How Parents Can Counter the Harmful Effects of the National Teacher Shortage

Dr. Tracee Perryman. Photo Courtesy.

The teacher shortage continues to be a problem for our nation’s schools. Following a huge surge of resignations early in the pandemic, quitting is surging again and burnout again is one of the top reasons.

The effects of the shortage on K-12 schools are multi-dimensional. Among them are larger classes, resulting in less individualized instruction, a heavier burden for teachers and more behavioral problems; insufficiently prepared substitute teachers and lower-quality education for students; lower student achievement, as seen in significant dips in math and reading scores; and a compounded impact on under-resourced schools forced to offer fewer student services and extracurricular activities.

According to the 2023 Back-to-School Study from Qualtrics, 65% of parents said they were concerned about their school’s ability to provide qualified educators, especially after learning loss that occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Without the security of consistent, quality instruction and/or intervention services for struggling students, parents can feel helpless. Many may feel that they are left to fend for themselves, with little direction, support or resources to help them help their children. There are, however, some things that parents can consider to help their students close any gaps in achievement:

1. Set appointments with school day teachers/administrators to determine grade-appropriate expectations and learning resources. Require school day teachers/administrators to break down these expectations into activities/behaviors that you can understand/monitor at home. Require school day teachers/administrators to recommend grade-appropriate learning games that the family can enjoy.

For example, Uno presents an opportunity to teach colors and numbers. Connect Four is an opportunity to teach patterns and concentration. There are also learning websites such as ABCya.com, iReady.com and Kodable.com that teach skills to young learners and mostly require adult supervision rather than instruction.

2. Embed learning into natural daily activities. Meal prep is another way to reinforce academic learning. As parents, we can select easy meals that children can assist with which have a name that reinforces a specific lesson domain. For example, if we want to teach the letters A, C, D and S, we can prepare apple slices with caramel dipping sauce. This meal is also an opportunity to reinforce long and short vowels, along with multi-syllable words and fractions.

3. Embed learning into daily discussions about children’s interests. Many children have a favorite show they like to watch on television or the internet. Such experiences present opportunities to ask children about characters, setting, plot and main idea. We can even reinforce proper social skills while keeping an eye on external influences that could affect our children positively or negatively.

4. Search for available school and community-based resources.

If your child attends a Title I school, those schools usually have resources that are intended to supplement school day education. Ask your school administrators about their Title I services. Do not be afraid to advocate for resources to support your child. Schools receive a myriad of resources that are intended to meet the needs of students.

Also, search your community for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This is a federal initiative, administered by states to support local communities. I recommend these centers, as they are required to support academic excellence but are also required to provide programming that supports youth development and family engagement.

5. Consider opportunities to reinvent ourselves. I draw this suggestion from my own personal experience. My mother took time away from the workforce to ensure that my sister and I had the attention that we needed during some of our most formative years. She would attend youth activities we participated in to make sure that the conditions were conducive to our learning and overall development. As she observed our activities, she was often asked to volunteer and provide leadership. As she continued to volunteer, she recognized her own gift for educating children. This led to a 30-year journey in education, which started as an early childhood educator for Head Start.

Considering entry into education provides opportunities for parents to ensure that schools provide the appropriate education and nurturing for children, while also providing the necessary schedule
alignment to address gaps in child care.

There are no easy answers to this issue. Parents will be required to fill in gaps to some degree. The best we can do is leverage the resources that are available so that additional efforts are targeted and our energy is not unnecessarily expended.

Finally, do not forget the importance of hope. As our children perceive that we believe in them and our ability to help them, they will believe in themselves and rise to the occasion.

Dr. Tracee Perryman (doctor-p.com) is a published author; CEO and co-founder of Center of Hope Family Services, which aims to improve the life outcomes of individuals and families living in urban settings; developer of award-winning after-school educational program, ELEVATE; and community partner on evidence-based programming. Her education includes a master’s degree in mental health counseling and a PhD. in social work.

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