How the Substitute Teacher Shortage Is Impacting Teacher Professional Development

It’s 7 a.m., and I’m on my second trek from my automotive to our centralized district assembly house, lugging snacks, provides and chart paper as I put together to steer a workshop on finest practices for know-how integration for a bunch of 15 elementary academics in my district.

It’s September 2021 and as one of many district’s tutorial know-how content material leaders, I’ve lastly been given the inexperienced gentle to host in-person skilled improvement (PD) for this group of keen academics after months of assembly on-line. Lecturers trickle in as I set out muffins and sweet at every desk. Excited for the chance to concentrate on their studying, academics discover their seats and begin to chit chat concerning the lesson plans they’ve left for his or her college students.

This workshop is a part of a tech ambassador program, which builds know-how advocacy throughout the district. As a part of this system, every trainer was supplied with funding to cowl the price of a substitute trainer to cowl their class for a complete of 5 days all through this faculty yr so they may take part in a sequence {of professional} workshops centered on tips on how to purposefully combine know-how into elementary lecture rooms centered on the ISTE Requirements for College students (ISTE is the father or mother group of EdSurge, although we function with editorial independence.)

Quick ahead to September 2022, and I’m finalizing modules on Canvas, our studying administration system, to proceed to ship the identical high quality skilled studying, however in a completely completely different format. After two years of disruptions to in-person gathering because of well being considerations, academics at the moment are going through a distinct barrier — the substitute trainer scarcity. One in all each 5 requests within the U.S. for substitute academics went unfilled earlier than COVID-19, and that has worsened with the results of the pandemic, with 77 p.c of districts reporting staffing challenges associated to substitute academics, in line with a working paper revealed by the Annenberg Institute at Brown College. This scarcity has impacted many areas of our faculties’ day-to-day practices, and is now impacting how academics study.

A New Barrier Emerges

Our suburban Missouri faculty district serves round 16,500 college students. Behind the scenes of every classroom in our district, there are numerous palms at work. Offering deep, tailor-made studying experiences for our college students requires lots of effort, from evaluating curricular assets to aligning research-based tutorial practices to the evolving state requirements. Our district’s curriculum group consists of a wide range of members with roles designed to help academics to work by way of these areas. One in all my roles is to satisfy with groups of academics to develop them as teacher-leaders of their buildings, as they study to rework classroom practices with the intentional use of digital instruments.

Previous to the pandemic, our district allowed academics to be launched from their classroom to take part in their very own studying, however our present lack of substitute academics has created challenges. Constructing directors, typically pulled to fill this position and canopy lecture rooms themselves, now push again on requests for academics to be lined for PD. Like many districts throughout the nation, our academics can now not attend skilled conferences or collaborate with friends to study tutorial practices as a result of substitute academics should not out there to cowl lecture rooms. This actuality is problematic for academics and necessitates a brand new method to offering skilled studying.

The New Actuality for Trainer PD

Within the not-too-distant previous, my days have been stuffed making ready for PD conferences with a wide range of trainer teams. I labored with groups that have been studying about know-how integration and supported new academics with the digital instruments that that they had at their disposal. With every group, I might reply questions within the second and supply alternatives for academics to bounce concepts off of each other.

At the moment, I facilitate skilled studying experiences which might be held on-line after faculty hours. I arrange modules to incorporate researched primarily based articles, video messages and dialogue boards centered round academics’ studying goals. As an alternative of visiting lecture rooms in neighboring districts to witness efforts and initiatives in particular person, academics who want to develop of their follow view video snippets of constructions in follow. The shift has posed challenges for these of us facilitating the PD in addition to for the academics.

As a facilitator, transferring to asynchronous on-line PD signifies that I can’t regulate studying to satisfy academics’ rapid wants in real-time. These useful desk conversations don’t occur in asynchronous studying environments. My colleague Dr. Melinda Scheetz, the literacy coordinator for our district who designed our district’s PD for shifting to our new phonics curriculum, agrees. She says she has struggled with managing the content material that each one of our elementary academics must study round our phonics initiative and tips on how to tackle their considerations nearly. Scheetz just lately shared her sentiment with me: “We educate our college students in particular person, however we’re asking our academics to study asynchronously in isolation.”

The adjustment has been tough for our academics too. Whereas a lot of them have realized collaboratively in full or half-day coaching periods for his or her complete careers, many wrestle to carve out time for on-line studying throughout the faculty day as a result of they’ve a heavy load of standard classroom obligations. “It’s a lot extra time consuming to learn everybody’s feedback on dialogue boards,” wrote one trainer after finishing a survey Scheetz administered following an asynchronous PD session. Different survey respondents indicated that that they had bother staying on process to finish on-line studying, and missed the chance to ask questions within the second.

Hopeful Future for Trainer PD

The shift to on-line trainer PD that happened because of COVID and has continued to tug on because of the scarcity of substitute academics making it tough to search out protection for in-person skilled studying experiences has introduced challenges, however there have additionally been some advantages. Lecturers report that they just like the comfort of with the ability to full their studying at a time and place that’s handy for them. Many additionally respect the truth that these studying assets, together with movies modeling tutorial practices, can be found to return to, permitting academics to rewatch, pause and rewind when wanted.

As for me, whereas I favor working with a bunch of academics who can synchronously share concepts and collaborate in-person, I’ve encountered some sudden successes. On account of this pivot, I discover myself working one-on-one with academics extra recurrently. My strategic asynchronous course design consists of purposeful questions that enable every particular person trainer to verify in about their private objectives and distinctive challenges, which permits me to get to know them at a deeper degree than earlier than.

At a time when a lot of the analysis signifies that self-directed studying leads to optimistic outcomes for our college students, creating self-directed studying environments for our academics is smart. This situation, for instance, has allowed me to mannequin the usage of our newly adopted studying administration system that academics are anticipated to make use of — and it has given them a chance to expertise these digital studying methods as a learner.

As I put together for a fast after-school check-in with a bunch of academics who’re studying efficient methods for instructing versatile blended courses in our district’s three excessive faculties, I received’t be bringing chart paper or setting chocolate out on tables. As an alternative, I’ll be checking that my course content material is properly organized on Canvas and that my Zoom assembly is ready up appropriately.

Whether or not facilitating PD in particular person or on-line, I need to honor that these academics are drained, however nonetheless able to study. I need to present them that I acknowledge that, identical to the scholars they educate, these academics deliver with them learner preferences and distinctive experiences that make absorbing this info straightforward or difficult. However, most of all, I would like these academics to go away this studying expertise with their buckets stuffed, feeling empowered to show their college students.

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