Since before I started my teaching career, people have been talking about a teacher shortage. Most often, however, the lack of qualified teachers has been concentrated in three areas: math, science and special ed. The overly large system I work for announced they had such a problem back in November and now it seems that Chicago is having the same difficulty finding teachers in these areas.
Some people suggest that making it easier for people to switch careers into teaching would solve the problem. Maybe. Most of the switchers we work with in our beginning teacher training program are turning into good teachers. We’ve also had a fair number, however, who have left in the middle of the year, often out of frustration that the realities of the classroom didn’t match their expectations. I also suspect that when the economy finally picks up, the pool of people wanting to change careers will dry up, with many recent switchers leaving to return to the business world.
Any business person will tell you that high turnover rates of personnel is not good for business. It’s also not good for education and that’s the real problem here.
"The real issue is not getting teachers into schools, it’s keeping them," said Kathleen Fulton of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. "There is data that teachers are less well-prepared, they don’t stay as long, and all the money spent on recruitment goes back out the window. Content knowledge is important, but knowledge of teaching is extremely important, too."
As long as we don’t put some real time, effort and – yes – money into teacher training and support programs embedded in schools, the teacher shortage, especially in math, science and special ed, will continue to make news. On the bright side, as a math teacher, I’ll never have to worry about a job.