Three Creative Ways to Help Solve for Your Teacher Shortages
With everything going on, the last thing anyone wants to worry about is staffing. Teacher shortages remain a problem across the country for many administrators. In this episode of our Talking Ed series, Kate Weber, product manager at Edmentum, will discuss three creative ways that can help you solve for this common issue.
Hi, I'm Kate Weber. I work for Edmentum as a product manager. Welcome back to another episode of Talking Ed. Today, we want to talk about three creative ways to solve for your teacher shortages. There are three million teachers in the United States, and finding educators who are qualified and willing and able to be in every single classroom is a challenge that all local districts face—be it because of stagnating wages or simply the fact that they can't find somebody who is qualified to teach that advanced math.
Think Outside the Box with Recruiting
So. I want to talk about three ways to solve this. And the first is thinking outside of the box with recruiting. It is really hard to get ahead of recruiting, especially because we have a mindset of if you put it on your website, somebody will come along and see it. And that's probably not true. You've got to get your message out there. Consider some paid advertising, and also consider posting jobs as soon as you know about them, despite any HR bureaucracy. I've even seen districts leave open general teacher positions all year round to keep building that pipeline.
Second is to make friends with everyone, with every local community you can think of. If you can find the community college to your state college or anywhere else, you want to find people who can build that pipeline for you, and you can even reach into your own schools. Several districts I've heard about are making investments in employing their own students, and they do that starting when those students are in high school—talking about them, about becoming a teacher and coming back to teach in that school.
Next, you can reach in your schools to prep and empower staff. For three million teachers, there are also probably three million extremely qualified paraprofessionals in education right now who are waiting to make that next step in their career. And it may take you reaching out to them and possibly incentivizing them to pursue their teaching certification and to move up from teacher's assistant to lead teacher.
And lastly, recruiting—it never ends. I've even heard about superintendents going overseas to countries like the Philippines to reach out and find those teachers who are interested in student outcomes and student engagement and get them into American classrooms. You can also consider recruiting industry professionals, people who are experts in their field and who have a love of teaching to get an emergency certification, or whatever is legal in your state, to come into the classrooms and bring their knowledge to the children of today.
Lastly, look at former and retired teachers. Many teachers have moved out of the profession to become parents or experts in their own field or to pursue a different career because it just wasn't the right moment for them to be a teacher in their life. Reach out to them, and try to bring them back. Many times, you will find that the teachers that you seek are parents in your own schools right now.
Advocacy Makes a Difference
Next, I want to talk about advocacy. It's not a lot of fun to be labeled a lobbyist. But, advocacy works, particularly when you leverage your staff and your parents to advocate on your behalf. How can you do that? Getting in front of your local politicians, they are always willing to listen to you. But, you need to come at them with stats, with real life examples, and not an emotional plea to make your case—be it that you want more money for teachers, be it that you want more rights for teachers, or maybe there are some certification barriers that are getting in your way. Your local politicians need to hear about them. And they need to hear about it from many different voices in your community. But, you have to be patient. This one's definitely the long game. In 2019, we saw legislative changes across the United States that moved in favor of education and teachers, but that didn't happen overnight. Those movements started years early, some as early as 2009.
Consider a Virtual Partner
Lastly, consider a virtual partner. There is no shame in the partner game when it comes to getting teachers in front of students to give them the courses and the next steps in their careers that they need. So, if you don't have expertise within your school system to provide virtual education—to perhaps use one calculus teacher to reach across your many schools—find a virtual partner who can do that for you. Virtual partners should provide you with a state-certified teacher who is highly qualified and trained in virtual education, along with the tools that make that virtual learning entirely possible.
It can also expand your course offerings. If you have students coming to you, and they can't graduate because they are missing one or two electives or one or two courses that they need or want, then you can reach out and find—sometimes, at very low cost—a course for that one student or that handful of students that can replace a high-cost teacher, because you're only educating a few folks. And lastly, it can work to retain teachers.
I know this is really creative, and it sounds a little out of the box, but there are ways to engage in a virtual partner to offload some of the more onerous things that teachers have to do—examples: grading, filing paperwork. Teachers do not enjoy these things. These are not why they got into the profession. It's not what gets them up and motivated every day. If you can hire trained professionals to handle that work for teachers, you keep your teachers focused on what they love to do, and you extend the longevity of their careers. They won't burn out as fast, and they'll stay with you longer—because, ultimately, once you've recruited a teacher, it's your job to retain that.
Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Have a good one!
This episode of TalkingEd was originally recorded November 2019