It is the start of a new school year and administrators are scrambling to fill their classrooms with qualified teachers. The problem is that they are hard to find.
There are many reasons for the shortage in teachers across America. Some teachers after starting out, are finding that it is just not for them. Many are choosing to go into a different line of work. Teachers from the “Baby Boom” era are retiring in droves. Many young teachers are dissatisfied with the “No Child Left Behind” law. The stronger emphasis on testing more is frustrating teachers. There has been a lot of negative news this past year on education, too. It seems like everyday there is a teacher going to court or jail over their actions with students of the opposite sex.
It takes a good five years before a young teacher has the full experience to hit their stride as a good qualified educator. The thing is that most teachers are leaving the profession before that happens. The National Education Association (NEA) claims that 24% of all teachers nation wise have less than 4 years experience. In some remote areas of the country, it is even higher than that.
Younger teachers rely on the older teachers for support and advise in dealing with certain situations of teaching and discipline. The problem is that there are less older teachers to help out. This problem has been growing the past five years and is getting worst.
Finances have also played a major part in the teacher reduction,too. Many school districts are financially strapped for money. Young teachers are hired and after a year or two, they move on to a better paying district. Smaller districts require teachers to do other things. Some are asked to coach or supervise other extracurricular activities. Many young teachers just starting out ,would rather work to get their classes on solid ground first. However, since a lot of teachers don’t have tenure, they have to do what the district wants. Many are doing coaching jobs that they aren’t qualified to do. Teaching plus coaching means long hours. This also means nights away from their family.
Many young teachers begin their professions with high expectations. However, after a few short months, they realize that have made the wrong decision. Add to this, the attraction of major industry sweeping up science and math educators. The field of technology is growing so fast that these two areas are offering well paying jobs in the commercial sector.
To help solve the teacher shortage, many retired teachers are being coaxed to come back out of retirement. A lot of retired teachers are hindered by their retirement benefits in returning to the classroom. If they return to full time work, they could lose their retirement checks. Some States will let teachers return but, only on a part time basis. It would appear that many States are going to have to waive their rules on retirement, if they want qualified teachers in the classrooms.
The Illinois Education Research Council claims that experience isn’t everything. Young enthusiastic teachers with new up to date ideas and teaching philosophies can do wonders in the classroom. However, the trick is to keep them motivated. This is where the five year hump comes into play. Administrators have to find a way to getting their teachers to that point and past it.
Each year new teachers are required to take certification tests to prove their competence in teaching. Some of these tests have become over whelming and just aren’t worth going through for many new teachers.
Young college students don’t get any real experience until their Senior year in College when they do their Student Teaching. Then, when they step into a classroom for the first time, they realize what is involved and are immediately turned off. They quickly realize that they have wasted years of money and training for something that they don’t want to do.
So what can administrators and school districts do to improve the ranks of educators in America?
One thought is that of, creating a larger teacher pool inside America. But, how do you encourage more young people to go into the field of teacher education? One way might be to pay for some of their education. In the commercial sector, more and more companies are helping to pay for the cost of an individuals education. Maybe The Country as well as individual States should look into this idea. Some districts are already giving out signing bonus’s to attract young teachers out of college. This hurts the financially strapped districts that can’t afford to do so. Another idea, is to have a nation wide drive to put more teachers into the teaching pool.
It use to be that being a teacher, was a commendable area to go into. However, it seems like lately the negative outweighs the positives. An individual going into the teaching profession needs to understand what they are getting into. There are longer hours involved, constant awareness and observation of your students, less pay than other jobs, more responsibilities, and the challenge at the same time of caring for your own family needs.
Like the “No child Left Behind Act”, there needs to be a concentration in the area of supply and demand for teachers. Until that is done, there will continue to be a problem with a teacher shortage in America.
About the writer: I am a student teacher supervisor for a Midwestern college. I have 38 years experience in the field of education.
Sources: National Education Association