Curated collection showcasing voices of real teachers on teaching today.
In 2006, I was hired to teach Eleventh grade English for one of the largest and more affluent school districts in Texas; I felt like Cinderella. Unlike previous schools, there was an overflow of supplies delivered to my desk annually, and low student to teacher ratios in the classroom. We even had a permanent substitute who served only English teachers for their grading days. Principals had time to directly address any concerns we brought to their attention. Teachers were industrious and felt valued, serving the needs of students; it was dreamy – until it was not.
The Great Recession of 2007 brought economic cutbacks in school districts throughout the U.S. where teachers took the brunt of the blow, and education has yet to recover. We struggled for several years with budget cuts, lay-offs and no pay increases, but we were content just to keep our job, considering the staggering unemployment rates. Reports indicate that more than 120,000 public K -12 teachers lost their jobs as a result of that recession lasting from 2008 to 2012. Those who stayed found a way to work with what they had because teachers are resilient. Still, such a hard blow to the teaching profession resulted in enormous ramifications that American classrooms often face today.
With funding cuts, there were fewer teachers in the classroom, while student populations continued to grow. Cinderella found that her beautiful carriage with a manageable class of 16 to 18 students quickly morphed into a rotten pumpkin splitting at the seams. Rosters exceeded thirty students in a class. Lack of classroom space brought challenges, with only so many desks added. This only added to the breakdown of classroom management. As disciplinary outbursts increased, veteran educators found they were putting out more fires than teaching. Within a few years, countless teachers on my campus left the profession altogether; one started selling cars instead. Teachers realized their jobs presented increased stress and ballooning workloads, as morale on campus grew bleak.
Today, classrooms often face many of the same challenges. Sure, teachers have seen some pay increase since 2009, but they are well under-paid, still facing over-sized classes with Limited budgets and student behavioral issues continue to overpower the lesson plan. More than a decade later, with the lack of funds, teachers ran campus hunting for a copier that operates and still has toner and paper, hoping to get there before that machine fails. Moreover, many of our faithful educators face unthinkable situations of disrespect or violence, yet they continue to show up. I wonder who else would stay in such a workplace?
Many teachers have calculated the cost. They are tired and emotionally worn. Many are financially strapped, still paying off their own student debt. Because they feel unsupported, many are giving up and quitting. This is a growing crisis, and turning a blind eye is not the answer.
The teacher shortage in America is a societal concern. Everyone must invest in the interest of repairing this broken system. We need quality, impassioned teachers who are experts in designing and delivering meaningful curriculum. Those professionals need to know they are valued. Students lose out when skilled teachers walk out, but, the entire community loses.
By: Karen Lappen
Recently stepping away from her twenty-five year plus career as a high school English teacher, Karen Lappen is a fresh author wielding her pen to express educational wisdom and prose. Class room experience, parental anecdotes, as well as general life journeys provide authentic perspective and inspiration for the reader. Lappen interlaces her passion for cultivating self-dignity in America’s youth with staunch values in faith and pride for a better America. This southern author is kept on course by her loving husband, time on the beach and the novice of sailing on the lake. Together they cherish time spent with their two daughters and son-in-law, Hope, Hannah and Dillon. Find wisdom for self, family, and community with written explorations sure to pique the interest with provocative ideas for improvement.
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