Every year the number of college students selecting education as a major decreases. Many states are now facing critical teacher shortages. Why?
I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a teacher when I was in 5th grade. My parents were thrilled and remained steadfast in supporting my dream to teach. When I told my high school teachers that I wanted to be a teacher, they encouraged me to consider other career pathways. I was confused.
When I began my education classes at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, I met Sister Marie Xavier Looymans, who will forever in my mind be the most exemplary teacher I ever encountered! Sister Marie Xavier made it very clear that students deserved only the best and most dedicated teachers; she believed teaching was the most important profession one could enter and ensured that we met a high standard. She inspired me and made me feel proud to be a teacher!
Years later, I returned to the College of Notre Dame as an adjunct professor, ready to inspire future teachers! I met many career changers who were returning to college to pursue their dream to teach. As young college students, they had been discouraged by parents who wanted them to get a “real job” or earn “decent money.” Some parents refused to pay for college if they were just going to major in education. These anecdotes startled me. And that was in 1995. Unfortunately, I hear similar stories today.
In 2018, a serious teacher shortage is occurring in our state and many states across the country. If we want to address this shortage, we need to figure out why. Why are fewer people choosing to enter the teaching profession? There are no easy answers to this question, but I can offer a few starting points for discussion:
Does the American public truly respect and revere our teachers? Consider how teachers and our public schools are portrayed in the media. Think about how Americans revere sports heroes, entertainers, or those with the most money. Wealth is often equated with success and prestige in America.
How much is a good teacher worth? Teachers are among the lowest paid professionals in our country. It can be challenging for a starting teacher to afford housing in many communities. And many of our teachers fit the profile in the United Way’s recent report on “Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed” (ALICE) households in Frederick County.
What does a teacher’s job truly entail? Teaching has always been a demanding career. The hours spent planning, grading, continuing professional learning, and supporting extracurricular opportunities for students far exceed the number of actual “working hours.” However, in the last 2 decades, the number of federal and state educational mandates have exploded. Accountability systems have added significant pressure to teachers and schools. Requirements to support non-academic needs have changed the face of education as well.
Teaching is the profession that prepares all other professions. If America cannot produce enough teachers, what does that mean for our country’s future? It is time for a serious conversation about how we can address the teacher shortage.
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