Over the past few years, the world has had to adapt to face the constant threats of COVID-19 Similar to many fields, the pandemic has had a harmful effect on the teaching industry. As we slowly can return to in-person learning, after a long two years of switching from online, many schools are experiencing teacher absences and shortages as the people fear contracting the disease, and want out of the teaching field after the past strenuous years.
Aspiring educators have been driven away from the field as the pandemic added to the already growing list of the disadvantages of becoming a teacher. In the U.S., the field found it hard to attract new recruits as the job promised low pay with high stress, leaving educators feeling unappreciated and disregarded. The National Education Association found that the average annual salary for teachers during the 2020-2021 school year was around $65,000, with some as low as $50,000, and others on the higher end at $85,000.
Additionally, there are fewer education programmes offered in universities and colleges as a scarce amount of students enroll to become a teacher. Oklahoma City University began suspending programs from 2020, as the enrollment numbers dropped drastically. The teacher crisis in the US only has been spotlighted during the pandemic, but many of these concerns have been prevalent for the past decade.
A current Northern California student-teacher, Priscilla, has expressed her concerns about how tasking being a teacher in today’s day and age. While the excitement to return to in-person learning is prevalent, she communicated that a lot of the time is spent trying to engage students who are accustomed to sitting in front of electronic screens every day. In addition, she worries about contracting the contagious virus. Currently substituting for a teacher who is on leave due to catching COVID-19, Priscilla mentions that it is just a matter of when teachers catch it, finding it extremely hard to prevent in schools.
The teacher shortage and absence have been prevailing throughout the nation, so much so that soldiers and airmen and women from the New Mexico National Guard have been deployed to classrooms as substitutes. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called on civilian state employees as well to enlist as substitute teachers. New Mexico has been the only state that deployed National Guard troops in classrooms, while other states turned to any qualifying adult.
The scenes of uniformed officers in the classroom have obtained mixed reactions. Some teachers are taking it as an insult to their profession, as the government would rather take such measures than deal with the underlying problems within the teaching industry. Others worry that the presence of uniformed officers could create anxiety in students, however, their involvement has been largely well-received, with teachers thanking them for their time and effort.
The field of education is extremely imperative to a country, as the future generations gain and grow their knowledge. It is time that governments start prioritizing their teachers and create a more enticing job for potential recruits, and address the current issues within the industry.
Green, Erica L. “New Twist in Pandemic's Impact on Schools: Substitutes in Camouflage.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2022, www.nytimes.com/2022/02/20/us/politics/substitute-teachers-national-guard-new-mexico.html
Maxouris, Christina, and Christina Zdanowicz. “Teachers Are Leaving and Few People Are Choosing the Field. Experts Are Sounding the Alarm.” CNN, Cable News Network, 5 Feb. 2022, www.cnn.com/2022/02/05/us/teacher-prep-student-shortages-covid-crisis/index.html