Courtesy of Pexels

The national teacher shortage in the United States has been getting sharper and sharper in recent years. As COVID variants continue to make  working and learning environments unstable at every level, teachers are continually left out in the cold in terms of benefits, and working with a stressed bunch of kids is no help. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves because of burnout from the pandemic and from parents who aren’t able to parent their children regularly under the circumstances. The result has been an even greater increase in teachers leaving the classroom for good, and those who still remain face meager payment in addition to students who might not even be there half the time because of COVID. The U.S. education system has unfortunately always been hostile for teachers, especially nowadays where 20% of the country’s teachers need to work a second job just to make ends meet. The pandemic has only shed even more light on these problems, showing the glaring discrepancies that teachers face in all levels of schooling. If America wants to prevent the educational future of its children from being in jeopardy, the country needs to wise up to the needs of teachers, and fast. 

Though not guilty like the UCs of a blatant lecturer churn that creates immense job instability for lecturers, the public school system does not make conditions easy for teachers at younger levels. Money has been tight for many these last two years, something felt disproportionately by teachers. Across the nation, 94% have to buy the supplies, books and resources that their classrooms need to function, a cost that gets difficult to justify when considering the fact that many teachers don’t even make a living wage. Although California is in second place for paying teachers for their work, only behind New York, expenses for classrooms still add up quickly in addition to the bills teachers must pay to keep themselves afloat. When the math is done, teachers are still getting the shaft in the best-paid states for them to work in.

The risk of COVID only makes things worse. Teachers are around children of all ages every day, and depending on the age and capabilities of these students and how their parents feel about the pandemic, they may or may not be following safety precautions. This results in spreading COVID to their peers and their instructors. And although students can stay home and work on their homework until they feel better, teachers in California only get 10 to 14 days of personal leave, and they can’t even rest well if they need to set up plans for a substitute, take care of their own children or catch up on things they couldn’t do while they were at work. Teaching is a thankless job in so many ways, and the pandemic has only blown open the doors to a slew of more exhausting problems that are driving even the most loyal teachers away from jobs they love. 

If California and indeed the country at large don’t do something to help the people teaching America’s future, it is not far-fetched to suggest that things will look bleak very quickly. If teachers are spread too thin with no benefit, they will quit. Quitting leads to closed schools, and students whose families can’t afford private schools will find themselves without access to a quality, free education. Any number of horrific, dystopian concepts can be conjured up from there. And the solution to preventing this from happening is both quite simple and quite hard — reform the system.

To reform the education system of America, it would be smart to pay teachers a living wage and then some. Their wages have not been adjusted in 20 years, and given the work they do for children all over, they deserve to see money that compensates them for what they do. Allocating money away from military spending and investing it in up-to-date technology for all schools, the fixing of buildings and the purchasing of classroom necessities isn’t even a question at this point but a requirement. A special emphasis should be put on communities of color and inner-city schools where students and teachers are so often ignored in favor of wealthier communities. And this isn’t even to mention the fixing of the curriculum so that students can be taught skills that interest them and are necessary for today’s world, like coding, robotics and teamwork.

Although money won’t solve all problems, at least making teaching a position that is sustainable for those who work in the profession will go a long way to ensuring the teaching shortage becomes less severe across the country. Offering teachers paid time off and having paid counselors, social workers and other supportive roles on staff so teachers don’t have to spread themselves too thin could make a world of difference in this new world we’re still navigating. Building new classrooms and allowing teachers to do what they do best will ensure that America’s future leaders will continue to be educated freely.

Facebook Comments