At the end of last school year, we all contemplated our future careers in education. My friends and I joked about all the other jobs our teaching skills could be used for and clicked through the want ads when they popped up, just to see what was out there. We knew summer was coming and we could make it work until we got those 2 months off to recharge our batteries and relight our spark for school.
I hoped that summer was the reset we all needed, but now that school has started again, those other careers are still calling to my friends. Job searching started as a fun distraction after a tough day, but has now become a serious question: am I going to continue my teaching career?
I am only in my 10th year, but I too ask myself this question a lot. Will I be able to stay in teaching long enough to one day retire from it? It is a tough question to answer. I love my students and the content I get to teach; it is everything else about my job that seems too much to handle most days. We already have a teacher shortage in this state, so, what happens when those want ad searches turn into applications and interviews and more teachers leaving their classrooms?
Last year, according to the Department of Education, “… one in every twenty district classrooms had an emergency teacher, emergency substitute, or other less well prepared and inexperienced instructors.” This is obviously not an ideal situation, and if more teachers start to leave, this statistic will only grow, leaving our students without the quality educators they deserve. Less experienced teachers means less learning for our students, and they deserve the best we can give them.
Losing teachers in specialized programs like CTE, bilingual programs, or reading specialists hurt our students even more; those positions are harder to fill with qualified candidates. These are also the teachers our students need the most for expertise in their future careers or support for our special education students.
Finally, the loss of our experienced teachers will be a detriment to the future teachers in our state. Without those mentors, student teachers will go without the wisdom of years of teaching experience. Our new teachers will lose leaders in their department and colleagues to lean on for guidance. My teacher friends are the best part about my job, and I will be sad if I start losing them to other careers.
The loss of good teachers is a loss to all of us in the school community, so what is the solution? Fully funding our public schools is always my answer. Better teacher salaries will keep us around longer (because a livable wage is something we all need). Smaller class sizes will let us give our students more personalized attention and give us more time to grade and prep. Providing funding for books, supplies, and technology can help us keep teaching relevant skills in the 21st century. But above all else, keeping those great teachers teaching will help make our schools a better place for our students.
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