Where Are the Teachers?
September 27, 2022
Where Are the Teachers?

Teachers continue to leave the profession in droves and I don’t see an end in sight. That means larger classes and teachers who don’t always have the expertise they need to support our youth in the way they deserve.

This week on the podcast, I’m calling you to action! I’m sharing some of the current events and challenges around our present teacher shortage–how it’s impacting schools and children, why it’s happening, and what we can do to prevent it.

It’s time for teachers across the country (and globe!) to stand up for what they know is best: more autonomy in the classroom, fair pay, and the expectation of excellence…not excess and constantly going above and beyond.

Are you on board?

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:08] – Schools aren’t working for students OR teachers
[1:41] – We’re not acknowledging we have a shortage
[2:57] – Seattle school teacher strikes delayed the school year
[3:49] – Unpacking the crisis
[5:00] – No certified math teachers in Bullock County public middle schools
[5:30] – We can’t rely on willpower and pushing through
[6:06] – Teachers don’t get to intentionally design their environment
[6:32] – Work and play need to be optimized in separate spaces
[6:55] – Limit the things that make reaching goals more difficult
[7:48] – Teachers work too many hours
[8:40] – Teachers as heroes myth
[10:22] – Question why we go above and beyond
[11:09] – Where can we start

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at education evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education, evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Schools are not working for many students. You’ve heard me bring up this topic and speak with many experts on what our students need to be ready to learn and to be thriving. And now we’re seeing the schools aren’t working for many teachers to what’s happening, and what are we going to do about it? Let me explore three causes that are jumping out at me as we think about the teacher shortage. First, we aren’t acknowledging that we have a shortage. The great resignation is real, especially for those professions where folks are on the front line serving in person expected to be there. And for less pay than say, those in software or game development. I know I am super thankful for the Teacher Network. Our little micro school did its hiring more from internal referrals than from job postings. People are not applying for teaching positions. My experience aligns with a recent Headhunter report. They’re closely watching many threats to public education, including declining employment. And they say the number of people employed in public schools dropped from almost 8.1 million in March of 2020 to 7.3 million in May. This drop has dire impact, especially in disadvantaged communities, where finding quality educators is often more difficult. And those staying on the job are finding that they may have to fight to get the basics for their students and selves. I live on the outskirts of Seattle, and we watched 50,000 students missed the first five days of school due to Seattle school teachers striking this action aligns with the shortages of teachers and schools around the country. Teachers are increasingly voicing frustration at being underpaid and underappreciated. Teaching in crowded classrooms and intelligent conditions made worse by the COVID 19 pandemic. In Seattle, educators were on the picket lines for days holding up signs that read make mental health a priority. Fundy central supports, and students should be able to see a nurse any school day. These concerns definitely make sense. And the line with what many see as today’s crisis in education.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 3:48
Let’s unpack crisis. Crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger, a time when a difficult or important decision must be made. Sounds like between students not thriving, claiming mental health issues and a lack of future readiness. Our youth are in crisis. Combine this with teachers exhausted not fulfilled and leaving in droves. And we see education is in crisis. To add a further concern. Less students are choosing to go into education with COVID-19, further dissuading them. CNN states that in the fall of 2020 and 2021, about 20% of the institutions surveyed reported the pandemic resulted in a decline of new undergraduate enrollment, and this is by at least 11%. And many of the institutions reported significant declines in the numbers of new graduate students. The impact is often steepest in rural communities for example, in rural Alabama is Black Belt. There were no certified math teachers last year in Bullitt County’s public middle school, this is a crime and our teachers, socio economically, they have to be able to afford college. So we’re losing that diversity by the cost of our colleges. So yes, we have to acknowledge we have a teacher shortage and a crisis. Second, we cannot rely on willpower. We keep thinking that teachers should just push through. But we all know getting enough self discipline to get stuff done is tough. And right now folks don’t have much energy, so pushing through won’t cut it. In fact, Benjamin Hardy addresses this idea in three of his keys to success in his book, willpower doesn’t work, discover the hidden keys to success. Three lessons in particular resonated for me, one for success, we have to intentionally design our environment, instead of worrying about willpower. So intentional design. And right now teachers don’t get to intentionally design, they are being pulled by state testing and pulled by mental health needs, and they don’t get to focus on what would be amazing learning opportunities for each learner. Second lesson, we have to optimize