Could it be global warming or whatever we’re calling it this week? The Chinese tariff issue? CoVID-19? Actually, no. All of those things are bad for sure, but I am most concerned about the looming teacher shortage. Likely you’ve heard how short Oklahoma is on certified teachers, and how the number of emergency certified teachers has grown exponentially in the past decade. This is a foretaste of things to come people, and it doesn’t seem many people are doing too much to stave off a full blown crisis.
I recently returned from a conference with the National School Foundation Association. There aren’t that many people who do what I do for a living in Oklahoma, but apparently there are a few hundred of us who can come to a conference just for us. I learned a lot and feel it was a good use of my time, but one thing really stuck with me, and that was the speech by Sharif El- Mekki.
Mr. El-Mekki started the Center for Black Educator Development which aims to recruit and train black people to be teachers in public school. His angle is to convince young people that teaching is a form of activism, which is brilliant given the proclivities of today’s young people. Think about it. If you teach for 10 years in a high school, you’ve easily touched the lives of 1,000 students. If you sponsor a club or are a coach, that number increases. Being able to help shape young people is one of the best things about being a teacher. I really miss that, especially when I meet former students who have nice things to say about my class.
El-Mekki offered several thought-provoking facts. One eye-opener concerned when we start identifying young people as potential teacher material. For white females, the age is third grade! For black males, it’s after college. While you might not buy his evidence, what it really says is that we need to do a better job in the elementary years of identifying future teachers.
The United States will be short 200,000 teachers by the year 2025! What are we doing today to stave off that crisis? There are incipient efforts in districts and some legislation moving through that would alleviate the financial burden of college, but we must find other ways to incentivize this profession far earlier than we have been.
I truly welcome any ideas on how to avoid this looming crisis. No idea is too crazy ̶ we’ve got to figure this out, and the PC Foundation is well-suited to lead a charge of this nature.