The autumn school term that has just ended in the United States was marked by a shortage of teachers and support staff. The pandemic has heightened the long-running problem – with a huge spike in retirements and resignations.
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In a classroom full of colourful posters, Jennifer Wolfe plays a geography quiz game with her teenage students at Oceanside High School in Long Island, New York.
This is her 25th year in education. She absolutely loves her job, she said – and was given New York state’s “Teacher of the Year” award for 2021 in recognition of her excellence as a social studies teacher and mentoring of fellow educators.
But it has been a particularly exhausting few years for Jennifer and her colleagues. There is a shortage of them in almost every state with teachers citing low pay, overbearing bureaucracy and lack of respect as reasons for their unhappiness.
“I’m exhausted and a little crispy around the edges. It’s really hard to get out of bed sometimes in the morning”, said Jennifer.
“Teachers need time to rejuvenate and are not given that time”, she added. “They don’t need more and different responsibilities.”
This is a common refrain from teachers across the country. The demand-supply ratio has been skewed for several years – but the pandemic has been especially hard. They had to figure out new tools to keep students engaged during online learning and deal with an increased workload.
Lisa Morrison, an arts and communications teacher in the island of Maui in Hawaii, said the pandemic proved to be a breaking point for many.
“People have relied for years on the fact that teachers have a love for teaching and for being with kids in order to make up for poor salary and hard working conditions.
“Now many of them are feeling that’s not enough of a reason to stay.”
The historical reasons for a lack of teachers are complex. Low wages, reduced interest among young people in entering the profession and the high cost of student debt that they have to endure are some of them.
Teachers like Lisa also feel that those in the profession also get a raw deal because it has traditionally been female-centric, and that has “deprofessionalised” pay.
Now administrators are struggling to fill vacancies or even find substitute teachers to fill the gaps. They say they also need other school staff vital to keep the operations going… More Hot News ( BBC Trends )