Remember when our greatest stress was the shortage of substitutes? How we would wring our hands as we tried to manage empty classrooms during a teacher’s absence. Slowly, we began to develop systems to deal with the issue. Splitting classes, instructional coaches filling the vacancy, rotating a teacher through each hour of the day…no need to panic—we can handle this.
Fast forward to the day — a teacher sent a text message to indicate they would not return the next day.
Hire another teacher? Not possible when there are zero applicants in the system.
Reach out to Teach for America? Our last two TFA teachers did not complete their “commitment.”
Secure a long-term sub? Sure, we can do that, and we will need to arrange: mentoring, instructional coach support, send home parent letter, continue to look for a teacher to hire, talk to students and assure them that we will find another teacher.
Across town, a 7th– grade math class, period 5, 27 students, had an administrator delivering the same “We will find another teacher” message. What is the impact on a student who learns their teacher has left… before the last day of school?
A student in that 7th-grade math classroom summarizes the impact in one word, “betrayal.” Betrayal? Yes, the student expands, “… it is like he said he was there for all of us and then he just left. In return, we got this terrible teacher who didn’t care about our well-being at all.”
Welcome to Arizona. Arizona has a teacher shortage, a significant one, exacerbated by a decade of budget cuts.
As of December 2017, the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association surveyed 172 school districts and charter schools that indicate 63% of teaching positions are vacant or filled by teachers that do not meet standard teaching requirements. In the districts surveyed, 866 teachers have resigned or abandoned their teacher position since the start of the school year.
Our teacher shortage is no longer the exception, but now that norm.
Welcome to my school district. During the last five years, my small, urban, K-8 school district has experienced turnover rates ranging from 17-38 percent. Districts like mine find themselves at a crossroads: Anyone Can Teach or Teaching is a Profession. My district has chosen Teaching is a Profession. This choice has not been easy. We wrestle with questions that stretch our beliefs. Do we increase class sizes? Do we hire the only applicant for a teaching position with the full knowledge that the support for this one teacher will drain support from other teachers?
Our choice, our commitment to our students, comes at a cost.
Four years ago, my district invested in our students by creating a position focused on Teacher Retention. Serving in that role, we launched a mentoring and induction program for all new teachers to our district. We invested in our instructional teacher leaders through professional learning to build their capacity to support adult learners. We placed a stake in the ground that if you stayed in our district, if you made our district your professional home, we would provide every support possible for you to become a National Board Certified Teacher.
Why? Because the Anyone Can Teach road does not serve our students well. That is a belief paramount to my moral purpose as an educator. Now, more than ever, the current demands of the classroom prove one thing:
We need teachers with the highest degrees of knowledge, skills, and sound dispositions. Teachers must possess more than pedagogical content knowledge; They must also hone their craft to include trauma- sensitive teaching.
While we continue to forge ahead, fully aware of the realities of student betrayal and the lure of the Anyone Can Teach mindset, let us stay mindful that our students are still counting on us.
Our students need us to serve them well.
Our students deserve teachers who represent the profession of teaching.
Daniela’s post is part of a roundtable blogging discussion sharing educators’ stories on our nation’s teacher shortage. We want to hear your thoughts! Join the conversation by commenting on and sharing this blog and by reading the other blogs in this series. Follow CTQ on Facebook and Twitter to see when each new blog is posted and use #CTQCollab to join the discussion on social media.