Currently, the United States is suffering from one of the most disastrous labor shortages it has ever seen — not in healthcare, not in labor, not in transportation, but in teaching. Long before the pandemic, schools around the U.S. were increasing class sizes and relying heavily on substitutes as a means of managing the insufficient availability of teachers, and now that mask mandates in schools have dropped, more teachers than ever have decided to quit in search of workplaces that place more value on their safety and skills.
Yet, there are severe and lasting consequences to this ongoing teacher shortage. While organizations might suffer lower performance for a few months due to the Great Resignation, the nation as a whole will be punished with a generation that suffered years of worse education. Lower education is strongly associated with lower quality of life, not just for individuals but for entire communities as well.
Fortunately, there is a solution: Become a teacher. If you are interested in dedicating your life to education, you can lessen the impact of the shortage by filling any of the following teaching roles that are in the highest demand around the country:
English as a Second Language
In the United States, roughly 22 percent of the population does not speak English at home, which includes about 35 million adults and nearly 12 million children. Families from around the world flock to America for its freedom and opportunity, which helps the national economy grow.
However, it can be difficult for adults and children to integrate effectively into American society if they cannot speak the dominant language. English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers help foreign language speakers grasp the fundamentals of the English language to increase their comprehension in all aspects. Many K-12 schools are in desperate need of trained ESL teachers, especially in the Southwest where most foreign language households are located. You can also find work as an ESL teacher at community colleges or with charitable organizations intent on assisting immigrants and refugees if you are more interested in instructing adult students.
It is possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in ESL, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and commit your teaching career to this field from the start. However, if you already have a typical degree in education, you can earn ESL certifications to become trained in this unique field of teaching.
Children with disabilities require special attention in the classroom, so they tend to be grouped together into special education classes. However, not all disabilities affect children in identical ways. Some disabilities impact a child’s attention span, while other disabilities interfere with memory, comprehension or physical access. Thus, special education teachers need to be able to be adaptable, capable of tailoring their lessons to individual students’ needs.
Special education is a daunting field, and it is made no less difficult by the lack of resources devoted to special education by most school systems. Special ed teachers often have working conditions that are not suitable to their needs or the needs of their students, which means they might need to work harder to ensure the kids in their classrooms gain the support they need to feel safe, find comfort and learn. Yet, as a special education teacher, you know that you are making a profoundly important contribution not just to your school but to how your unique students experience the world around them.
Unlike traditional teaching, special education often involves teams of teachers, aides and other professionals who assist in the care and instruction of students with disabilities. It is possible to become an aide in a special education classroom with perhaps only a few state certifications and skill tests, but teachers who earn a masters in special education can demand higher salaries and ensure the safety and success of their students.
Math and Science
The United States has been slipping in its test scores in math and science for decades. Recent research into academic achievement around the world has found that the U.S. placed in the middle of country rankings for both subjects, indicating that American schools are less effective at educating in the fields of math and science than they could be.
Thus, education institutions are always eager to hire knowledgeable and passionate math and science teachers. Math and science teachers consistently earn the highest salaries at U.S. schools, making them enviable positions for teachers looking to balance their interest in making a positive impact on the world and their need to take home a livable wage. The most effective math and science teachers have bachelor degrees in a field related to math or science as well as teaching credentials required by their state.
If you want to make a difference in the world — not just today but for generations to come — you should become a teacher. Not only will serving as a teacher in one of the above underserved subjects allow you to end the teacher shortage that is plaguing America, but it will all but guarantee you a rewarding role for the rest of your career.