It’s no secret teaching is a tough gig. No potential future teacher goes into college, thinking, “Hey, I’ll choose teaching. That’s an easy, well-paid job!” We’ve known for eons that teaching is challenging and won’t make anyone rich. However, potential and current educators are finally saying “enough!” and we’re in the midst of a serious teacher shortage. Significant changes are needed to stop teacher burnout and entice new teachers to join (and stay in) the field.
Here are 9 crucial changes needed to reduce teacher burnout, and stop the teacher shortage.
1. Make teacher salary more competitive.
Teachers must earn bachelor’s degrees at minimum to obtain a teaching position, which is a big “duh,” but in some places, master’s degrees are required. Comparable fields that require the same amount of schooling pay considerably far more than teaching. According to Money.com, teachers earn 18.7% less than workers in comparable fields. If you need money to live (spoiler alert: you do), this isn’t good news. Why get a teaching degree when you can put in the same time and effort in another field and make significantly more money?
2. Help teachers eliminate student loan debt.
Speaking of salary, a good chunk of it goes to paying off student loan debt. Unless you’re somehow magical (if so, please teach us your ways, sensei) or you received a large inheritance, most people need to take out student loans to attend college, especially when getting advanced degrees. Depending on how much of your schooling you had to finance, beginning teacher salaries often don’t support individuals paying back their loans
3. Create a culture that makes it acceptable for teachers to only work contract hours.
In case anyone was still confused, teachers DO NOT just work from 9 to 3 or whatever hours the students attend school. Lesson plans, prepared materials, and graded work doesn’t just magically land on teacher desks each day. Most of that is done on evenings, weekends, and school breaks. Teachers who try to create boundaries and only work their contracted hours are often shamed. The workload and actual working hours required to manage that load needs to be overhauled from the top or teacher burnout will continue.
4. Get rid of unrealistic pressure on teachers.
Not only do teachers work crazy hours attempting to complete the most fundamental aspects of their job, but more to-dos are also added yearly. Just when you think you have a sound multi-tasking system that just barely keeps your head above water, a new task is added, and back to drowning you go. And that’s without the added pressure and responsibility of pandemic teaching.
5. Show teachers more respect.
Oh, the disrespect. It comes from every angle, and it’s relentless and suffocating. In what other career do highly qualified individuals have their ability to do their jobs questioned and nitpicked daily by laypeople who have not one iota of what it takes to teach? OK, so there are other professions, but they get paid enough to make up for the disrespect.
6. Mentor and support new teachers.
Often new teachers are thrown into the ring with very little to no help from mentors or administration. Sure, we learn the concepts, theories, and best-case scenarios in school, but teacher college doesn’t prepare for the utter insanity that is teaching. New teachers are much more likely to make it the first year when they have someone checking in on them regularly with words of encouragement and advice about what to do when a student cuts their hair off during that cute art project you just knew would be a total hit.
7. Allow teachers to focus on teaching instead of discipline and safety concerns.
From writing profanity on the whiteboard for the teacher to find after a sub day to actual dangerous situations, teaching at times is 90% behavior management and 10% actual teaching. When there isn’t adequate support coming from school admin and parents at home, teachers are left to handle situations that are 100% outside of our paygrade.
8. Administrators need to take a hard look at their role in the teacher shortage.
Whether a teacher makes it the first few years is largely dependent on their administration. If admins are supportive, handle discipline issues appropriately, and lay off as much as possible with the micromanagement, new teachers (and experienced ones, too) are less likely to leave the profession screaming.
9. Let teachers just teach.
Imagine making the salary teachers do and ONLY needing to teach. Teacher pay would ALMOST match teacher duties. But no, teachers are now, along with being teachers, counselors, social workers, custodians, doctors, foster parents, and hostage negotiators. The demands and responsibilities of teachers are too demanding even for the most seasoned, hardened educator. Now imagine a brand new, unsuspecting teacher being tasked with curing all of society’s ills. It’s a load to have for many teachers to carry for long.
Teachers have a passion for what they do. and want to make a difference in their students’ lives. However, teachers deserve fair wages, support, and respect in line with what other professionals receive. Until that changes, the teacher shortage is likely to worsen.