Barbara A. Sposet, Ph.D., OFLA Teacher Education and Licensure Committee Chair
Baldwin Wallace University
After a year of sharing facts, reasons for and possible solutions to the national teacher shortage (with foreign languages being among the top five shortage areas), the Interim Dean for our School of Education shared with the faculty an alarming study reported in the University of Miami’s (Ohio) School of Education, Health and Safety newsletter in mid-April of 2019 entitled “ The Next Big Problem in Education.” (submitted by James M. Loy, Miami University). “Listen,” says Meredith Wronowski, Miami University visiting assistant professor of educational leadership. “We are at a dangerous point in our country, of not having an effective teacher corps, if we don’t do something.”
The same problems this writer has stated in previous articles about the teacher shortage –
frustration with national and local expectations, lack of respect and support for teachers in the classroom – are resulting in an increase in teachers leaving the classroom after 5 years. As a result, teachers aren’t staying long enough to become ‘great’ teachers, thus eroding the profession. (Wronowski).
“Teacher de-professionalization and demoralization has significantly increased from the 1990s to 2012, the height of NCLB (No Child Left Behind),” Wronowski says. “And those perceptions are significantly linked to turnover.” The teachers most affected are typically newer, novice teachers, as well as those in high-needs schools. On the other hand, older more veteran teachers are less likely to feel the impact of policy-related testing and accountability pressures. By assuming leadership roles in their building (due to their longer tenure with a district), the 15-year teacher may feel he/she can actually work on resolving the problem, Wronowski adds.
In sum, the area of concern is two-fold: the younger teachers quits after five years and is replaced with a brand-new teacher who also quits. In the end, Wronowski explains, the profession is losing a valuable group of teachers – the mid-to-late career experienced teacher at the height of their capabilities. Her research indicates that over the last 10 years, the average years of professional experience among U.S. teachers has dwindled from nearly 16 years of experience down to only seven.
So unless something changes, Wronowski states, the future effectiveness of America’s teaching corps may be in question, particularly if the current pressures of testing and accountability continue unabated.
So what actions can we take on a local level to mitigate the situation?. Here are my suggestions:
1. Be a role model for the newly-hired teacher. Don’t talk negatively about the profession
even on your ‘worst day.’ Interact positively with all members of your department.
2. Befriend the new teacher. Share your materials with him/her. Go out for coffee just to
socialize. Ensure that he/she knows their ideas are always welcome. Provide constructive
feedback when asked.
3. Talk about your concerns with your elected officials including your school board. Invite a
city official to visit your classroom to see a ‘real teacher in action.’ Ask him/her to share
your concerns and his/her observations with another official on the state level.
4. Take time for yourself. Burnout will always happen when one places their job ahead of
one’s personal life. We all need some R&R!
5. Be a realist. No one can be 100% perfect 100% of the time. Hopefully you can finish each day by saying to yourself: “I gave my best to my students!”