Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How can we support good teachers and keep them in the profession?

How can we support good teachers and keep them in the profession?

Related Tags: Community Bulletin Board
More Related Discussions
43 4214 Views
There's been a lot of buzz lately about teachers' unions blocking efforts to relieve bad teachers of their jobs, notably in a recent New York Times magazine cover story. But while we tackle those concerns, let's not lose sight of an even deeper need that we urgently need to address. 50% of new teachers leave the profession within 5 years (I know that stat gets batted around a lot, but it's legit -- I've talked to the researcher who found it). Surveys have shown that it's not the low pay that sends them packing; it's the working conditions. Lack of support from colleagues and administrators. New mandates every year about what and how to teach. Standardized tests that don't gauge the real needs and abilities of their students. I'd be willing to bet that there are more good teachers who bail out than there are bad teachers who stick around and can't be fired. And even more good teachers who stay but endure years of frustration and never get to reach their greatest potential amid all the constraints of the massive education bureaucracy. So how do we make schools the kind of places that good teachers want to stay? And where good teachers can thrive? I believe this is one of the greatest -- if not the very greatest -- challenge we face in making our public schools successful. I'll throw out a few ideas to start: - Invest in great training for principals and hold them to high standards of academic and social leadership. (Seriously, of all the factors I've seen that can make or break a school, I think the quality of the principal is the most important.) - Build strong mentoring programs for new teachers and supportive collegial communities among teachers at each school. - Develop better assessments that measure more sophisticated skills in more diverse ways (some of the federal Race to the Top money is meant to encourage this). What do you think? How can we meet this challenge? Where should we start?

Comments (43)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

David Campbell's picture
David Campbell
High School Math Teacher from Philadelphia, PA

I am entering my fourth year as a High School Mathematics Teacher. I started out in a Catholic High School where I found the environment to be very comforting. However, I was surrounded by teachers who were on average 30 years older then me. The issue I found was in PD. OFten times I was found listening to teachers complain because they have been doing it "their way" for 30 years and it works. Well the problem is (in some peoples eyes) what works for them may not necessarily be preparing their students for the next level.

We are currently in a position where we are preparing our students for jobs that may not exist yet. With this in mind we need to stay updated with the technology that is at their finger tips and help them to use this technology to learn. There will always be days when information needs to be transmitted first hand to students. However, we need to be aware that our students are going to need to access this information without us at some point in the future. How do we get them there?

Well in my experience I was not quite sure. I did however have the opportunity to join a cohort of teachers for two years in a PLN. I still follow some of the blogs, but at this point in my career I am moving on to a different school. Because I have gone through some of the motions already I am aware of the resources that are out there. But in lies the question of "what are some ways we can support new teachers and keep them in the profession?"

In my case money isn't the issue. I am content with my salary/benefits etc. My issue, as previously mentioned, is the PD. We are approached constantly with statistics that compare our students test scores with other students'. This is not a motivating factor for most teachers. In our heads we are often thinking "well I know in my class they learned." There needs to be follow up and even out sourced PD that will help educators with continuing education (isn't that what PD is for).

Focus on ways to help us help the students learn. We need more resources to facilitate learning. Technology is helpful, but give us an opportunity to be educated about the best tools for our students.

S Mayo's picture
S Mayo
Kindergarten Teacher from New Hampshire

Mentoring can be a great resource for new teachers. I think new teachers really want help with the basics-"How do I start the year? How can I set up my classroom to be effective? How do I make the schedule for the first few weeks? What do I HAVE to teach?" After they feel comfortable with their class, mentors become the go-to person for more specific problems, like behaviors, techniques, what works for them. At the same time, new teachers often have great ideas for technology integration in the classroom, and look at classrooms without any "blinders" on. The mentoring program begins to be a shared forum, where teachers learn from each other-the community begins to grow. I have been both a mentor teacher and a new teacher in need of a mentor, and have had great learning experiences both times. I believe a good mentor program, a good give-and-take relationship helps in retaining teachers. But you have to go in with a love for the kids, because they are ultimately why you choose to stay!

Brian Davis's picture

I think there are a lot of things that we can do to help new teachers.
1. Share books and resources
2. Give a sympathetic ear.
3. Share lesson plan ideas and strategies.
4. Share our embarrassing stories and failures so that they feel better about theirs.
5. Ask teachers to share their ideas and make them feel like their opinions and ideas are valued.
6. Making a good mentor program is extremely important.
7. Inviting new teachers to professional development can help them receive training that they would not have otherwise received.
8. Give classroom management tips and resources.
9. Introduce the teachers to students in the hallway. Helping them start making relationships with students early is very key in their retention.
10. Free Candy!

Jo Graves's picture

I think a lot of this starts with the universities. New teaching canidates need to spend much more time in the schools observing and practicing. "The Best" schools should not be where this time is spent. They need to be sent to the lowest performing schools in their areas. For most new teachers these are the schools where they will begin their teaching careers. Once hired, there needs to be a strong mentoring program in place for the first 3-5 years. Newbies need to be paired with strong, well rounded peers who have time to nurture and assist in academics, management, peer and parental relationships, and help them to navigate the fury of mandated testing and state standards. New teachers need to be given days out of their classrooms to observe successful veterns and to conference with them about how and why they do what they do. Quality pd needs to developed to assist them in building strong foundations in which to base their decisions on. And, they need to be accepted by their peers, encouraged to share ideas, develop ideas, and to think outside the box and spread their wings. We need to embrace them, encourage them, and expect them to expand the world of our students.

Barbara Koski's picture
Barbara Koski
HS Special Education

How do we retain good teachers?

