#FocusDisruption is an all-media collaboration of the Montclair State School of Communication and Media. Our goal is to report stories that highlight the effects or disruptions of the past two years and the solutions that have emerged. All aspects of everyday life have been changed, but we will mainly focus on how mental health, education and the workplace have changed.
Six years ago, an article in the opinion section of The Montclarion, titled “Addressing the shortage of teachers”, have sounded the alarm about the crisis our education system is going through. He highlighted his impact on New Jersey and what Montclair State University can do to help.
This problem has only gotten worse since then. A national education association survey (NEA) in January said 74% of members had to take on extra duties due to shortages, and 90% of members say feeling burnt out is a serious problem.
A problem of this magnitude raises two important questions: first, what are the causes of the shortages in our education system and, in identifying them, what can we do to address them?
Along with burnout, the NEA survey has teachers identifying general coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic stress (91%), student absences (85%), increased workload (80%), low salaries (78%), student behavior (76%) and a lack of respect from parents and the general public (76%) as the most serious issues facing teachers.
It is important to note that the two most important issues are rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic.
If we were to finally “turn the corner”, student absences due to COVID-19 would be non-existent, and teacher stress due to exposure to the disease would also be relieved.
Other issues are more nuanced, though most have their roots in the aforementioned lack of respect for educators. After all, local citizens elect the members of local government who determine compensation and funding, and often little attention is paid to these elections.
Caregiving can often do teachers more harm than good, as evidenced by recent proposals to install cameras in classrooms, as well as the banning of novels such as “Maus” in Mcminn County, Tennesseeor any number of LGBTQ or African American works in conservative neighborhoods.
These moves to monitor content harm both teachers and students, adding stress to an already stressful job. Educators are forced to censor themselves to accommodate these misguided notions of what should be taught in school, and students are stripped of privacy.
Funding problems are linked to these same problems of locally elected offices. Many schools can barely afford to feed their students or get basic supplies, let alone things like a dedicated mental health counselor.
When a school fails to provide these things, it falls on the shoulders of a teacher. Educators are forced to provide students with supplies to help them through difficult times in their lives, which weighs them down even more.
Despite all this, teachers are not getting the time they desperately need for themselves. Alone time during a school day is virtually non-existent, as is paid maternity leave.
Our attitudes, both toward those who teach in our school systems and the government officials who legislate in those schools, desperately need an overhaul.
Anger toward our school system should be channeled into elections that determine the officials who have the power to change this flawed system.
School board elections, particularly in New Jersey, are little or not contested, since each board represents a municipality. This means that civil servants in small towns like mine can be elected for years and years without encountering opposition to their lack of accomplishment.
Some states, like marylandgiving students a voice in their education by allowing them to elect a public official to sit on the council, providing a desperately needed platform for some of those most affected by council decisions.
The attitude towards teachers must also change. They are just people, and they are stressed, tired and exhausted, but our education system acts as if they are robots, burdening them with seemingly endless responsibilities.
Over time, maybe the system will improve, but that’s not guaranteed. It starts with people now paying attention to their local school and taking action, slowly but surely.
As President Lyndon Johnson, himself a former teacher, declared, “We believe, that is to say you and I, that education is not an expense. We think it’s an investment. »