Last week I was leading a training on teacher evaluation with a group of administrators and teachers from a large Chicago suburban high school district. Before the training began, I was talking to several of the participants and the topic of teacher shortage came up. One of the department chairs stated that he and his wife would not allow any of their children to choose education as a college major. They had one child who had graduated from college and was a mechanical engineer, their second child was in college studying to be a computer programmer and the third child was still in high school but considering a career in nursing. Both this department chair and his wife were in the teaching profession.
This week while waiting to speak at a region meeting, I was talking to several superintendents. The topic of teacher shortage came up and one of the superintendents mentioned that he had eight non-licensed teachers in his high school out of a total of 20 teachers. Another mentioned that the reason we have a teacher shortage is the change in the Tier 2 pension provisions that will require teachers to teach until they are 68.
How depressing are these conversations? I believe many teachers come from "teacher families." Their parents and/or grandparents were teachers and they were continuing the family legacy. Pensions! Who goes into teaching thinking about pensions? I certainly did not, and I would guess most other educators did not. However, with the reduction in pension benefits, this fact is certainly being passed on to prospective teachers.
There are other variables that have made teaching a less desirable vocation. The constant criticism of public education by politicians and the media certainly does not help. The accusation that teachers do not work hard because they get three months off in the summer is also a factor. The rise in insubordination by students and by some parents makes teaching in some communities very difficult.
Current politicians and Illinois State Board of Education leaders are considering a variety of proposals to solve this crisis. Solutions range from eliminating the basic skills test, to paid student teaching and forgiveness of college loans. Many possible solutions are being discussed. Personally, I think it may be too late.
Supply and demand usually fix economic problems like teacher shortage in the long term. I have no idea what will solve this issue in the short term. Perception is often reality and the perception of what it takes to be a teacher in today's society is not good.
I do have an idea. Let's pass a law that allows retired teachers and administrators to work full time in public education even after they have retired and are receiving retirement annuities. This law could limit the salaries paid to these retired educators at the beginning teacher salary rate or maybe the average teacher salary in the hiring district. My guess is that many retired teachers between the ages of 55 and 65 would return to the profession to collect this extra benefit in addition to their retirement annuity.
Tip of the Week
I use my Apple Watch not only to monitor my workouts but also to monitor my health. Invest in some type of activity tracker to do the same for you. It will change your life. My daughter and I have a weekly competition of who earns the most fitness points. It motivates both of us to work out. By the way, I am beating her, 3 weeks to 1 week, at this point.