“In the United States, teacher turnover for most districts is close to 20 percent, with higher rates in urban districts and for new teachers. Instability poses challenges to student achievement and district budgets.” (Education Update ASCD, March 2013).
This quote from Laura Varlas’ article was timely in that for the months of January- March, I followed a blog written by a young man fulfilling his student teaching requirement in Australia. At first, I was interested in learning about Australia and his experiences in the “land down under.” Then, as his placement and experiences expanded I was reading to learn more about the education system compared to the system I am familiar with in the United States. (One note- in curriculum material shared, I saw standards, learning targets and related assessment items grounded in application. In fact some items read much like some that I recently read this past month during New York State Assessments!)
Finally, I found myself reading his entries on a third level- as if I were an instructional coach working with him as he presented and shared his challenges with curriculum, assessments and students. I wondered, if I were an administrator or instructional coach working with him how would I offer support? Might it be reflective conversation? Carefully crafted questions? Specific suggestions to try? There seemed to be opportune moments for feedback and reflection. This lead me to reflect on the mentoring that that is common in our schools. How often does a teacher receive the support on an “ in the moment basis”? How many times are teachers left to wait until monthly meeting with their mentor? How often are they left to figure it out on their own? How can we collect data and feedback for reflective practices and growth? In Varlas’ article, data from The New Teacher Project suggests that teachers experiencing just a minimum of two identified retention strategies plan to teach at their schools for nearly twice as long. Informal means of critical feedback and assistance to identify areas of development are two such areas.
However, in reading the daily blog, what struck me the strongest, was his celebration of successes. A student passed a test, a relationship was formed with student over shared interest in music, couple of students took advantage of extra tutorial time, a lesson went well, he was able to incorporate a creative way to introduce a math concept. Small and big accomplishments were adding up to create an identity for himself as a successful teacher. Likewise, in the same retention study, another two strategies identified that are likely to assist in retaining successful teachers were recognition of accomplishments publicly, and informing that person that they are high performing ( based on evidence). Does the teaching field lose promising teachers because no one is celebrating their small and large accomplishments with them? Do we lose teachers because no one has thought to simply say, “here is the evidence that you have positive impact on your students and it is recognized?” And beyond thinking just of new teachers, do we take the time and effort to celebrate the moments large and small that make up teaching? My experience is that celebration is not typically ingrained into our school cultures and practices. By viewing daily teaching moments and experiences through the eyes of an entering teacher, the importance of celebrating the small and big moments was brought back to me. This reminder was a gift in the midst of current stresses in the education field. When is the last time you celebrated something from a colleagues’ day— or your own day in our schools? How , when and where might you add celebration either for yourself or a colleague?
Thank you to Collin Thompson for sharing his experiences. And as our school year winds down, how can you celebrate the accomplishments of your fellow teachers- whether they are new or veteran? Please share your ideas and celebrations- we would love to embrace the celebration with you!
Lynn has been in education for 30 years. She currently works with educators to support quality outcomes for all students