How To Deal With Teacher Shortages At Your School

It never fails – you’re preparing for a hectic school day, and your administrator taps on your door and asks you to cover a class. You say yes because you have to: pressure from your boss, doing the right thing, worry you might be in the same boat in the future. But you know the time crunch that you’re under. You’re going to lose your precious planning period. There goes your time to focus on your extensive to-do list, use the restroom, and head to the copy machine. 

Teacher shortages affect everyone in the school building, but there are some strategies for having fewer teachers in the building while higher-ups solve the problem. Let’s dive into things you can do right now to deal with teacher shortages at your school.

teacher shortages

Why is there a teacher shortage?

Many factors contribute to the teacher shortage:

  • Pay: Many teachers aren’t able to work in the district they live in because their pay is simply too low, so they find jobs closer to home.
  • Burnout: It’s been a tough few years for teachers due to the pandemic. Many teachers have left the profession for other jobs due to low pay and high stress.
  • Other job opportunities: Many job opportunities in the current market lure teachers away. As teachers deal with burnout, they begin to seek out other options. 
  • Fewer teachers enter the profession: We see fewer people entering the education profession after graduating college. 

How are students, teachers, and staff affected by a teacher shortage?

Everyone inside a school is affected by a teacher shortage. Let’s break down ways you will see teacher shortages affect schools. 

Larger class sizes

Most teacher shortages don’t happen all of a sudden. You will notice larger class sizes at the start of the year. A missing teacher in a grade can result in an additional 5-10 kids in your class. Your students and teachers will feel the increase. There is a higher workload for prepping and grading. Classrooms are hard to manage with higher amounts of students. 

Not enough subs

If your district is struggling with a teacher shortage, you probably find you don’t have enough substitute teachers. Substitute teachers earn less money and don’t receive the benefits that teachers do, so there is little incentive to sub if there are better job opportunities. 

When a district has a substitute teacher shortage, teachers have to cover the classes for the absent teacher. This becomes incredibly draining for extended absences like family leave.

Reduced planning periods

When you cover another teacher’s classes, it occurs during your planning period. This means a teacher has less time in the day to plan and grade. Teachers will spend more time completing these tasks out of the school day, contributing to increased teacher burnout.

Tips and strategies to deal with teacher shortages at your school

You’re not a politician and can’t magically fix the teacher shortage. But there are some things you can do to deal with the here and now of a teacher shortage at your school. 

Offer to cover teacher’s classes for shorter periods, so they don’t have to get a full-day sub

It’s hard to attend a doctor’s appointment as a teacher. Often you have to request a sub for the whole day even though you only need to be out of school for an hour or two. Offer to cover a teacher’s class for these types of events. That way, more subs will be available for those that need them. 

Have sub plans ready so that anyone can implement

When there’s a teacher and sub shortage, you have no idea who will cover your classes. Make sure you have sub plans ready so that anyone can implement them. Have backup plans for unexpected absences as well. It will go much more smoothly, and your students feel safer when things are unsettled. 

Consider hiring a full-time sub

If your school can swing it, consider hiring a full-time sub. This increases the likelihood that classes are covered. It also helps to alleviate the pressure on teachers. A full-time sub can help with study halls as well.

Examine all staff member credentials

With teacher shortages, it’s necessary to get creative with scheduling. Check all of the credentials of your staff. See if a staff member can fill a gap in a place you might not have previously considered. For example, you may have a science teacher that is also certified to teach math. They might not need to teach math all day, but covering a period can help the school’s needs. 

Structure classes to implement team teaching

You can structure the class so you can implement team teaching. Team teaching allows your teachers to take on larger class sizes because the work can be divided up. See if there are any areas where team teaching can be beneficial. An additional benefit of team teaching is it encourages collaboration. 

Use online resources to have digital teaching options

With teacher shortages, you will need to automate more of your class day. TeacherMade helps with workflow, management, and engagement when class sizes go up. With TeacherMade, you can:

  • Upload your existing worksheets and PDFs and convert them to online assignments
  • Add an answer key for self-grading
  • Quickly assess your students and see where learning gaps are
  • Manage larger class sizes
  • Increase student engagement, so students don’t fall through the cracks