By Stephanie McCauley
While fewer individuals are choosing to enroll in teacher training programs, more practicing teachers are reporting feelings of burnout. Since 2015, the teacher shortage across the U.S. has been widely discussed, causing many to wonder if the problem might become a full-blown crisis. It’s estimated that 40%–50% of new teachers leave the profession within their first 5 years, citing a number of professional difficulties, including the pressures of high-stakes testing and scapegoating of teachers. In addition, NPR reported last year that the teaching profession may be suffering from an image problem. College students do not see the profession as one that is valued, well-paid, or ultimately worth the effort, leading them to search elsewhere for meaningful careers.
The shortage of teachers is especially troubling for gifted education programs, which, along with math, science, and bilingual programs, are especially understaffed. Programs cut during the recession are now being reinstated, but schools still lack the staff numbers to make these programs effective.
The explanation for teacher burnout may lie in the way teachers’ time is arranged and used. According to The Atlantic, compared with teachers in other countries, U.S. teachers have far less time to devote to planning and professional development. At the same time, they spend more time with direct student interaction than their international peers. This time pressure can lead to emotional exhaustion. Allowing U.S. teachers more time to collaborate with colleagues could lead to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.
To help combat the teacher shortage, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) suggests increasing teachers’ feelings of value through collaboration, respect, and access to resources and teaching incentives. Teachers in the U.S. must be valued as professionals if we expect to increase their numbers in the coming years.