Indiana is in the midst of its worst teacher shortage in the last seven years, according to the Tribune-Star.
Indiana is not alone in this issue — schools across the country report staff shortages in all positions, according to NBC News. In the last few months, the “Great Resignation” has impacted many professions, leaving businesses short-staffed. Beyond restaurants and office buildings, the Great Resignation has hit schools hard.
Jill Shedd, IU’s assistant dean for teacher education, said teachers may be leaving due to challenges created by COVID-19.
Shedd said one of the most difficult new challenges is being cognizant of heightened student stress. Students have been isolated due to the pandemic, and some may be suffering personal loss, Shedd said.
Shedd said despite these stresses, there are some silver linings she thinks will work out in the profession’s favor.
“There’s been a heightened respect for what teachers do,” she said. “I think people have a greater appreciation for the responsibilities, for the demands of the work and in how rewarding it can be, so I think we have a heightened interest in the career.”
Some college students are deterred from pursuing the profession due to teachers’ salaries, Shedd said. However, she said Indiana teacher salaries are improving based on funding from the state and the federal government.
In the meantime, the IU School of Education has tried to combat teacher shortages by recruiting education majors from high schools across the state, Shedd said. On campus, the School of Education is working with the math department to encourage math majors to become teachers.
Shedd said the School of Education also partners with Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, allowing students to earn a two-year associate degree at Ivy Tech and then transfer to IU to spend the next two years completing a bachelor’s deegree in education.
Jeffrey Anderson, associate dean for undergraduate education, said he foresees growing teacher shortages in the future, whether that’s fewer people going into the profession or more teachers leaving the classroom earlier than they intended.
He said over the last decade there has been both retention and recruitment issues in teaching. For that reason, there are state-sponsored programs creating multiple education pathways to teaching for people with bachelor’s degrees, such as the accelerated Transition to Teaching program.
“What’s kind of cool about that program is you can also get hired while you’re in the program as a teacher,” he said.
Anderson said aspiring teachers should be careful with shorter, fast track programs. Some are so short that they do not properly prepare future teachers to understand their content and their students, Anderson said.
“The data suggests that if you’re not properly prepared to be a teacher, you’re going to wash out much quicker,” he said.
Anderson said the School of Education is working on getting approval for a minor in teacher education so teaching can be an option for students of a variety of majors.
Michele Moore, a former Metropolitan School District of Martinsville superintendent and visiting clinical assistant professor, said she thinks some teachers are leaving due to the demands of e-learning. It’s even more difficult when teachers also have to teach hybrid classes, with some of their students online and some in person, she said.
Moore said proactive school districts should set the curriculum, but then allow teachers to decide the most effective way to teach the content.
“Teacher job satisfaction is very nuanced,” she said. “Empowering teachers to decide how they deliver the instruction is going to be a key to keeping teachers in the field moving forward.”
Moore said for recruitment in public schools, it’s not all about pay, but career growth.
“I’ve seen a lot of high-performing districts where it’s about empowering teachers and providing career and leadership paths for them,” she said.