The College of Education is preparing educators for success in a shifting industry. Photos by Lauren Jindrich.
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Students of Butler’s College of Education are currently preparing to go into a field that is going through major changes. Through internships and student teaching, they are learning how to best teach the future generation. However, shortages of credentialed educators, low pay and large class sizes contribute to high intensity environments for educators and growing concerns for education students.
The National Library of Medicine conducted a study before and during COVID-19, and teachers that participated reported a significantly declined quality of life during the pandemic. Massive changes to educational formats such as virtual learning contributed to burnout amongst educators facing new expectations and health concerns both in and out of the workplace.
Lillie Michael, a junior secondary education major, feels that much of the current teacher shortage is driven by burnout and discouraging underrepresentation once these educators enter the field.
“I think that a lot of teachers have stopped working because of how underrepresented [in legislature] they are; they’re not paid well,” Michael said. “I mean, they’re just not respected.”
After the pandemic, teachers have often been expected to overcompensate for underfunding by paying for decorations, books and resources for students from their own pocket. These efforts — often unpaid — can lead to burnout, stress and feelings of inadequacy among educators.
Lily Haag, a senior secondary education major who is currently interning at Pike High School, agrees that teachers are not given due credit for their work.
“I think a big part of [the teacher shortage] is just blatant disrespect on the part of legislators and parents,” Haag said. “[The shortage has] been accumulating for a very long time due to a large failure to address several systemic issues.”
The Center for American Progress reported that one-third fewer people have enrolled in teacher training programs compared to a decade ago. Common perceptions of education as a career field may deter future educators from pursuing a degree or accreditation in the profession.
Education professor Dr. Shelly Furuness suggested that the way the world negatively perceives education and educators may drive people away from the profession altogether.
“[Society] creates these negative narratives around the failures of public school,” Dr. Furuness said. “We say that schools are failing, which makes people not want to start [their] career in a project that seems to be failing.”
According to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, or AACTE, during the 2018-19 academic year, less than 90,000 bachelor’s degrees in education were awarded in graduation nationwide. Additionally, according to Indeed, the average base salary for teachers in Indiana is 42k a year, 18% lower than the national average. This pay gap does not only exist in Indiana but in many other states across the country.
Despite concerns about salary, Michael remains passionate about her motivations for entering the field of education.
“Pay is not great [in Indiana],” Michael said. “But it’s not about [pay] for me. These kids need help and qualified teachers and people who will help them succeed and grow as students.”
Future educators are also concerned with being taught how to confront complex social topics that will impact themselves as well as their students, and receive training to do so through Butler’s College of Education. Topics such as social justice and gun violence are concerns of students and educators, and when educators are equipped to confront such issues, they feel more confident and prepared in their workplace.
Michael stated that Butler gives students many opportunities to learn about diversity in the classroom.
“The [College of Education] is amazing at having classes that are all about diversity and racism and culture,” Michael said. “I want to go into an interesting community where they are in desperate need of teachers; I want to help with that.”
Haag also considers gun violence to be often overlooked in education, and the topic presents many daunting statistics that are constantly rising in the United States.
“Gun violence in schools is something that informs my thinking a lot in the classroom, and it’s something I’m always aware of,” Haag said. “This is something as students that grew up in a mass shooting era, we think about a lot.”
While these issues may cause concerns amongst students, Butler is also aiding current educators who have entered the workforce during the shortage to prepare for the current state of the field.
Butler University is taking steps to aid Indiana’s teacher shortage through a teacher-led training program for teachers, Teacher-Led, Teacher Education. The program gathers a support group of college-graduated teachers already working in the field, these educators lead courses to help alternatively credentialed teachers.
According to Indiana State Teacher Association, or ISTA, many factors can be attributed to the ongoing teacher shortage in Indiana. There is a consistent lack in educator salaries in Indiana, along with continuously changing state standards, mandates and graduation requirements.
There are many ways to begin a teaching career in Indiana, which don’t always require a college degree in education. There has been a rising number of K-12 schools that are filling teacher positions with those with emergency certification or alternate education due to a struggle to fill teaching positions.
Indiana Department of Education stated, “An Emergency Permit is issued at the request of a school district in a content area for which the district is experiencing difficulty staffing the assignment with a properly licensed educator. The Emergency Permit (EP) is a temporary credential issued to a school corporation or special education cooperative for a person who is not licensed for that assignment.”
Bridging the gap between college graduate educators and alternatively-certified educators is a valuable aspect in the teaching career as a whole. If all teachers are trained on the same practices and values, students are able to receive a more comprehensive education.
Dr. Furuness had a large part in helping with the design of Teacher-Led, Teacher Education, and is currently researching teacher education and curriculum theory. In working with teachers in many districts surrounding Butler, Dr. Furuness understands the necessity of an equipped workforce of confident educators.
“Alumni from [Butler’s] College of Education, who are practicing teachers in a lot of different districts, have worked with the College of Education to create professional learning communities led by practicing educators to [educators who are not in the field yet].” Dr. Furuness said.
Despite concerns about various aspects of the education system, current students remain passionate about inspiring and educating the next generation. From sponsoring programs such as Teacher-Led, Teacher Education to affirming curriculum for education students to understand complex social aspects of teaching, comprehensive education training prepares well-rounded educators for the future of their field.