While it is no secret that there is a teacher shortage nationwide, I suspect that those who are not currently working in our schools cannot imagine just how bad it really is. As someone who has spent 5 decades in education, I can tell you that I have seen nothing like the crisis we are currently facing.
Most schools are not fully staffed. Substitutes who may or may not have a degree, and in most cases have no training, have filled the vacancies since the beginning of the school year, many for a month or more. While they do their best, in many instances they are merely a placeholder for a qualified teacher.
Of those teachers in Oklahoma classrooms, 60% are alternatively certified with no training in classroom management, pedagogy, researched best practices, or in the developmental appropriateness of how concepts should be taught. These untrained teachers are the most likely to leave the classroom without complete a contract year.
The learning loss due to COVID is real and measurable. The loss is compounded by the lack of teachers; qualified or not.
Until the late 70s, high school seniors who went on to major in education were in the top one-fourth of their graduating class. As more options for women became available, many women chose other careers. Today, the shift has been to the lower end of a senior class who select education as a career.
We still have some very bright and even brilliant people in education, but even those teachers (and administrators) are stretched to the limit.
At a time when schools are losing teachers monthly, criticism of teachers and schools is at an all-time high. Most of the things teachers are accused of doing, or not doing, have no reality in fact. Teachers are so busy teaching, following regulations and laws, planning, grading papers, etc. that they have no time defend themselves. Instead, they leave their schools at a frightening cost to students and society.
Each year education bills are the most numerous of any other type of bill. Each of these bills adds to work and paperwork for teachers and administrators. Instead of working with teachers who need help, administrators are documenting and implementing the many laws, rules, and regulations.
Effective teachers don’t disagree with the importance of some of these new laws, however, there is only so much time in their day. During my tenure in education, the number of school days has not changed, but the number of new, non-academic topics required has grown exponentially.
Critics lament that “Johnny can’t read or add these days.” As a society, we must decide our priorities, as time for “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic” is being reduced with each new mandate.
Social media is filled with posts that read, “You know what they should be teaching our kids in school?” followed by dozens of ideas, none of which address the core subjects required. Mos of the suggestions are things families once taught their children.
Only when these bills are kept in check and educators are compensated will we solve our teacher shortage. Teacher salaries are already low and teachers do not receive cost of living increases in Oklahoma. Inflation, gas prices and student loans affects their $2500-$3000 take-home pay.
Higher salaries for teachers will have our best and brightest rethinking the option of becoming a teacher. Only then, will we fill all the vacancies in teaching. All studies show that the teacher is the one variable of student success. Are we willing to pay the price, or will we continue to complain, bash teachers for not doing enough, and continue the unending number of mandates?