We face a once-in-a-generation crisis in our public schools
Christopher Huffaker’s article on the workplace challenges facing teachers is spot-on (“Teachers help students struggling to succeed: Disruptive behavior, lack of motivation cloud classroom,” Page A1, April 25). I am the principal investigator of the Merrimack College Teacher Survey, a national survey of more than 1,300 teachers. We found a deep disillusionment of teachers who feel overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated. As one teacher wrote in the survey, “I love my job, but eventually the amount of work [and] lack of respect . . . wears you down. I love teaching, but eventually that is not enough to make up for all the rest.” Indeed, 26 percent of all teachers in our survey stated that they are “not at all likely” to advise their younger self to pursue a career in teaching, with 44 percent saying they were likely to leave their jobs in the next two years.
I believe we are facing a once-in-a-generation crisis in our public schools. In 2008, 62 percent of all teachers were very satisfied with their job. Today, according to our findings, it’s 12 percent. About a decade ago, almost 8 in 10 teachers felt respected by the public. Today, it’s less than half. It is thus not surprising that fewer and fewer students see teaching as a viable career. Our survey suggests that this is only going to get worse.
We owe it to teachers to do better, address the causes of their dissatisfaction, and ensure that children have a productive, engaged community of teachers guiding their education in the years to come.
The writer is a professor in, and was the founding dean of, the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College.
Every student needs an integrated, individualized plan
The article “Teachers help students struggling to succeed” powerfully covers the impacts of students’ challenges. It also highlights missed opportunities for more effectively supporting student — and teacher — well-being and learning.
Though the challenges of the current COVID-19 era are real, children are also resilient. Mental health is bolstered by a range of interventions. Mild to moderate needs can be addressed with a caring school environment; after-school programs; mentors; participation in sports, arts, or other extracurricular activities; and relationships with peers and adults, while serious mental health needs require therapeutic treatment.
Adding more counselors and social workers to extend current strategies is unlikely to be financially viable or sufficient to meet the need. Instead, schools that create systems of support to provide every student with an individualized support plan are seeing improvements. These systems connect each child to a tailored set of resources and enrichment opportunities to address that student’s strengths and needs, drawing on resources in the school, the community, or both. These systems of “integrated student supports” are now known to improve student well-being and learning, as well as support teachers who, early research shows, are less likely to leave the profession if their school has such a system in place.
The writer is the Daniel E. Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovation at the Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development and director of the Center for Thriving Children.