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A love for the students and the subject matter! I, like a majority of the other teachers who posted, came in to teaching as a second career. I am surprised at the amount of teachers who have lost their passion. There are many factors to blame for this... salary, standardized tests, disrespect shown from students, lack of parental support, etc... The bottom line, I love my students (some of the most difficult in our parish) and I love teaching science and technology. As long as the love of the students and subject matter outweight the many negatives about our CHOSEN profession we should have plenty of dedicated teachers!
To answer the question about keeping teachers in the profession, I pose a question- what is driving teachers out of the profession? Low pay, substandard working conditions, extreme stress, new workplace hazards... administrators?
I truly believe that in order to keep teachers in the classrooms, keep them happy and in turn, keep kids happy and learning, a new approach to the learning environment must be addressed starting with administration. The truth is that a vast majority of the frustrations teachers face come from administrators. Sure, we all have that kid who relentlessly pushes buttons and that class that refuses to do homework, or even classwork for that matter, then runs home and has mommy and daddy come in for a conference when they take home a bad grade. But to what do we owe these problems? They stem from somewhere.. and that place is the administration. It is up to the administrators to develop a positive school community, to be consistent in managing issues from student discipline to teacher development, to expect excellence, to balance the needs of the HUMAN BEINGS in thier buildings. Schools communities are places where kids want to go to, where teachers care about thier students, where everyone takes pride in what they do. School buildings are rooms filled with apathetic people. There is a difference, and until the unwavering support comes from the administration, all a school will be is a building filled with people. Research shows us that the most successful schools are ones where there is a common vision, where all parties buy into it, where administrators unilaterally support thier teachers, and where teachers unilaterally support each other. This creates a positive environment for the students, and the learning process continues undaunted.
The truth is that in schools that turn over teachers, many of these aspects are missing. Classrooms are not managed because teachers are not being supported- either with management practices and modelling, with support for teacher decisions about students, or with training in time management. Chaos reigns and the learning process is splintered. This in itself can drive even the most dedicated and talented teachers away from the profession. We are not creating widgets, we are helping humans shape thier futures, and promoting that understanding from the top down is the only way to improve those controllable variables, thus, keeping teachers in the profession because they want to be.
Private schools pay better than most and we keep the ones we hire. I could leave it at that and it would be enough to answer the question but there is an undercurrent of unintended consequences of good pay.
We get more resumes for positions than most schools, hence, we can be selective.
Because we can be selective, we get good quality teachers, which translates into a better classroom enviroment in terms of control.
We are free to move anyone out of the system whose attitude is not consistent with the mission of the school. Tenure is not an option.
I could go on, but the fact is, when you pay more you attract the kind of quality that can tough out the bad days and probably have fewer bad days in the first place.
When our society begins to value teachers the way China and Japan do, I will venture a guess that the results will speak for themselves.