Possible Solutions to the Teacher Shortage
The teacher shortage has been identified as a problem. As a current classroom teacher I have shared some of the reasons teachers leave the field as well as why potential educators change their plans from becoming a teacher.
While there is no quick fix, I do believe there are steps our lawmakers and policy makers can do to support the vast responsibilities facing the classroom teacher. Better pay is always a factor but since education already receives a major percentage of the state budget, and there are just so many dollars for all our needs, teacher pay can never be what a teacher is worth.
I do believe that pay is one important component and a priority with all school districts is to be good stewards of tax dollars so that every extra penny can go to the classroom. Step increases need to always be budgeted and other options available.
Flexibility in hiring policies is one solution that can help. School districts should have employment policies in place that allow young teachers with a family to teach part time with benefits as well allowing retirees to teach part time. This allows a quality teacher to be in the classroom and it is a win-win situation.
Another solution is to ensure a safe and secure teaching environment. I know that safety drills are required by our state and that districts have School Resource Officers in place. These are all well and good but there may be more we can do to help. We need access to mental health workers within our schools that can work with guidance counselors to help identify bullying problems. The classroom teacher often feels this worry and stress as do our fine principals. This adds one more stress to the job.
Teachers need strong and concise behavioral policies in place. In some districts there may be inconsistencies and teachers are sometimes unable to teach for the minor disruptions that take time from teaching and learning. Some districts do have these in place and have hired behavioral specialists. Expectation must be set so that all students can learn. Nothing frustrates a good teacher more than being unable to teach due to classroom disruptions. Good principals know and do this.
A major solution must be found for the fact that teachers are often accountable for circumstances over which they have no control. Public teachers must be able to teach gifted, standard and special needs children. We need a method to evaluate and assess student learning in a way that does not overburden students and teachers with testing. I know this must come from state and federal regulations but the fight needs to start at the local level. Teachers need a voice.
The teacher evaluation process is changed and re-evaluated way too often and this causes many teachers great stress. Some feel that they must prove their value and their worth over and over. Whatever process is used, teachers need to have direct input.
Remember, teachers are some of our greatest heroes. They have the future of our nation in their hands.
However, we can relieve the stress a teacher feels, we need to do it.
Jan Hammond is a member of Lexington-Richland 5 School Board and a middle school teacher in Lexington District 2