1.Leadership: Principals, department heads and fellow teachers, be the positive role model you want your students and new colleagues to become. Forgo the gossip and backbiting and be the professional you are meant to be.
2.Mentoring: Whether or not your district has a formal program, extend yourself to the new person and make him or her feel welcome. New teachers have dozens of questions and often feel embarrassed asking one after another.
3.Relationships: Help those new teachers feel a part of the school family. Make introductions, both formally at meetings and informally in the teacher's lounge as well as to students.
4.Share Resources: Where would any of us be without "borrowing" a great lesson plan from someone else? Go ahead and share a creative idea even without being asked.
5.Encourage Reflection: I received a journal when I returned to teaching after 8 years at home, and I wrote in it pretty regularly for several months. It helps me remember how challenging and overwhelming it can be for someone just starting out.
6.After School Fun: Invite that new person to a Friday Happy Hour or a Saturday play date if you have kids the same age or even for just a cup of coffee at the end of a long day. A sense of belonging and a sympathetic ear can make all the difference.

Danielle's picture
Special Education Teacher

Positive attitudes from faculty and staff is a must. Weren't you glad when you left a job that you were good at, but everyone was always so negative about their job? Negative attitudes not only make it harder for their co-workers, but in the case of teachers it's also more for the students. Students sense negative attitudes and then it makes it harder to teach those students. With a positive attitude, teachers are more willing collaborate to share ideas and resources for the better of the school and community. This not only helps moral in the school, but allows teachers to improve to become better than they were when they first started teaching.

Cindy Bowen's picture

This will be my 26th year teaching fifth grade at the same school. I teach reading, math and science and my students have consistently scored well above the state and county average on FCAT. I believe I am a good teacher, and I remain teachable myself. I must confess, I am skeptical that anyone will listen to and heed the ideas of the classroom teacher. You see, politically we carry less weight than some groups. However, being an optimist at heart, I suggest that to retain highly qualified teachers, one thing we must do is create for each teacher a classroom that meets the physical and psychological needs of the students and teacher. Throughout my career, I have always taught in a portable classroom. The one in which I currently teach I painted, with money from my own pocket to cover the faded paneling. The blinds are broken, the ceiling has holes and a dirty peeling surface. The doors are ill fitting and the room is dark and small. The windows are screwed shut as the locks no longer work. There is no water and this is difficult for a science classroom. I long for a bright, clean, spacious classroom. I think that by providing a color-rich, clean, bright room in which there is room enough to move around is a fine beginning!

Pernille Ripp's picture
Pernille Ripp
Fifth grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin

For me the reason to stay a teacher is simple; I feel like it is my home. To get to that feeling though there are things we must do at our schools and as fellow educators:
1. Make a human connection; say good morning, goodbye, invite to lunch, invite to coffee, ask about the kids. Reach out and mean it!
2. Support daring to be different. We can all conform but isn't it much more fun to teach different lessons, run your room in a different way - really make it your own.
3. Share your better stapler - I have made friendships over my awesome stapler. Use something to reach out.
4. Do something over the summer with your colleagues - whether it is taking a class or having dinner, keep up the connection since those same people may be your lifeline on one of those days.
5. Have reason to trust your administration - praise them for their right decisions, ask them about the ones you disagree with. If you know their reasons, it is often easier to believe and trust in them.
6. Discover yourself - I am a better teacher because I share my life with students. By opening up and spinning in your own life into instructions, students relate and you create a better community.
7. Learn to laugh about it, cry about it, vent about it - teaching is emotional, so learn to get your emotions out so you don't ruin your night at home or your day in the classroom.
8. Before you give up, try a different grade level or put in one more year. Some years your class is more difficult, sometimes the grade level we teach isn't just right. Don't give up before you start all over.
9. Know your passion before you begin; the warning signs will be there during your education if you are not meant to be a teacher. Trust your instinct and allow yourself to realize if the job is not for you, it's ok.

Pernille Ripp's picture
Pernille Ripp
Fifth grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin

The reason I remain a teacher is simple; my building is my home. Because of that I know I will never leave the profession, however, to get there her is what I believe in:
1. Reach out! Not just to a mentor but to everyone, say goodmorning, say goodbye, invite to lunch, share a cookie - reach out and mean it.
2. Dare to be different. If you have a different approach, trust in yourself and do it, run your room the way you want it to be run, otherwise it will seem inauthentic and you will get confused.
3. Open up. Your students love to hear about your life so share it with them to create community.
4. Share your awesome stapler. My stapler rocks and many friendships has been made because I offered to borrow it to someone.
5. Have reason to trust your administration. Praise their right decisions, question their other decisions but have a two-way relationship with them. They are not a machine, they are human beings rooting for your success.
6. Don't disconnect over the summer. Whether you share a class or dinner, do something with your colleagues. It is a wonderful way to build up trust and those people may just save you on one of those days.
7. Discover yourself. Bring you into the classroom, know what your passions are, know how you learn.
8. Stay true to yourself - being a teacher is often a calling, if you start to have doubts about during your education, explore those doubts. It is ok to decide not to be teacher.
9. Give it one more try. If you become a teacher an decide to quit, try another grade level or wait for the next ear to begin. Sometimes the particular class is a strange fit or high demand but the next year is the best year of your life. Sometime the original grade level you thought you loved, is not really your fit. Explore other options within your building or district before you give up.

Diane Gremp's picture

Give teachers administrators that :
understand professional development must be relevant, continuous and timely. No one hour, one shot training sessions!
encourage creativity by supporting innovative ideas
support and encourage change using a... PLC Model...I could go on and on

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.