The Teacher Shortage: Why, and What to Do?

More from our inbox:

  • Mr. McCarthy, Put Country Before Ego
  • Debate, Yes, but Without an Audience
  • Reauthorize PEPFAR
  • How Unions Help Companies

Credit…Eleanor Davis

To the Editor:

Re “People Don’t Want to Be Teachers Anymore. Can You Blame Them?,” by Jessica Grose (newsletter, nytimes.com, Sept. 13):

As a retired teacher, I read this with heartfelt interest. Ms. Grose noted the cost of getting a degree, low pay and lack of respect as leading causes for our current shortage of teachers.

Then again, when I entered the College of Education at the University of Minnesota in 1980, my friends thought I was crazy. There was little respect even then. Pay was even worse.

I began as a pre-law student my freshman year in college. And then it happened. I saw the light. I remembered those teachers who had saved me. Teachers who had seen potential in me that I could not see for myself. My life was transformed by teachers.

The courtroom seemed like a selfish ambition. The classroom felt like a journey of love, an opportunity to be inspired and to inspire each and every day. I walked into my college guidance counselor’s office and asked to transfer into the College of Education.

No regrets. The 35 years I spent in the classroom taught me so many important lessons. I learned the importance of believing in excellence. I learned that I could help others become excellent. And most important, I discovered that belonging to a professional learning community was eternally gratifying.

I understand that people don’t want to be teachers anymore. That was true in the 1980s, too. But for many of us who did become teachers, bliss. Can you say the same in your job today?

Dan Larsen
Barrington, Ill.

To the Editor:

Jessica Grose is spot on that financial barriers, mental wellness, culture wars and a profession that is out of step with the wants and needs of this generation are all contributing to teacher shortages across the country, especially in low-income communities.

She also notes that people who consider teaching later in life could be a source of optimism. Don’t count Gen Z out. We just welcomed over 2,200 new Teach for America teachers — 40 percent more than last year, and most are recent college graduates.

This generation is giving us so much optimism: They understand the experiences and needs of today’s students, and want careers that have meaningful impact, align with their values and foster community. Collectively we have to create the conditions for this generation to say yes to careers in education.

Jemina R. Bernard
Stamford, Conn.
The writer is president and chief operating officer of Teach for America.

To the Editor:

I agree with everything Jessica Grose has to say in this piece about the current decline in the number of college graduates who choose to become teachers. I would, however, suggest an additional reason for this decline. Simply put, women graduates today have more career choices than in the past.

When I graduated in 1962, most of my friends and I became teachers. What were our choices? Teaching, nursing, or go to Katharine Gibbs and learn to type. Today I have two 24-year-old granddaughters; one is an architectural engineer, the other is enrolled in a graduate program that will enable her to become a clinical researcher.

Neither even considered a career as a teacher. Nor did my 51-year-old daughter, who is an attorney.

Beverly Stautzenbach
Venice, Fla.

Mr. McCarthy, Put Country Before Ego

Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Hard Right in Congress Sows Havoc,” by Carl Hulse (news analysis, front page, Sept. 25):

Mr. Hulse’s article is deeply disturbing insofar as 20 or so radical conservative Republicans can force a government shutdown.

There is a simple solution if Speaker Kevin McCarthy would choose to put the country before his own political ego and his party: Walk across the aisle with willing Republicans and speak with Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader, to vote with the Democrats to approve the budget.

Mr. McCarthy should ask himself what a leader and patriot like Senator John McCain would do in a similar situation. Mr. McCarthy’s constituents might surprise him with their support if he demonstrates some real courage.

Brian Houseal
Brunswick, Maine

Debate, Yes, but Without an Audience

Credit…Brian Snyder/Reuters

To the Editor:

My suggestion to improve the debates being broadcast on TV would be to get rid of the audience. Then candidates would no longer waste time throwing out these sound bites for the applause and cheers.

Perhaps that may help them to listen to the question posed to them by the moderator and possibly answer it.

In addition, getting rid of the audience might even force people watching the debates at home to think for themselves when making a decision regarding a candidate, since they would have no idea what everyone else is thinking.

Imagine that.

Laura Klein
Pinecrest, Fla.

Reauthorize PEPFAR

Administering an H.I.V. test in 2012 at a Johannesburg clinic supported by PEPFAR.Credit…Foto24/Gallo Images, via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Will Republicans Abandon This Medical Triumph?” (column, Sept. 21):

Nicholas Kristof’s piece about PEPFAR is spot on: PEPFAR’s work to prevent and treat H.I.V. and AIDS around the world has saved over 25 million lives, and should absolutely be reauthorized by Congress.

But even beyond that extraordinary achievement, PEPFAR has ushered in a culture of accountability and efficiency across virtually all sectors of global health, not just H.I.V. and AIDS care.

PEPFAR’s accountability standards require foreign governments and implementing NGOs to use data, evaluations (such as randomized control trials), and advanced analytics to measure results and demonstrate value for money.

The result: It now costs PEPFAR dramatically less to save each life. In 2014, it cost $315 to give lifesaving treatment to one person for one year. By 2022, that had fallen to $59. Those are industry-changing results.

Countries are now using tactics developed by PEPFAR for other health programs, from disaster response to seasonal outbreaks.

With PEPFAR’s focus on efficiency and results, the American people can be confident that another five-year authorization would be money well spent.

Hannah Cooper
Tyler Smith
The writers are the co-founders of Cooper/Smith, an organization focused on using data to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of foreign aid programs.

How Unions Help Companies

Credit…Evan Cobb for The New York Times

To the Editor:

What has been missing in articles about the current United Auto Workers strike at General Motors, Ford and Stellantis is that having a union is not just about fighting for good wages and benefits but also about fighting for its important role in helping companies.

Having a union, whether it’s at G.M., Starbucks or a hospital, can help management avoid making bad decisions, create innovative changes by utilizing the skills and knowledge of the frontline staff, and optimize the use of new technologies.

Having a “collective voice” to pressure management to avoid making bad decisions and consider alternative approaches has resulted in improving productivity and the quality of products in companies and hospitals up to 30 percent, reducing costs and at times creating new jobs and additional revenue.

Maybe the current strike can help U.S. managers realize that unions can be of benefit to them, too, rather than view them as a burden?

Peter Lazes
West Stockbridge, Mass.
The writer is a visiting professor at the School of Labor and Employment Relations, Penn State, and co-author of the book “From the Ground Up: How Frontline Staff Can Save America’s Healthcare.”

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