separate spaces for work and play for maximum productivity and fulfillment. Teachers work at school, and then they go home and work some more. Our brains love having that distinction and knowing when we are off so that we can do that active recovery. We know that from neuroscience. Third lesson, we need to quickly and firmly get rid of anything and everything that makes reaching our goals harder and requires willpower to resist. We know that there’s a saying that you have to eat your frog first thing in the morning, you’ve got to get that tough thing out of the way. And we have so many obstacles that keep teachers from focusing on learning. I know that many say teachers get their summers off, and use this as justification to make it sound like teachers are paid as well as other postgraduate trained peers. But this won’t float when teachers have to fight for the resources to serve youth and even strike at the start of the school year. This is not tenable. And that argument does not hold water. Third piece of the puzzle that I want to unpack is the crazy hours, teachers work. We can fight this both as educators and non educators. In a recent post published for truth for teachers. High School teacher Megan Flaherty explains that from college on teachers are told the job can never fit into the traditional workday, and to expect to put in extra hours.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:12
This assumption sets our teachers up to beat themselves up for not working 60 plus hour work weeks. Megan goes on to define three reasons. She believes that we have to work all the time to do our jobs. Well. One, we start teaching in college when there aren’t boundaries between work and life. And we just continue that way of life as professional teachers to we buy into the teachers as heroes myth, and use our martyrdom during the school year to justify our summers off to outsiders. Three, we see teaching as a mission, not a job, and allow the goal of putting students first to mean sacrificing ourselves and our families. And I would add our health. But then Megan goes on to give us hope. Since we educators create this pressure, we can be the ones to change this unrealistic and exhausting norm, we can look for every opportunity to reinforce and congratulate each other for setting boundaries on work. And we can teach new teachers that setting such boundaries is a professional thing to do. We don’t have to buy into the culture of bragging about how many hours we worked. This is unhealthy and unsustainable. Second, together, we can fight this culture of educators working all the time. We need to change the belief that if one of us does less others have to do more. We can really get clear on if facts or beliefs are guiding our choices. If we start talking about the hours we are actually paid to work. It will continue In you, and we can call the rest of the time working as working for free. That’s a slap in the face. I spent six hours this weekend working for free. Ouch. That helps us get into beliefs and facts. These facts can wake us up and help us to draw healthier boundaries. We need to be questioning why we go above and beyond and change this culture, so that teachers don’t have to leave the profession to find a right sized job that allows for wellbeing and that elusive work life balance. Megan also said, we need to redefine our teacher’s goal as excellence, rather than going above and beyond. If this means using our unions, professional organizations and online networks, let’s do it. Let’s normalize excellence rather than excess as the goal. Who lots of good ideas. So what can we do? We are in crisis and something must happen. How about we start by acknowledging that the US education system is in crisis. When we have a humanitarian crisis, we acknowledge it. And we address how bad the situation is. And we invest money and resources in the solution. It’s going to take restructuring and investment to get adequate numbers of qualified educators. In classrooms teaching our children are also going to have to forgive student loan debt for educators who go into the field and say serve our students for three years. We do this in other helping professions, and it’s time to add in our educators. How about we focus on excellence, and add intentionally designed school environments so we can get to that success. Instead of just throwing more spaghetti against the wall and asking teachers to take on more and more, let’s focus in on what we want teachers to do, and take the rest off of their plates. This will help us avoid teacher burnout. And this will allow teachers to do what they’re trained to do create relevant learning opportunities, so that our students are future ready and graduate ready to move ahead as happy contributing members of society. And finally, we have to have the conversations and do the work to make a cultural shift. When software and gaming engineers, and teachers are all with the same four or five years of college education, make the same hourly wage, we will have shifted our culture, to respecting professionals and paying them for the hours they work time for us to take the wellbeing of both our youth and our educators seriously. It’s time for education to evolve. Thank you for joining me today

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 13:16
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit education evolution.org backslash consult for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again for listening. To support the education evolution. Subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it. For more information in shownotes go to education evolution.org education evolution listeners. You are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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