How School Directors Fuel Public Education During A Teacher Shortage

Two teachers, one an older man and one a younger woman, join together to teach a class of grade four students.

In 2022 alone, more than 800,000 international students chose Canada to complete their studies. 

It’s not surprising. Canadian public education is world-class, with its affordability, inclusivity, and opportunities. But what happens when that world-class education system has more demand than supply? 

One role stands out as crucial in navigating the challenges presented by the ongoing teacher shortage: the School Director. As Canada grapples with a significant shortfall of qualified educators, it is School Directors who play a pivotal role in addressing three critical areas: 

  1. Teacher allocation,
  2. Class composition and 
  3. Large class sizes. 

School Directors Need to Face These 3 Issues Every Day

Teacher Allocation

Teacher allocation is a fundamental aspect of addressing the teacher shortage. As highlighted in the 2022 report, "Learning in a Time of Change," teacher assignments must be strategically planned to ensure equitable access to education across all regions and territories. It is the School Director who understands teacher allocation at the granular level. This position witnesses what a teacher shortage truly means within a school building and classroom walls. As such, School Directors hold the responsibility of:

  • Analyzing local needs, 
  • Determining staffing requirements, and 
  • Making informed decisions to ensure a fair distribution of teachers. 

With keen decisiveness, school directors make deliberate decisions regarding teacher placement. Where they put a teacher directly impacts their school's future. As Unesco's Teacher Allocation and Utilization report shares, "Effective teacher allocation can limit the need for recruiting new teachers and, hence, control expenditure." While directors can't magically make a teacher appear, by taking an active role in teacher placement, School Directors can help bridge the gaps in underserved areas and create a more balanced education system.

Class Composition

Classroom makeup varies and is as unique as the students within them. School directors must consider their students' needs and abilities regarding placement. The significance of addressing class composition lies in providing an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all students, particularly those with diverse learning needs. The Supreme Court battle over class size and student demographics in British Columbia, as reported by CBC News, exemplifies the importance of this issue. School Directors must proactively advocate for adequate resources, support services, and specialized teachers to ensure that classrooms are conducive to effective learning for all students. By actively promoting and implementing inclusive class compositions, School Directors can impact students' educational experiences.

Class Sizes

Large class sizes have been a persistent issue in Canadian public education, and the teacher shortage exacerbates this challenge. As highlighted in a report by University Affairs, the demand for teachers in Canada has transitioned from a surplus to a scarcity in recent years. With a limited number of educators available, class sizes often increase, posing detrimental effects on the quality of education.

School Directors are critical in advocating for appropriate teacher-student ratios and seeking innovative solutions to mitigate the impact of large class sizes. By prioritizing resources, professional development, and teaching methodologies that cater to diverse classroom sizes, School Directors can foster a conducive learning environment that supports student success.

3 Ways School Directors Can Ease Their Teacher Shortage Crisis

The 2016 BC Supreme Court ruling on smaller class sizes poses challenges and considerations for British Columbia's education and serves as a model for other territories. While smaller class sizes benefit students' learning experiences, specifically in supporting students with special needs and preventing teacher burnout, the practical implementation of this ruling is more than challenging. With a lack of qualified educators available, it makes meeting the demand for smaller classes nearly impossible.

So how can school directors balance maintaining optimal class sizes and securing qualified teachers? Through careful planning, resource allocation, and collaboration via partnerships. 

Here are 3 potential approaches school directors can explore:

1. Innovative Staffing Solutions 

Deliver alternative staffing models using educational assistants, teacher candidates, or retired educators to provide additional support in larger classrooms. In 2019, one undergrad student at Laurentian University performed "backup supply teaching at a local elementary school due to a growing shortage of teachers." Calling on current education majors to provide support in the classroom will provide them with relevant work experiences, professional relationships, and monetary support while alleviating oversized classrooms.

Like the US, Canada also struggles with substitute shortages and teacher absenteeism. In the Hechinger Report's article "'More than a warm body: Schools try long-term solutions to substitute teacher shortage" by Neal Morton, he noted how some schools are changing their backup teaching supply approach. Rather than relying on short-term fixes such as raising pay or hiring temp agencies, schools are:

  • Creating programs to train and certify substitute teachers, 
  • Partnering with nearby colleges and universities, and 
  • Providing additional support and resources for substitutes. 

These efforts aim to attract and retain high-quality substitutes and ensure that students receive consistent and effective instruction even when their regular teachers are absent.

2. Support for Teacher Education Programs

Collaboration between education authorities and teacher education programs can help align the supply of new teachers with the demand in specific regions or subjects. Schools in each territory need to be talking to each other and teacher accreditation programs. Education problems are ever-changing, and when these two entities collaborate and speak the same language, they can adequately mold and prepare their students to become effective teachers.

Many territories offer mentorship and new teacher induction programs to offer high-level support. It's essential to consider the goal of induction programs and evaluate their effectiveness continuously. Sometimes these programs create more stress, so maintaining their integrity safeguards new hires and school systems. By ensuring that teacher education programs address the needs of the education system and provide relevant training, the number of qualified teachers available for smaller class sizes can be increased.

3. Professional Development and Support 

With the influx of new and emergency-certified teachers, there aren't enough experienced mentors to support them. However, support is and needs to be a top priority for School Directors if they want to retain their new hires. Ongoing professional development opportunities and mentorship programs can support teachers in managing large classes effectively. Despite what best practice says, large class sizes are inevitable with so many teaching vacancies. Training programs can support teachers in their efforts to create engaging, inclusive learning environments despite larger class sizes. Training needs to focus on :

  • Class management strategies, 
  • Differentiated instruction, 
  • Utilizing technology and
  • Managing stress.

The Canadian Teachers' Federation, "in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada, has launched a pilot project focused on improving the mental health of teachers and education workers." The director of the school can look to these types of partnerships to help support future educators as they navigate the complexities of classroom teaching. School Directors send a powerful message to their teachers when they offer ongoing help. Supporting new teachers will help them strengthen their expertise and pedagogy while allowing them to stay in the profession.

School Directors are paving the way for a brighter future for students through their commitment and visionary leadership. In the face of Canada's teacher shortage, they assume a vital position in shaping the future of public education. By addressing teacher allocation, class composition, and large class sizes, educational leaders can proactively combat these challenges and have more impact on the quality of education. The collective efforts of School Directors, supported by policymakers, communities, and educational stakeholders, will contribute to a more equitable, inclusive, and resilient public education system.

Amid the complexities of Canada's teacher shortage, School Directors remain the torchbearers of excellence in public education. Their dynamic roles require them to juggle myriad challenges, from teacher allocation to addressing large class sizes. To navigate this intricate landscape effectively, having the right technological support is not a luxury but a necessity. An ERP solution like Sparkrock 365 serves as a linchpin, facilitating seamless processes such as data collection, aggregation, and analysis. This ensures School Directors spend less time on administrative tasks and more on what truly matters: leading their people and shaping the future of Canadian education. By integrating functions such as HR management, budgeting, and scheduling, ERP systems enable educational leaders to adopt a holistic approach to school management and multi-year planning. The end result? A robust, equitable, and resilient public education system that stands the test of time.

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