Reading, Writing, and ... Recruiting?

Article excerpt

America's schools are facing a severe teacher shortage that has administrators pulling out all of the stops to find qualified educators for our classrooms.

There are many things that we as Americans take for granted. Clean drinking water, electricity, the highway system, and even, school teachers. Yes, school teachers. As kids, we probably never really appreciated what we had, and that was an abundance of teachers to lead our classrooms. We maybe even tested our teachers' patience at times thinking that no matter what, our teachers would always be around. As it turns out, we can no longer assume that there will be enough qualified teachers for our schools.

Neither disdain from students nor schoolyard pranks have made America's teachers run for the hills, but many other factors have in reality driven hordes of teachers or potential teachers away from this most honorable profession. Now as adults and educators ourselves, we are realizing that we can no longer take our teachers for granted or we will no doubt be jeopardizing our children's futures and in turn, the future of our country.

To say that America is facing a teacher shortage is like saying that microbiology is playtime with a microscope. Our teacher shortage is more like a teacher crisis and it is quickly reaching its boiling point. At the end of each year, school administrators are holding their breath wondering who will be returning to work the next year and who will not, leaving vacancies to be filled, often for hard-to-fill areas of study.

According to the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, there are 90,874 public schools in the United States and about 2.8 million teachers serving more than 46 million students. There are also about five million students in the U.S. who attend private schools.

This teacher shortage knows no boundaries as it is affecting public and private schools, urban and rural schools alike, specifically in the areas of special education, mathematics, science, foreign language study, bilingual education and, even career and technical education.

The need for foreign language and bilingual education teachers is in high demand due in large part to the changing demographics of this country. For example, with the Hispanic community now the largest minority in the United States, according to the U.S. Census, foreign language education and English-as-a-SecondLanguage (ESL) courses can no longer be electives.

Some of these areas of study, like math, science and special education, are experiencing a shortage simply because they are not attracting as many teachers as, for example, social studies. With the decrease in math and science teachers and an increased focus on technical education in our schools, technology teachers are also becoming few and far between, not just at technical schools but at all schools across the country.

In one of his last radio addresses, President Clinton stated that "over the next decade, America will need to hire 2.2 million new teachers to handle rising enrollments and to replace those teachers set to retire." He also added that this school year had a record 53 million students in classrooms across the United States. The next eight years are also expected to see record enrollments.

Ironically, this shortage has been a long time in the making and really should come as no great surprise to anyone. While some of the causes are quite obvious, many run much deeper.

It has been said that our most precious natural resource is our children. So why, if this is true, are fewer and fewer people each year looking to cultivate this natural resource by entering a career in teaching? Perhaps we have all assumed that someone else out there would be drawn to teaching. After all, teaching has such perks as regular vacations, government holidays off, and that long summer recess. Sounds like a dream, right? This is only one side, the shiny side, of the coin. …