The Reason There Is a New Teacher Shortage
I know a new teacher who just started teaching this year, and after just a few weeks in the classroom, she has decided she is done. Off to try something else.
This means she’ll have to be replaced in a state with a shortage of new teachers. Knowing what was happening in the economy 6-7 years ago, this seems almost unthinkable, but it seems to be our current reality. How can a profession that has gone through waves of “riffing and pink slips” possibly have a shortage of qualified candidates to staff schools? That’s an easy answer. It’s one word: respect.
Respect is a difficult word to define. If you have never tried to explain it, try right now. I’m sure you can think of lots of “Don’t” examples (Don’t talk back… Don’t hit your sister…), but determining the exact meaning of respect is much more challenging. When trying to explain respect to my students, I tell them showing respect to someone or something shows that you value it. Showing respect gives importance to the subject in question.
Teachers face a lack of respect, and when young people interested in teaching see this, they decide to go elsewhere. This missing respect presents itself it two very clear ways. These two problems show potential new teachers that others do not value the job in the way teachers deserve.
- Pay – I did some extremely rough, mathematical (I hesitate to even call them that…) calculations to try to determine a beginning teachers hourly wage. I came up with an absolutely minimum of 1,700 working hours during the school year. Most teachers, especially new teachers, push well beyond this number. Divide a beginning salary around $35,000 by the hours worked, and you get about $20 an hour. In New York, fast food workers will likely soon receive $15 per hour. With all due respect to fast food workers, it’s easy to see why college students might not be looking at entering the field of education.
- Bad Publicity – I don’t blame the press here, though they love printing “test scores went down” stories. Those stories, however, wouldn’t exist if elected officials weren’t constantly hammering at the teaching profession. Elected officials make speeches vilifying teachers and schools, manipulating numbers to fit whatever vote-getting strategy they are currently employing. The general public sees this constantly. No wonder people aren’t lining up to work in schools.
Yes, teaching is a calling. And yes, you don’t enter this profession to get rich. But I find it hilarious when a state like mine creates a commission to explore why there is a shortage of new teachers. It isn’t that hard. The question is: Does anyone have the courage to do anything about it? I hope so. If not, this problem has the potential to become much worse.