Embracing the Call: Reframing the Teacher Narrative to Inspire Future Educators

Drew Whitehurst | February 16, 2024

Once a beloved profession, current conversations around the roles of teachers are often fraught with sympathy, frustration, and stress.

Plagued by debates around school curriculums, low wages, burnout, and declining enrollment in many districts, the education sector’s supply of teachers is dwindling. Educators are leaving the field more rapidly, and fewer college graduates are pursuing education upon graduation—leaving schools around the country scrambling to come up with creative ways to fill gaps in their staff now and into the future.

How can those in education inspire a future generation of teachers to get involved in this field—and see this career as the noble vocation that it is?


The Dwindling Supply of Teachers

The facts are pretty undeniable. The United States is hurting for educators in many areas and education levels.

Between the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, teachers in at least eight states exited the profession at a higher rate than in the preceding five or more years:

  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Washington

Of those, North Carolina saw the highest jump: teacher turnover reached 16%, compared to less than 12% in the three years before the pandemic.

At the same time, nationwide, we’re seeing 20-30% fewer new teachers entering the profession each year compared to a decade ago.

Theories abound on the reasons behind these shifts. Pandemic concerns—in particular, cultural and professional changes that have contributed to teacher burnout and reduced enjoyment in the job—often dominate this conversation. But these trends existed before COVID-19 entered the picture.

Teachers who’ve left the profession cite many reasons, ranging from student behavior issues to unpleasant relationships with parents and low pay.

Ongoing development and career progression have also posed a challenge for educators, who don’t always feel well supported by administrative staff. Indeed, some school districts can focus too heavily on student performance statistics instead of the deeper impacts of education.


Understanding the Challenges

Most teachers—a whopping 93%, in fact—become educators because they want to make a difference in the lives of students. And for good reason! Studies show that the influence of good teachers can help students achieve greater academic success, feel supported in stressful times, and feel higher levels of self-confidence.

So where does it go wrong for the teachers—so wrong that they’re willing to leave the profession altogether?

Challenges arising inside the classroom and beyond can sour an educator’s perspective on their career.

In addition to low teacher salaries—which, especially in a shaky economy, may deter college students from pursuing a pricey bachelor’s degree in education and, ultimately, result in fewer new teachers entering the workforce—quality-of-life issues are pushing teachers out of the profession.

Notably, K-12 teachers are ranked the number one most burnt out profession in the United States. Other statistics are just as grim:

  • 80% of schools report that student behavior has worsened significantly in recent years, particularly with regards to classroom distractions and disrespect against teaching staff.
  • Three-quarters of teachers are dealing with increased workloads due to staffing issues.
  • 85% of teachers say their jobs are “unsustainable,” citing insufficient sleep, weekend work, and health risks related to stress.

Although individual experiences vary significantly based on geography and other factors, it largely comes down to this: teachers are feeling unappreciated, undervalued, and overworked. Something’s got to change if schools across the country—and particularly in places like Pennsylvania, which has seen applications for teaching licenses fall by a frightening 67% since 2010—want to retain their staff and attract new educators to the field.


Reframing the Teacher Narrative

Changing this story will require changing the narrative around teaching as a calling and as a profession. That can only start by making today’s teachers feel seen and supported in their work. Once more effort goes into supporting the educators we already have, it’ll become easier to draw the next generation of teachers into this career.

McKinsey & Company has a deeply informative report on the teacher shortage, and some of what they dug into centers around what some administrators and districts are doing to reverse the trend in their schools.

For example, investments in support staff (like school nurses and counselors) who help lighten the load for teachers; bringing in backup classroom support by administrators so teachers can take more breaks; offering ongoing development for teachers to hone their skills; and facilitating mentorship and connection with administrators can go a long way in lifting up educators.

Additionally, there is one inexpensive practice that can help in a big way: recognition! Simply showing respect and offering formal awards to teachers who excel in their work and have a positive impact on students can go a long way in motivating educators.

Most of all, administrators must always remember what motivated their teachers to join this career path in the first place: the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of the children in their classrooms. Teachers need the freedom to try new things, engage one-on-one with students, get creative in their lesson planning and delivery, and work with mentors who can help them keep that motivation top-of-mind year after year.


How HR Technology Can Help Attract Candidates

As you embark on the journey of building a team of educators that can go the distance for your students and school, bringing the best-fit candidates on board is key. So is standing out as an excellent employer when competing for limited applicants in the education talent pool.

Set yourself up for success with the right strategy and the right technology. Both will help you save time, put your best foot forward as an employer, and ensure open, clear communications with candidates to ensure the right fit for all involved.

For example, some best practices include:

  • Open the reach of your job postings across geographies. You should consider screening and interviewing remotely in order to connect with far-flung applicants as quickly as possible.
  • Use AI to cut down on administrative tasks like normalizing job postings and coming up with exceptional interview questions, without sacrificing the human element of your recruiting process.
  • Make sure the user experience for your applicants is branded and clean, to make an excellent first impression.
  • Deliver a deliberate, consistent onboarding experience for new hires—so they stick around for the long haul.

Ready to get started? Learn more about how to hire more teachers for your school here, including tips on how to expand your reach, capitalize on career fairs, and more.

And if you haven’t already invested in the right recruiting software to facilitate this work, now is the time. Let us show you how interviewstream can help.

About The Author

Drew Whitehurst is the Director of Marketing at interviewstream. He's been with the company since 2014 working in client services and marketing. He is an analytical thinker, coffee enthusiast, and hobbyist at heart.


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