I had a few conversations yesterday with people who presently work in schools with students.
The first, particularly, was ironic.
This was a former teacher, principal, asst. superintendent, superintendent, and now, a 3rd grade teacher in her retirement. She was absolutely swamped with the prep, delivery, chemistry, and amount of time she was dedicating to teaching 3rd grade.
Don’t get this wrong, this woman was a leader in Texas school systems where innovative ideas and approaches helped to turn an entire school district around..
She was apologizing to me. because as a curriculum director, when I was teaching, she wanted to use some of these ideas with our school district. She met some resistance. It was too much to take in for many..
But teachers do what they are told. No one wants to get “written up” for fear they will lose their jobs. Her explanation for apologizing was that she had “forgotten” what it takes to be a classroom teacher.
The time involved in planning good lessons and managing the classroom were things that she had taken as an easy “given” and thought that the added planning her ideas brought forth, would be fun and easy for all involved.
We came to the same conclusion.
Teachers can be compared to triage doctors.
They must stop the bleeding, take the most critical patients before seeing to the rest, and do it in a timely manner so those others don’t slip into comas.
I have talked to many people who say that they would never steer their children into the vocation of teacher. They have been in the trenches and know that many teachers feel ill prepared to stay in this chaos for the duration. These parents don't want to see their children as beaten down teachers.
Another conversation gave me purely, what might be at the core of teacher attrition.
Teacher training is good with cutting edge theories and approaches. What cannot be covered is the fact that classrooms are not filled with a bunch of perfect children sitting quietly..
This is far from the truth.
Can you imagine methodically putting down a foundation, and in the middle of it, being interrupted to put together homework for Johnny, go outside for a fire drill, an unexpected lockdown, a surprise assembly, a sick child vomiting on the floor, a group of students huddled around a cell phone they are not supposed to have, a screaming child with special needs, a staff meeting, a parent conference for just a minute of your time….
Change needs to start at the top.
Last week, the Michigan Department of Education, released a report on the critical state of teachers leaving the profession. This 13 page report mentioned a few types of support that, if taken, may stay the rate attrition. Let's face it....
They are bandaides, but at least a start.
To really stop the bleeding of people leaving the teaching profession I propose:
1) Hiring supportive and experienced principals and superintendents who have been teachers for at least 5 years. Teaching them how to actively support their staff with comprehensive approaches.
2) Paying teachers more.
When I retired in 2015, I had made less money in my last year than I had 3 years before. There is no incentive to stay when your obligations get larger as your paycheck shrinks.
3) Come up with reasonable evaluations tools that are manageable and when teachers struggle, offer support instead of threats.
With people doing the administrative job, the act of good teaching is simply easier. To support teachers in the first 5 years with encouraging ideas and mentoring can not be more essential than right now.
When I look at my audiences, sometimes, I can see eager and fresh faced, ready to take on the world. They think they have all they need with an internship under their belts.
They have not even begun.
Please think about how you want the world shaped for the future. It takes a commitment. Teachers take the stage every day,sometimes with a headache, not getting a bathroom break, eating lunch with kids needing help, figuring out on the fly how to cover what was needed, Stopping the bleeding 5 days a week.
Let's work to support our educators.
Thanks for listening.