents, and community members are starting to have some significant concerns.
Some school districts started the school year off with far fewer qualified teachers in place than ever before. They are struggling to fill positions with brand new teachers who have little to no experience or they are trying to secure substitute teachers to help cover the gaps.
The only way to fix the teacher shortage is to understand the complex reasons it’s there.
Role of the Teacher
The role of the teacher has changed drastically from just a few decades ago. Teachers once went to work to provide high-quality instruction, but now they wear so many additional hats that it makes it nearly impossible to keep up.
A day in the life of a modern teacher now includes:
- Completing stacks of mandated paperwork
- Making sure students have food, water, clothes, shoes, school supplies, and sanitary products. Many of these items are paid for by the teachers because the school doesn’t have the budget.
- Reporting physical, mental, and sexual abuse to the authorities
- Testing to state and federal regulations instead of to what’s being taught
- Being told how to teach, communicate and manage their classroom
- Being trained on school violence, the proper discipline and protocols around an active shooter in the school
- De-escalating students in crisis
- Breaking up fights and dealing with bullying
- Staffing lunchrooms, recess, and detentions
- Following COVID protocols
- Going through the extensive evaluation process upwards of 5 times a year
Additional duties come up throughout the year such as parent-teacher conferences, chaperoning school dances, and coaching. Exhaustion, frustration and burnout is fueling the current teacher shortage.
Teacher pay is another huge problem for anyone either considering or staying in the field of education. While journalists always report the median teacher income by state, many teachers across the country make far less than what’s being reported, are forced to work more than one job to make ends meet, and still have to pay out of pocket for their own supplies. They make an average of 19.2% less than their peers with similar educational backgrounds. This pay inequity is a major deterrent to anyone thinking about education as a career.
While teachers used to to rely on a good benefits package, many benefits have been significantly eroded over time so teachers now pay a lot more out of pocket for far less coverage.
Lack of Respect
Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of teaching today is the lack of respect.
From administrators who don’t support their teachers, parents who blame them for everything, government officials who don’t trust them, and students who are becoming increasingly disrespectful and violent, there’s a clear problem emerging. Add to this list, the new disciplinary guidelines that many states have put into place and it’s easy to understand why teachers are leaving the profession and new recruits are not lining up.