The most significant contribution that an administrator can make to the teaching profession is to place the most capable and best teachers in the classroom in front of students. Research clearly states that highly effective teachers have the greatest impact on student learning.
With that said, it is alarming to see the decline in the number of applicants for teaching positions during the past couple of years. From what I anticipate, the trend will continue and as a result, Oklahoma is in the midst of a major crisis.
How have we arrived at this crisis and what is the solution? There’s no question that educators are feeling the increased stress and pressure for public schools to perform well on high stakes testing. Just look at the turnover in schools during recent years. Teachers are frustrated from the lack of respect that public education sometimes receives. In addition, the increased workload of doing more with less, combined with the loss of autonomy and control of the curriculum have taken away some of the enjoyment of being a professional educator. The lack of quality applicants that are now available to replace the teachers that have retired is clearly visible. More people are leaving the profession than entering, and there appears to be no short-term solution in sight. Keeping our experienced teachers motivated, excited, and committed to a longer career can only offset the teacher shortage temporarily. Compensation for teachers must be addressed by the legislature. Showcasing the success stories from our local schools in the media and encouraging our young adults to become a teacher could also help offset this problem to a degree.
However, the culture of the teaching profession must also change in order to begin to attract and retain the very best and brightest people into this profession. Regardless of the person that serves in this position, the State Superintendent must be our strongest advocate for public education. It’s imperative that the State Superintendent is a servant leader and one that will respectfully embrace constructive dialogue with stakeholders with the process and implementation phases of the new reform initiatives. Furthermore, the State Superintendent must fight vigorously for additional revenue for public education so that our schools will have the necessary resources to address the many challenges that exist. In my personal opinion, without changing the culture, the teacher shortage will continue and the pool of quality applicants will be limited.
Together, let’s stand united to resolve the teacher shortage crisis. Our students deserve the best!