Did you know that there are priests who will be dead or retired in the next ten years and there are not enough priests in the seminaries to fill their positions? Sound familiar? That’s because there are teachers who will be dead or retired in the next ten years and there are not enough students in colleges of education to fill their positions.
Today, in the spirit of Easter, I want to share a sermon with my fellow educators that I heard in January. It was about the waning numbers of clergymen and what could be done to change that pattern. I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the “teacher” shortages in the church and in our classrooms. So, I listened intently and have decided to share Father Bolding’s advice with traditional teachers. Below are three points he made that can be directly applied to educators and can restore our sense of urgency and agency in recruiting more people to our profession.
Remember That Teaching Is a Calling (and Remind Others)
Helping and service professions are a calling. Individuals who choose to become teachers, priests, social workers, police officers, military personnel, etc., do not seek these professions for the money. They seek these professions because they feel a deep obligation to their community. However, many times our friends and families discourage us from these professions rather than celebrate our desire to serve. He went on the point out that when our neighbors decide to join the military, they are praised for their courage and their commitment to this country. What would the world look like if, instead of our relatives asking us if we are sure we want to be teachers (or insert another low paying career here), they celebrated us for our commitment to the betterment of our society as a whole? So let’s remind those around us, and ourselves, that our profession is a calling and we come back year after year because we feel a sense of responsibility to the amazing students we have the privilege of serving every day.
Focus On What You Gain, Not What You Sacrifice
Father Bolding mentioned that when young men decide to join the clergy, many times, their families become sad because they feel that their relative is sacrificing many of the joys of life such as marriage and a family. However, they fail to focus on the ways in which the profession enriches the lives of those who serve.
We need to end the narrative that we are somehow suffering because we chose a low paying profession that can be emotionally and psychologically taxing. Yes, we have days that dampen our spirits, but we have been trusted to educate someone else’s child. That is an honor. Quite frankly, it is a privilege that we are not worthy of but that we are still handed by trusting parents across this country. We have the opportunity to shape young minds and build up the self esteem and strengths of our future leaders. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that so rewarding? And, yes, it’s exhausting, but if this really enriches your life and your spirit in a way that a cubicle couldn’t, stay in the profession. And when others want to talk about your low salary or your long work hours, change the narrative. Talk about all the things you have gained, not all the things you don’t have, which usually happen to be material goods anyhow.
Be a Fisher of Men
In other words, recruit, recruit, recruit. Never stop telling others, especially young adults in search of their calling, why you love teaching and why they should consider it too. We should be taking any and all opportunities to talk about the joys of our professions, inviting community members into our classrooms, and mentoring our young talent, especially new teachers in the building, so they can persevere in a profession that is taxing but will always be rewarding in the end.
Happy Easter fellow educators. I hope this post brings you a renewed energy to finish out the year strong and recommit to coming back stronger than ever next year.
Carla Rivera-Cruz (CRC) is an educator and entrepreneur committed to helping like-minded educators reach their fullest potentials.