Dr. Hans Andrews is the Distinguished Fellow in Community College Leadership through Olney Central College (Illinois). He is a former president of the college. He started the first dual-credit program in the country between community colleges and secondary schools.
Dr. Greg Rockhold has served on the National Association of Secondary School Principals board, as president of the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators, and as executive director of the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals.
“If I could return, I would choose a different career. I never imagined the constant battle and fast track to burnout,” One teacher’s response to teaching in 2023.
The spring of 2023 seemed an appropriate time to check how teachers across the United States and numerous other countries felt about their jobs. These teachers had seen a significant drop in colleague teachers for several years. The Pandemic and the major causes it created in classroom vs. remote teaching contributed to too much confusion and stress. Teacher shortages had started a number of years earlier but became much more severe during and following the Pandemic.
Teacher shortages can be compared to Tsunamis.
Tsunamis are giant waves caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea. Out in the depths of the ocean, tsunami waves do not dramatically increase in height. As the teacher shortage crisis, in the U.S. and many other countries has been changing, it is starting to react like a Tsunami:
- Tsunamis waves travel inland; they build up to higher and higher heights as the depth of the ocean decreases. Therefore, the speed of tsunami waves depends on ocean depth rather than the distance from the source of the wave (NOAA.gov).
- The teacher shortage crisis today can be likened to a Tsunami. The ‘earthquake or volcanic eruptions’ similar to a Tsunami start, caused by the teacher shortage, linked to poor pay and increased disrespect.
- Teachers are reading and seeing their profession moving more and more toward being de-professionalized. They also, unfortunately, see less supportive work environments in many school districts worldwide.
- As this Tsunami grows, it now finds that 64 percent of parents surveyed in the U.S. have been leading their children away from considering becoming a teacher.
The growing Tsunami appears worldwide.
There are teacher ‘crisis’ situations growing across the world at this time. A recent check of several countries found the following deficiencies reported in early 2022-2023:
Australia: Positions open used to draw 40, 50, or 60 applications. The last physical education position drew one application. Some parts of the country began offering payments to student teachers so they could continue to completion of their degrees.
Africa: A UNICEF report titled ‘FOR EVERY CHILD’ highlighted the need to overcome what is reported as the worse teacher shortage in the world. The report suggested that by 2030 there would be a need for 6.1 million teachers at the primary level.
European Nations: Teacher shortages have been labeled a ‘staffing disaster’ due to several factors. Over 80,000 teaching positions were open in September 2022 in Germany, Hungary, Poland, Austria, and France. However, in the UK, the concern from recent surveys showed that some 30 percent of their academic position people plan to stop within the first five years of their careers.
India: Studies estimate one million or more teacher shortages in the country. Over five lahks (1 lakh equals 100,000) deficits exist in elementary schools, and 14 percent of secondary schools lack the six prescribed teachers. It is worse in rural areas.
United States: The National Education Association’s latest survey summarized that there was close to a 300,000 teacher shortage in the United States.
The disillusionment of teachers uncovered
Twitter is replete with a profound disillusionment of many teachers who feel overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated. This uncovered the potential implications for a Tsunami size shift in the teaching profession.
It is reported in the U.S. that just twelve percent of teachers are very satisfied with their jobs. In addition, more than four in ten teachers responded that they were very, or somewhat, likely to leave the profession within the next two years.
Teachers’ growing perception that the general public does not understand or appreciate their work is a factor that almost certainly contributes to their rising dissatisfaction. Most teachers responding also perceived that they receive insufficient attention from the news media. As a result, teachers are forced to react to what the media displays from both coasts in the United States.
Concerns that teaching is becoming de-professionalized
Forty-four percent of teachers in the U.S. say they are very or somewhat likely to leave the profession in the next two years, up from 29 percent in the 2011 MetLife survey. However, many were unsure if they would advise ‘their younger selves’ to do it all again and go into teaching.
A very dissatisfied Colorado Millennial teacher summed it up like this in response to an open-ended question asking respondents to share a story or perspective about one of the topics on the survey:
I do not know any teachers happy with their work this year. So many say they used to be delighted to come to work, and since the pandemic, we have been at the tipping point. We need more money for our salaries!
Forty-six percent of teachers felt that the general public respected them and saw them as professionals. Yet, pay is low, and student learning discrepancies are higher than ever after online learning, and much needs to be done to remedy this.
Unsurprisingly, teachers are most likely to seek support from one another. Conversely, they are relatively less likely to seek help from administrators.
Salaries are one of the main reasons so many teachers are dissatisfied. A recent survey found that only twenty-six percent of teachers are paid fairly for their work, down from 35 percent on MetLife’s 2011 survey.
Teachers with three to nine years in the classroom and females are those who say their salaries are unfair. They are the teachers identified as most dissatisfied with their jobs. They will also likely leave the profession in the next two years.
A movement to increase beginning salaries to $60,000 U.S. dollars
Early this year, a proposal started working through the U.S. Congress to increase beginning teacher pay. A proposed $60,000 U.S. is significantly higher than most school districts, with a few exceptions, now offer.
The Teacher Salary Project organization has proposed this as a beginning base salary. They have successfully attracted support from several high-ranking politicians in Washington, D.C., supporting and pushing for it to be passed.
Beyond this base salary being proposed is what will happen to salary adjustments for the 90-95 percent of established teachers. The proposal, if passed, will have to be adapted to fit the rural, urban, and suburban districts across the country.
Important ways to turn the Tsunami back
There is very little written to date to show how to slow down or stop the major drain on the teaching forces that has been taking place. The previous ‘pipeline’ of universities producing the majority of teachers is no longer proving able to do it. The past decade has seen at least a 50 percent drop in the number of teachers entering the field through universities. Some 60+ universities across the U.S. have already dropped teaching degree preparation. Many others are hanging on by a thread.
In the U.S. there are nearly 1,200 community and technical colleges. They are strategically located throughout the country and in the ‘backyard’ of almost every K-12 school district. These colleges were called upon once before to help prepare Baccalaureate Degree graduates in Nursing. This effort cut back the shortages significantly in those state that allowed it.
Community colleges offer the diversity of students that most inner city, suburban, and rural school districts need as teachers for their students. In addition, the cost of four-years of education through these colleges is significantly lower and most of the students can continue to live in their homes. These colleges can also draw in students who are working and/or raising family members to become teachers.
Several other countries also have community and/or technical colleges that could be called upon in the same way. Countries without community and/or technical colleges would need to consider other educational and/or social agency sources. Once they are identified and worked with they can soon become the new pipelines for teacher preparation.
Tsunamis and teaching today
This growing Tsunami – teacher shortages are no longer 1,000 miles offshore. It has reached land in many countries and continued moving further inland! Significant changes in the teaching profession are needed to weaken the Tsunami as it has been growing. These include improved respect for teachers and their work, substantial salary increases, and enhanced support from administrators, governing boards, and parents.
It is time to implement ways that will quickly support the teachers who have remained in place. These teachers have watched while the Tsunami has wiped out much of what makes teaching a highly regarded professional, taking many of their colleagues with it.
It is not too late, but the changes must be made now!