Shortages Forced a Principal to Teach 6th-Grade English. She’s Alarmed By How the Pandemic Is Affecting the Classroom
Receive stories like these directly in your email inbox. Subscribe to Newsletter.
New Orleans middle school principal, Laura Adelman-Cannon, finds herself in a challenging situation as she takes on two roles since the start of the academic year. In addition to managing a school with 550 students, Adelman-Cannon has also taken on the role of teaching the sixth-grade English class. This has resulted in her sacrificing sleep and time with her family after long days at the International School of Louisiana, Uptown Campus.
The reason behind her double duty is the difficulty she has faced in finding qualified teachers for her middle school. Adelman-Cannon describes the process of recruiting new teachers as a "nightmare." Although she acknowledges the challenges, she continues to take on both roles because she believes it is in the best interest of her students. However, she admits that she really wishes she had an exceptional sixth-grade English teacher so that she could solely focus on being a principal.
This situation is not unique to Adelman-Cannon or her school. Across the country, schools are facing various challenges as they navigate the new normal. Teacher shortages have led to canceled classes, and bus driver shortages have resulted in students arriving late to school. Inflation and supply shortages have forced cafeterias to serve repetitive meals. Moreover, the mental health of both students and staff has been affected, with many feeling overwhelmed and depressed.
Adelman-Cannon truly cares about her students and values the time she spends with them in the classroom. However, juggling two roles is far from ideal. As a teacher, she longs for a planning period and the opportunity to provide individual attention to students for remediation. Unfortunately, her responsibilities as a principal prevent her from fulfilling these desires.
Being in the classroom has brought to Adelman-Cannon’s attention some concerning behaviors exhibited by her students. It is not uncommon for them to fall asleep during class, even during activities that are typically engaging. She has also observed instances of students talking to themselves. These behaviors suggest the possibility of underlying mental health issues, possibly depression. Adelman-Cannon is not a mental health professional, but she believes that these behaviors have developed during remote learning and will require time to be unlearned. Many students seem to have forgotten how to interact in a classroom setting, surrounded by their peers and educators.
In addition to sleeping in class, Adelman-Cannon is noticing a significant decrease in the number of assignments being turned in. She worries that she may have to fail a larger number of students than ever before. She can try to reteach skills, provide additional support, or change the teaching materials, but if there is no motivation or desire on the part of the students, it becomes challenging to make a significant impact.
The situation faced by Adelman-Cannon and other educators is indicative of the struggles schools are currently experiencing. Finding qualified teachers, addressing mental health concerns, and maintaining student engagement are just a few of the many obstacles schools are trying to overcome in these challenging times.
One solution that a principal in Florida has developed to address teacher shortages is by recruiting former students from Haines City High School. Adam Lane, the principal of the school, has been able to overcome the common problem of staffing shortages by hiring alumni.
Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, Principal Adelman-Cannon, who has been in the education field for 25 years, remains confident that the school will adapt and recover. She draws strength from her experience of teaching through another crisis, Hurricane Katrina. Having gone through the devastation caused by the hurricane, she knows that she can persevere through difficult times and rebuild.
Adelman-Cannon is optimistic that the school is once again navigating through this challenging period. The dedicated and determined staff members who remain at the school are witnessing signs of success and a return to normalcy, which gives them hope and motivation.
According to Adelman-Cannon, one of the school’s greatest achievements this year is their focus on students’ mental health. Recognizing that an individual’s well-being is crucial for effective learning, she acknowledges that all students are in need of therapy. While she can’t provide individual therapists for each student, she has taken the step to hire a social worker and licensed counselor. Her hope is that these professionals will support and guide the students during this challenging time.
Adelman-Cannon maintains complete faith in her teachers, parents, and students. She believes that together they will emerge from this situation stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to face any future challenges that life may bring.