It’s that time of year when everyone is posting the cute little teacher baskets for Valentine’s Day. The baskets are great, but with the current state of teaching, let’s get them what they really want: real support.
The current teacher shortage is something that should scare all of us. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that most mothers are not prepared to be teachers and mothers at the same time. We need teachers! If the teacher shortage continues, that means there are going to be more kids per class, fewer days of school, and kids are not going to get the kind of educational support they need to learn and grow. And that means parents are going to have to pick up the slack from school at home themselves.
As one educational researcher at The RAND Corporation found, “This is a five-alarm crisis. We are facing an exodus as more than half our nation’s teachers and other school staff (55%) are now indicating they’ll be leaving education sooner than planned.” Even before the pandemic, education programs were training far fewer teachers than we need; there are even fewer now post-pandemic. And only 10% of teachers would recommend teaching to a young person.
As a country, we must come to the realization that there is no army of trained educators waiting in the wings to take over the positions that are left vacant from the mass exodus of current educational professionals due to a lack of basic support.
The RAND study also found that teachers are much more likely to experience stress and depression than the adult population as a whole. Some of those sources of stress include:
- Student behavior and the lack of support they get surrounding it.
- Burnout from being overworked from lack of substitutes, counselors, psychologists, paraeducators, and lunch/recess staff.
- Lack of pay and resources. (As evidenced by the plethora of “clear the lists” initiatives, most teachers are not provided with adequate materials to do their jobs.)
If we want to slow the exit of teachers, we must act now. In search of examples of how we could support teachers, I went to teachers themselves. Here are some of their answers.
- Follow and support your local, state, and national teachers’ unions to find out what you can do to help.
- Support by voting for policies that help teachers and schools flourish.
- Advocate for smaller class sizes. This is huge!
- Vote for school board members that support and trust teachers. Or if you can do so, run yourself!
- The small gestures such as a kind email, a donation to a program, or any way you can show you are a partner in the process really make a difference. It doesn’t have to be a gift, just volunteering time and feeling seen means the world some days. It’s nice to get that parent validation from time to time.
- Push for and support initiatives that make sure teachers get proper cost of living pay adjustments, and that increase budgets for supplies so that teachers are not spending their own money or relying on “clear the lists” for classroom supplies.
- When you can help your child’s teachers with items from their lists. If you are looking for holiday teacher gift ideas, items off their list are a great option.
- Teach your children to respect their teachers, and others for that matter. Do not speak poorly of teachers or others in front of your children, or on social media.
- Push for easier and clearer pathways to remove students who constantly disrupt the learning process for other students, and clear pathways for those students to earn a return to the classroom as they learn the behavioral and social skills to do so.
- Stop micromanaging teachers – through legislation, policies or otherwise. The additional work it creates takes away the time they could be using to better serve the students themselves.
- If your school district has a foundation, donate to it if you are able. Teachers can submit grant proposals to the foundation to get basic supplies or fun extras that get kids more involved in learning.
As you can see, large or small there are many things we can do to show teachers that they are supported and appreciated. If more of us participate in these acts of kindness, maybe we can slow the trend and keep more teachers doing what they love, educating and caring for our children.