Part 2 of a 2-Part Series
Last month, we took a close look at the teacher shortage that threatens our public schools here in Irvine and throughout California. This time, let’s look at solutions to the teacher shortage — or at least the first steps we should be taking.
Obviously, we have to make a serious commitment to the recruitment — and retention — of a new generation of teachers. Recruiting is one thing; keeping new teachers from quitting and fleeing the profession is something very different. How do we do that?
When I started my teaching career in a parochial school, I was told, “You’ll be overworked and underpaid, and you’ll love every minute of it.” Alas, that was true — for a while. Then, I decided: “I love this, but if I’m going to work this hard, somebody is going to have to pay me to do it.” Today, financial burdens on young teachers have increased tremendously. They need salaries and benefits commensurate with their advanced education.
Improved compensation for new teachers is part of the solution to the teacher shortage. But, perhaps even more important is overcoming the disillusionment that drives away some of our most promising young teachers.
So, how do we keep new teachers in the profession? Respect will go a long way. It’s time to replace partisan political teacher-bashing with a healthy dose of respect for our teachers…and trust in what they do. This means allowing teachers to be creative again. It means replacing top-down decision making with increased teacher involvement in decisions, and allocating ample time for planning. It also means replacing high-stakes, standardized testing with teacher-based evaluation of student progress. And it means allocating resources for staff development, and for mentors and instructional assistants to provide classroom support for new teachers.
In California and across the country, billions of dollars are spent every year to replace promising career educators who leave the profession. Let’s find the ways to re-direct those billions of dollars to teacher support so that our newly trained, enthusiastic teachers want to stay in their profession of first choice.