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Engaging (and Retaining) Young Teachers

The following guest blog is the latest in Learning Forward's partnership with Fierce, Inc. that explores aspects of communication that encourage meaningful collaboration. To read all of Fierce, Inc.'s blog posts, go to http://www.fierceinc.com/blog/.

Keeping teachers in the profession is an issue that has no one right answer. Most new teachers will leave the profession within five years, with the number being higher in urban and poor school districts. Nobody argues that the constant turnover hurts our education system.

The development of any employee from raw talent and passion to an experienced professional is not a simple path. It takes time, money, and commitment.

The District of Columbia, is trying to tackle the issue by enacting an advanced merit-centered compensation method based on the IMPACT Plus evaluation system. While merit-based bonuses is one strategy to increase job satisfaction and reward hard work, if the goal truly is good teachers staying in the field, this method only tackles half of what makes humans tick.

In the Fierce Coaching model, we discuss the research of Princeton psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, whose research on decision making found that human beings react emotionally first, and rationally second.

While pay increases reach the rational parts of our brain, they do not reach the emotional side. If the emotional part of increasing job satisfaction is ignored, money will not be enough to keep most good teachers teaching.

It is critical to have strong coaching and professional development available to teachers. But as we know, not all coaching or mentoring programs are created equal.

When starting in any new profession, guidance and advice from those with more experience is necessary. However, this must not be confused with development. Development is providing space where teachers can speak to the issues their facing, unique to each classroom. This is what will help a young teacher emotionally connect to their leadership team and their students.

The problem is many mentors or coaches are not equipped with the skill set necessary to engage in a conversation where the coachee does most of the talking and the coach actively listens. The goal of the conversation should not be to solve the young teachers' problems, but instead to develop a framework where the teacher develops the capacity to work out the issue or idea. When coach and coachee engage in these types of conversations, it creates connection between the two educators, empowers the young educator, and creates confidence around his or her own decision making ability.

The goal of investing in young teachers is to retain educators who are eager to grow and develop their talent so that the students reach their potential. In order to achieve this goal, the school and the community must commit to providing not just the new teachers, but also the senior educators, with the capacity to learn and to lead. This means an investment in professional learning.

An engaged and productive workforce only exists when both heads and hearts are stimulated. One cannot work without the other.

Jaime Navarro

Fierce in the Schools

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