Something to think about...by Superintendent Westerberg
Research and common sense tells us the key to a great education is having a great teacher in the classroom. Therefore, every school administrator has a goal to hire and retain the best possible teachers. Unfortunately, this has become more difficult every year.
Most of my career in education has been in smaller, more rural school districts in the Midwest. As a principal for many years, I always agonized over the hiring process: Will there be a good pool of candidates? Were the references I called accurate? Will I select the right person? Will the person be as good as I expected? etc. However, even the “hard to fill” positions in the early 1980’s generated some candidates and most openings resulted in enough candidates to result in a good hire for nearly every instance. Over time, the size of the pool has diminished and the chances of finding the perfect match have gone down dramatically. It seems the public’s perception is that a Socrates (famous teacher) applies for each teaching opening and a John Wooden (famous coach) is in the pool of applicants for each coaching assignment; unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
I recall the first time a candidate declined my offer of a job. It was several years ago and I was shocked that someone would turn down my offer. Back then I believed I had all the cards on my side of the table when it came to the hiring process. This has also changed dramatically. Good teachers have choices to go other places, so extending an offer today is never a sure thing it will be accepted.
The number of candidates for K-5 classroom positions has dropped significantly in the last decade yet, in most cases, there is still a good pool to select from. In special areas in grades K-12 and nearly all subjects in grades 6-12, the number of candidates is small, at best, and in some cases nonexistent. For example, it is not uncommon for a summer opening in special education to result in no applicants. This does not bode well for finding a great teacher for every classroom.
Writing about the reasons for the decline in the number of people wanting to be teachers could take several articles, maybe even a book. However, I’ll limit myself in this issue to just identifying the problem. My next issue will follow up with discussing the causes and some possible solutions.