Teacher Shortage vs. Teacher Retention
Updated: Apr 14
It has been a while since I have written anything new in this blog. Much of this was due to transitions within my career and the onset of watching Covid stronghold the globe. The effects of the global pandemic are far and wide for certain, however I believe we will be looking at a much different transition within the public sector of education, or at least I hope this is the beginning of an impetus for change.
For years, in Michigan especially, we have spoken of a grand shortage of teachers. Much of this is blamed on less students going into the teacher preparation programs within our colleges and universities. While it is true that fewer students are beginning these programs, that is an effect rather than a cause in my opinion and additionally we also are losing many people who are entering the profession due to burn-out early in their career.
Many people who choose to pursue a degree in education find themselves saddled with debt that their field of work out of college will not afford the option to pay back and survive without a second or third job. I can personally attest to this experience. In addition to being a Senior Music Education student at EMU in 2011, I was also working full time for Apple (who was wonderfully accommodating with my scheduling needs) and additionally had a newborn daughter whom I was also tasked with taking care of. I graduated and was fortunate to find a teaching job, however still maintained working an addition 30-35 hours per week with Apple for the first 4 years of my career in order to provide for my family. Should one really have to engage in a nearly 80 hour work week to survive? The answer is no.
This is a money issue that needs to be addressed quickly. New professionals in the workforce should be honing their craft and pursuing things to make them the best person/teacher they can be for their students. As these eager younger teachers assimilate into the workforce and see what is really in front of them and realize that the pay does not afford the ability—in many cases—to even move out of their parents home and be independent, they chose others avenues of work resulting in a field lacking highly engaged/highly qualified individuals.
While I sit nearing the end of what seems like the longest school year in my ten year career, I have no regrets about the profession I have chosen and the countless lives I have impacted, many of who also have had a lasting impact on me, I also know that in a system rooted in tradition we are at a point where fresh ideas and major change are long overdue. Until we address these issues (using people who are rooted within the confines of our current classrooms encompassing all SES settings, representing all community settings (suburban, rural, and urban) and the people that exist within them, our public education system will continue to be a political nightmare.
I know I have personally used this last year to reflect on my teaching practices and to collaborate with colleagues and friends while utilizing student voice to inform changes to result in a better educational experience for ALL students. It's time everyone advocated for some positive change and additionally empowered teachers to take the lead. I believe that as this happens the result will be a more powerful workforce that attracts high level talent and encourages retention within the field as respected members of society.