Staff Shortages

Marian Winchell, Reporter

  Like many issues in education, the trouble of staff shortages is not common in all schools, but it is surely becoming more ordinary.

  Staff shortages are an ongoing problem for schools, not only affecting the students, but the teachers as well.  Teachers like Ms. Liebl, an English teacher, are pushed to the limit staying over contract hours to provide students with an adequate education, but there is hopefully an end in sight.

 “We are never going to have enough substitutes so that is a big staffing issue,”  Ms. Liebl said.

  With high demands and low pay, finding substitutes is often tricky with better, higher paying jobs available.  Due to the problems of working as a teacher, there has continuously been little interest in the subject. Although the school board is doing everything in its power to entice substitutes in, unfortunately there is little result. 

 “I think that the district is doing everything that it can to try to entice substitutes to come work. But there’s only so much that can happen with monetary promises, monetary increases in their pay, and so on. If we had really good funding, then our teachers would be better. We would have more teachers applying for any open spot,” Ms. Liebl said.

Staff members as a whole are affected by a lack of staff, having to do more work for a longer period of time and cover areas out of their expertise.  Having to fill in vacant roles, as well as being stretched thin over expanded working areas, makes working extra difficult.

“Personally I think that teachers in general,  myself specifically-  we are stretched thin to go work in other people’s rooms, when we were supposed to be meeting with students or answering some specific questions from parents. Maybe even designing lessons, or getting back to things during the planning time” Ms. Liebl said. 

Swamping teachers with work, lack of substitutes impacts the time teachers have to review, revise, and edit lesson plans.  Consequently drastically increasing the work required to be done and the hours needed to do so.

 “Any kind of work we could have checked off during that small window of time, we usually can’t get to anymore. It increases everyone’s work load when teachers lose their plan and they’re working through lunch, coming earlier, and staying late. It just overall definitely affects morale,” said Ms. Liebl.

Lacking substitutes, teachers work way beyond when school “ends” finishing paperwork, staying later to answer questions from students, etc. Due to staying over hours teachers are becoming exhausted, while their reason for becoming a teacher is slowly fading away.  Teachers are also having less time to go over education plans or take breaks, because of the need for substitutes pulling them out to go teach another class.

  “I’m afraid with how things are going with education right now with teacher demands going up every single year, sometimes it seems like every month there is an increase on what we are supposed to  be doing everyday.  There’s no way that the job can be done within contract hours, and I think that a lot of us are used to working way beyond contract hours,” Ms. Liebl said.  

Teachers are beginning to reach the limit of what they are able to do, with long hours draining their energy, and causing them to lose hope in their profession.

“I think that people are starting to get to a limit where it’s taking away their joy of what they went into teaching, for example working with students not sitting at a computer in the evening working on remote lessons and that type of thing,” Ms. Liebl said.

As a consequence of staff shortages, schools are having a rise and fall of shutdowns to account for the lack of teachers on given days. Indirectly causing “holes” to appear in instruction. To try to make knowledge as easily processed as possible most teachers have to shorten their lesson plan to accommodate for the smaller amount of instruction that comes with having to shut down schools, trying to make the process as painless as possible.  

 “People hurt peoples’ education, I feel like during remote days in the past that a lot of teachers try to modify the work where it was more manageable and we may still be covering the main points but we were never able to like truly demonstrate and never really able to be there for all the questions asked,” Ms. Liebl said.

With staff shortages, the students’ education may suffer as a result with less time to give enough detailed instruction for a descriptive lesson. Which leads to happier, less confused students, but ultimately a slightly flawed education.  Of course there is no fault to be found with the teachers for uncontrollable situations like this, but it is unfortunate that the students are impacted.

  “A lot of people do not have this support at home whether it’s a strong internet connection or a quiet environment that’s conducive to working, so I do think it ends up hurting kids when there are lots of teachers out,” Ms. Liebl said.

Staff shortages make a full circle, affecting everyone involved.  Although some more than others, they undoubtedly leave few undisturbed.  The effects may not seem that great at first but they pile up causing  bigger issues at later times if not fixed.  Although with fewer Covid cases, there is still hope that things will return to a semblance of normality.

“The only way that we would reach a point of consistency, is if there was a new Covid, you know? I don’t see that… I am an optimistic person by nature, but I do feel that we are on the up-tick of getting better and having fewer people out. So many teachers have had it and the ones who haven’t – I mean I think we are sitting here thinking,  do we have some sort of immunity or something? Because we are inundated with students right now and there’s literally no way to not to be surrounded by people. So I don’t think we will get to a point where everyone is out,” Ms. Liebl said.