The Real Reason Behind the Utah Teacher Shortage Problem

A quick introduction if you're new to our blog: Rachelle and I {Natalie} are both teachers in Utah. We love teaching and we enjoy sharing our ideas with teachers from all over the world! Thanks for stopping by today and I hope you enjoy this heart-felt post about teachers in Utah. We'd love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram.

Recently Utah teachers have been in the news because of a few different news articles published about how teacher retention in Utah is becoming a large problem. The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that 2 out of every 5 public school teachers are leaving the profession within 5 years. I've seen lots of comments about this and a lot of people sharing their opinions as to why this is happening. Today I'd like to share my opinions and observations. 

I didn't go into teaching expecting to get rich. I knew the payscale I was choosing before graduating from college. This is not a complaining post. But I want to be real and honest. I believe that there are 3 main reasons why teachers leave the profession within 5 years. 
   1.) Teachers are not paid enough to support their families on a single income. 
   2.) The high majority of Utah teachers are straight out of college. Within 5 years a large portion of these teachers get married, have children, and choose to stay home with their babies.
   3. Teaching is HARD! And I'm not talking about the actual teaching. It's all the "other stuff" and additional responsibilities teachers face in addition to regular classroom duties. 

I'm going to talk about the first two reasons today. The real problem is that Utah teachers are not paid enough. In Utah, male teachers aren't paid enough to support their families, and female teachers can't afford child care to be able to keep teaching. 

I'd like to tell you about one of my very good friends. He is a male teacher in Utah who has taught elementary school for 5 years. This guy was born to be a teacher. He's charismatic, multi-talented, and his students LOVE him! His wife is currently pregnant with their 4th child. They are in debt (student loans to become a teacher... go figure!), can't afford a house payment, and currently live with their parents. He tutors on the side, directs after school plays, and takes odd jobs (including Christmas tree decorating and carpet salesman) during weekends and holidays. His sweet wife is a part-time preschool teacher who tries to contribute to the family income. He is an amazing educator, but unfortunately he is currently seeking new jobs outside the field of education so he can better provide for his family. 

Last week I got to attend the Miss Utah Pageant. After the top 7 finalists were announced, they began the on-stage interview portion of competition. JessiKate Riley, one of the contestants, was asked about the teacher shortage problem in Utah. She gave a great answer about how her own mother has been her high school music teacher and that her mom has had a hard time juggling the role of being a teacher and a mom. She said, "I wish schools would make it easier for her to be able to better support her own children, as well as all the children she teaches." I believe this to be true for all teacher-moms. 

What's my story? For the past 10 years I have taught in the Utah public schools system. I started as a newlywed straight out of college with the goal to teach about 3 years before starting my own family. Baby #1 came and I couldn't afford to quit teaching. We depended on my income, so I kept teaching. Baby #2 came and I soon realized that raising two small kids and teaching full-time wasn't going to work for me. I decided to continue teaching in a part-time teaching position as a way to stay home with my children more, but also stay in a profession that I love. It cut my paycheck in half, but it has been a wonderful way for me to juggle my two important roles of mother and teacher. However, it has been very difficult at times to teach with 3 small children at home. The cost of child care is expensive and takes a large chunk of my paycheck. This past year I had a lot of problems where my kids would wake up sick, but it was too hard to call in a sub and write sub plans. It is very difficult for teachers to balance their own kids, on top of all their school responsibilities. 

In addition to teaching, I write for this blog, own my own business selling lessons plans and activities online, I'm a Doterra consultant, and I have a little photography business on the side. I do all of this as a way to earn enough money to supplement my part-time teaching salary. I know I am not alone. Many teachers all over the country are finding ways to boost their income as a way to help make ends meet. Let's just take a minute to recognize all the teachers who work second (and sometimes third) jobs to earn extra money. Seriously, teachers are amazing! However, I have to ask the question: What if teachers didn't have to take on extra jobs outside of teaching? Think about that for a second. 

As I mentioned earlier, this is not a complaining post. It is simply to state some of the major problems that real teachers are facing, not only here in Utah, but all across America. These 3 examples show how difficult it is to juggle home and family life as well as how financial burdens play a role in why teachers leave the classroom.

Because I'd never like to point out problems, without offering solutions, here are a few things I think would be able to help with teacher retention:

1. Raise the teacher salary in Utah to at least the median national teacher income level. 

2. Pay off student loans after an x amount of years teachers stay in the profession. Also, offer scholarships or tuition reimbursement to teachers seeking master degrees and higher levels of education.

3. Offer affordable child care services to teachers with small children. 

4. Hire more aides for the classroom teachers so that teachers can spend more time teaching children and less time making copies, doing paperwork, and other tasks that take up large amounts of after school time. 

Thanks for sticking around and reading my thoughts on some of the problems facing education. Teacher retention really is a problem in Utah and I would like to do my part to help fix these problems. Being a teacher is something I am very proud of and love very much. My hope is that we can find a way to ease the burden teachers are facing so that we can better improve the education of students across the country.

Are you a teacher?
We would love to hear your story! 
Please take a minute to type your story 
in the comments and tell us 
the struggles you face as a 
classroom teacher.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...