The National Teacher Shortage
By: Bella Mendoza
With extremely low wages combined with a lack of individuals aspiring to become teachers, schools are facing a shortage of 300,000 teachers across the country. States and local officials are attempting to develop creative ideas to address this problem before school starts this fall – In Arizona, the state is no longer requiring bachelor’s degrees to teach; in Florida military veterans, with no teaching experiences, will be allowed to lead classrooms, and New Jersey districts are obtaining virtual teachers to instruct classrooms. Attempting to convince those who are not qualified to teach is a dangerous strategy for providing students a quality education and can lead to major disruptions in students' learning progress. Despite all the initiatives to encourage individuals to become instructors, few are jumping at the opportunity.
With a profession that, for the most part, requires an advanced degree, teachers are incredibly underpaid. The average starting teacher salary is $39,000 a year which is 28% lower than average salary of a full-time, year-round employee. Some districts, however, are increasing their teacher’s salary to try to combat this shortage. New Mexico districts are now offering a starting pay ranging between $50,000 to $70,000 a year, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the state would add $800 million to raise the starting salary for teachers to $47,000, and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is raising teachers' salaries by at least $5,100.
Although there is no doubt that teachers are instrumental to society and the advancement of future generations, it is believed that the cons of being a teacher outweigh the pros. Long hours combined with chaotic working conditions create burn out, leading to teachers leaving the field and seeking employment elsewhere.
Being a teacher in 2022 is not an easy job. Teachers are forced to go above and beyond their role of educator and act as therapists, behavioral specialists, and more to students. Schools constantly lack resources to support teachers, forcing them to dip into their already small salary and provide their classroom with their essential equipment: pens, markers, paper, glue, ect. Along with this, oftentimes schools administration, parents, and teachers do not see eye to eye. The lack of good communication can be extremely frustrating as unannounced constructive criticism from someone who doesn't teach can be disheartening, disruptive, and completely unhelpful.
This teaching shortage is nothing new. Over the last 10 years, there has been a 35% decrease seen in teaching enrollment programs across the nation which has since been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During remote learning, teachers were expected to go above and beyond for their students, altering their curriculum to fit the needs of their students all while ensuring they receive the proper education they need in the midst of a pandemic. During remote learning, children lacked the environment needed to learn everyday skills, such as socialization, problem solving, and teamwork. This has led to extreme behavioral problems in school children, putting a bigger burden on teachers to play catch-up.
The lack of teachers is detrimental to students as many districts will be faced with resorting to long-term substitutes, cutting classes, and increasing class size to accommodate these changes. With larger classrooms, teachers do not have the ability to give their students as much individualized attention as needed, leading some to fall through the cracks.
Despite these hardships that teachers experience, society would not be the same without them. They are responsible for the next generation and encourage children to pursue their dreams, ensuring them that nothing is impossible. Teachers do not go into the education field for the salary, they enter this field for the fulfillment of seeing their students grow, to help shape the minds of tomorrow, and to inspire individuals to find their passions. Although money may not be fueling their fire, it is instrumental that we, as a society, begin to recognize the importance of teachers and pay them like a vital part of our community.