(AP) Suzanne Thomson is an adjunct professor in the IU School of Education and an instructional coach at Rogers Elementary. As an employee of the Monroe County Community School Corporation and IU, Thomson saw an opportunity to address the shortage of substitute teachers and strengthen the relationship between the university and the county’s school district. She helped launch a new course, “Guest (Substitute) Teaching Guidelines and Tips,” aimed at helping students navigate the substitute teaching process while providing a much-needed resource to local school districts. The eight-week course is a replicable model, training students to serve a critical community need while gaining hands-on experience and getting paid for their time.

Thomson says that teacher shortages have led to a few trickle down effects. We have fewer experienced teachers in the classroom, and that then puts more demands on the teachers who are there. They might spend their time helping out the new teacher across the hallway, they might need to spend their prep time covering for another class, or they might need to provide all the differentiation within their classes because they don’t have any support staff. In short, it’s all adding up to more demands on the teachers and it’s wearing them out.

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She explains how teaching is a very demanding job. You’re on all of the time, and on top of that, you have responsibilities with committees, communications with parents, and different new curriculums that you need to learn. Additionally, teachers need to maintain an online education platform and work through all the COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, teachers are just worn out and they’re leaving the profession earlier than planned. Another contributing factor is pay. Indiana, for example, is ranked 51st in teacher salary growth over the past 20 years. This means that a lot of teachers are taking on second jobs, and that adds to their stress load ever more.

Thomson claims that we really need to work together in our communities, we need to form partnerships, and we need to think creatively. One of the things that she’s done is partner with her colleague, Sharon Daly, and create an eight-week course on substitute teaching. Their goal was to provide pre-service teachers with the opportunity of getting a valuable classroom experience while also providing substitutes that are very much needed in the local school district and everywhere else. This turned out very successful. They had full enrollment in the course, and it ended up being a win-win because they had teachers who got experience, and the local school districts were filling positions which took some of the pressure off the rest of the teachers. Another possible benefit, and their goal they’re hoping to reach, is to open it up to students from other majors in hopes that they might try out substitute teaching and fall in love with it. This would lead to more wonderful teachers coming into the profession.

1. How are teacher shortages impacting schools across the United States?

2. What are some of the reasons for teacher shortages?

3. What are some innovative ways schools can address teacher shortages, and how have you been involved in this process?

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