It’s Teacher Appreciation Week across the country, and many local schools and parents showered educators with tokens to demonstrate their gratitude for all they do on a daily basis.
These well-intentioned efforts seem to be appreciated by teachers who are in the last month of a long school year. It’s important to demonstrate support and thankfulness to our educators at all times but especially on designated weeks designed just for showing appreciation. It’s particularly critical at this point in the current work climate.
As is the case in law enforcement and medicine (specifically nursing), education is experiencing a teacher shortage. Colleges and universities are recording major declines in education majors and existing teachers are opting for early retirement. This trend should be concerning. Competition is intense for teachers currently with school systems getting strategic to land qualified young teachers straight out of college to address vacancies.
It’s a national problem. Approximately 44% of public schools reported at least one teaching vacancy in a March report, half of which are due to resignations. Additionally, a poll by the National Education Association released in February showed 55% of educators are ready to leave the profession. The pandemic is surely to blame as teachers face mounting pressure to catch their students up to norms while facing demands from standardized testing, which seems intended to make them look like they are doing wrong by their kids as preparation time is down.
In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, Tracey A. Lucas, assistant dean of education, chair of the education department and coordinator of the Master of Science in Teaching at McDaniel College, wrote, “While I applaud Maryland for trying to address the teacher need by creating the ‘Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,’ which outlines reforms and teacher improvement efforts, including a higher minimum salary of $60,000 a year, there are larger issues looming than just a higher beginning teacher salary that I am afraid are being overlooked. … The bottom line is that we need to make changes in how we prepare and treat teachers. Without a definitive transformation in the public mindset about education, … and ensuring that students can complete teacher education programs in four years, we will not be able to generate enough interest in the profession in order to have high quality teachers in every classroom.”
A reinvention of the profession is needed. Finances is one thing and existing teachers in most areas – as much as 6% in Worcester County this year – are seeing annual raises, but there will need to be significant changes to affect the generational trend away from returning to the classrooms in favor of other industries.