Recruitment & Retention Opinion

Are We Headed for A Teacher Shortage and Can We Fix It?

By Emily Douglas-McNab — March 19, 2012 3 min read
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When I was growing up, my parents did everything they could to ensure I had a good education. They chose the places we lived in Ohio and Kentucky with the main goal of getting my siblings and I into great schools. My mom and dad also placed a strong focus on literature, math, science, technology, athletics, art, and most importantly, creativity. My parents were highly involved and for that I am grateful.

In addition to my parent’s efforts, I was fortunate to have incredible teachers in my early years of school. After having two fantastic, creative third grade teachers, Mrs. Sara Dale and Mrs. Kathy Moss, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be one so bad that my siblings and I only on occasion played house, cops and robbers, Barbie’s, video games, or Ninja Turtles... we mostly played SCHOOL. I created math exercises and homework for my little brother and sister. We also read together, did flashcards, held art class, conducted home science experiments (with parent supervision) and more.

Image: Boaz Yiftach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Then, when I was in middle school, one of my favorite teachers asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I thought it would be cool to be a teacher. Ultimately though, I chose not to. Why? Because several of the great TEACHERS I had in school told me they didn’t make enough money and didn’t feel respected.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and then decided to go to graduate school for human resources because I love working with and helping people. After school, I had an opportunity to partner with clients in various industries (automotive, power, agriculture, healthcare, paper products, nonprofits, manufacturing, retail, and more), but something was missing.

Where am I going with all this?

While I enjoyed my experience in the business consulting, I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. I still had a passion to help kids. Fortunately, I found a career at Battelle for Kids, where I have the opportunity to make an impact in both.

I deeply appreciate the great teachers I was lucky enough to have as they changed my life. I have many friends who are teachers. I also love working with highly effective teachers in my current position. Their energy, passion, and commitment are contagious. However, the road ahead for educators will be challenging. The recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found more teachers than ever are talking about leaving the profession. I also see fewer people who want to enter the field. Many of my friends in business thought about becoming educators, but encountered a teacher, friend, or parent who talked them out of it. And, to add another level of complexity, in the next five to ten years a large number of teachers will be retiring.

Who are we going to get to fill these positions and shape the minds and lives of our future?

The answer: Teachers, principals, unions, state education agencies, parents, businesses, communities, and others need to work together to reinvent how we attract, train, pay, develop, reward, retain, and support great teachers.

After being in nonprofit management for more than 15 years and in education management for three, what surprises me is that in nonprofits, we talked about pay, incentives, and rewards like we did in the business world. Yet, in education everyone avoids the conversation.

This conversation needs to happen before we find ourselves in the middle of a serious teacher shortage. With this in mind, I will be writing several articles over the next few weeks on motivation, total rewards, teacher pay, innovation, non-monetary rewards, and more. While this may make some uncomfortable, we need to have open, honest, and fair discussions about these issues.

Look at it this way: if this conversation had taken place 20 years ago, I’d probably be preparing lessons, field trips, looking at my students progress, and planning other fun activities for my class right now instead of writing this blog on talent management. I hope readers decide to take part in the conversation.

For more information on talent management, rewards, pay, motivation, human resources, strategy, and more, follow me on Twitter: @EmilyDouglasHC

The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.