By Jay Roberson
When I tell people I want to be an English special educator and teach in a high school the usual response is, “I could never, you’re definitely not in it for the pay.” Many people in America are able to acknowledge that they couldn’t do a teacher’s work, but there also seems to be no intention of raising their salaries.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, America has seen a decrease in teachers as they quit and retire early. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2022 there were about 567,000 fewer educators than prior to the pandemic. The country is in a crisis so great that in Florida they are allowing military personnel, veterans and their spouses to teach without a degree.
Lauren Delisio, a Rider professor of education, spoke about her short amount of time teaching in Florida and the troubles the state had with teacher retention.
“The year that I started in Florida I started in the middle of the school year. That class had three teachers before me. They were first graders and I was their fourth teacher in six months,” Delisio said.
If children are not given stability and support, the opportunities to learn will decrease.
Delisio said, “It’s really frustrating. And again the kids are the ones who suffer because they’re not getting highly qualified teachers, and in some instances, not having a consistent teacher the entire academic year.”
Teaching is a job that includes more than just teaching your classes from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; it also includes lesson planning, grading papers and advising students and their activities.
Mark Pearcy, another professor of education at Rider, taught in Florida public schools for 19 years and spent extra time at school for numerous reasons.
“I was a wrestling coach, and so the time you put in for that is really astronomical,” Pearcy said. “Typically, I would arrive at school about an hour before school started. And when I was coaching, I would be there from 6:30 [a.m] to 7 at night. And then of course there are matches and tournaments on the weekends.”
Teaching is a career path that you have to have a passion for, otherwise the low pay and extra work won’t benefit you. Delisio compared her time teaching in Florida to when she taught in New York.
“When I taught in New York, we had a prep period that was 45 minutes and a 45-50 minute long lunch period. I did not get that in Florida. I think I got half an hour for lunch and maybe a half an hour prep period. That was not enough time to prepare anything,” said Delisio.
Less time for prep means more effort outside of school hours. Teachers are expected to pick up extra work because without that, the classroom would not run efficiently. If teachers work past school hours, then there should be compensation for that.
“One of the biggest arguments for increasing teachers’ pay is the idea that we will draw more people to the profession. It will be more competitive, and that’s true. But that’s not the reason I think teachers should get paid more. Teachers should get paid more because what they’re doing is among the most important jobs in our society,” said Pearcy.
Teaching is one of the most important jobs and will always be necessary. Without a livable wage, those who want to be an educator will be unable to take these jobs. The teacher shortage will not fix itself, there needs to be a fair pay or there will be no one to teach our kids.