We are at a crossroad in education. Understaffing in some schools has been an issue for years, but with the pandemic – the problem has been magnified.
One teacher walking out of a building is a huge deal; finding someone with the skill set, personality, and subject matter to apply, show compassion, empathy, teach, care, love, support, nurture, and challenge students…
Of government employment, educators are having to work longer than most other government positions. In Ohio, it was possible to retire at any age with 30 years experience, over time it has changed to 35 years and 60 where burnout is happening in as short as five years. Historically, 30% of educators have left the field within the first five years; with the pandemic, this number will automatically increase.
Administrators and teachers are exhausted, spent, and are beyond tired. At the start of covid, educators went from teaching in class to going remote in a matter of days and from sharing chromebooks in classrooms to sending them home with no training, preparation, and did it filled with optimism, hope, and support 24/7 for students and families.
Districts scrambled to figure out a plan in a few days; wifi, meal plans, communication, and the list goes on.
Those in education were regarded as hero’s – hard workers, storm troopers for students and public hero’s… fast forward a year and educators are now the enemy. They are not working to support students, are not understanding, and are being hard on students. Suspension rates are excessive, no tolerance, and why is this happening?
There is not a written manual on how to deal with trauma, how to deal with a pandemic, how to deal with everything happening at this moment in time. Schools, educators, parents are all trying. There is no a clear cut answer, but what is known, is that these educators .. every single day pour their heart and soul in helping students and working to meet their goals and educational paths. Collaboration between home and family has to be the priority. Mental health problems have been made more apparent and this is now being seen in schools, at home, and it needs to be addressed.
Schools and districts are seeing covid in their buildings and among their staff. With no subs, buildings are splitting classes, sending students to cafeteria or auditoriums for a place to educate when there are no staff to teach them. Some buildings are closing and going remote. It has been reported that some buildings has as many as 50% of staff calling in sick in some states and in some buildings.
So what happens when there are no staff.. classes are split and students are placed with a teacher they don’t have and that teacher has their own class and a few extra students or if a teacher is on plan period – they are paid to cover for the teacher out, and these teachers covering become increasingly tired; if all teachers are covering, administrators are covering any uncovered classes in a large spaces.
So the cycle starts.. sick teacher, coverage, now covering teacher is tired / worn down, and now out. Survival mode is the general consensus.
In Ohio, recently enacted legislation allowing for 18 year olds to be substitute teachers – currently sub teachers need to hold a 4 year degree in some area.
I could list all the reasons that having an 18 year old to substitute teach is a terrible idea, but I will see that for another blog article.
Chicago and San Francisco Teacher Unions are taking on covid procedures, safety, and guidelines. School has been interrupted in these areas with no class, some class, and some remote. Stay tuned.
Moving forward, what will next school year look like. How many teachers after two years of covid will return? How many college students will change their major? There are no answers officially, but 50% of educators who have been in asked in 2 different research studies have stated that they have considered other options for next year.
There is a teacher shortage already, evident with the lack of subs. If less people get into teaching, then class sizes go up, quality of instruction lacks and human interaction and relationships suffer.
This crisis is at the beginning and unless major reform, support, or solutions happen – it is going to be a problem. This rat race is not sustainable. There is no “right answer” –
What do educators need: they need your support, your help, and to actively help your child and listen to what they are saying. When a teacher makes the call about your child, discuss with your child and support the school, and most of all, know that no matter what – schools and educators want the best for kids.
As you watch the news and covid numbers are higher than they were in the height of the pandemic, make backup plans in case schools close or go remote for a day or a week or longer. Remember patience, kindness, and understanding especially when making calls into schools. Everyone wants what is best for students.
Before more legislation happens or more time is added to educators before they can retire, it should be mandatory that legislators must spend at least a year in public education and I can guarantee that there would be reform.
Stay tuned & Thanks for reading,