Testing is over and we are now looking to next year. Like every year, we are losing teachers. Some are going because circumstances have changed in their lives; marriage, divorce, and family needs. Some may be leaving because they find this work very stressful. I understand the need for some to leave and I would never encourage anyone to stay who felt it was time to go on. Now the problem is how do we get accomplished teachers to come to our school?
Recruiting in hard to staff schools is a major issue across our country. I am a part of the Teacher Leader Network and this is an ongoing topic of our online conversation. In some school systems, like Miami -Dade, National Board Certified teachers are volunteering to go the most needy schools. In this school system teachers are offered incentives that are tied to extra duties and a specified number of professional development hours. In my own state, Mobile County transformed five schools last year completely changing out the faculty and staff. Teachers and administrators were offered monetary incentives to go to these five schools. The incentives are given in part at the beginning and the rest at the end if goals are met. Incentives tied to performance is a concept many of us will have to grow accustomed to, I am not sure how I feel about this yet.
My current concern is recruiting to my school. It is difficult because of the school’s longtime reputation. So many times when I tell people where I work, they gasp and ask if I am afraid to work there. I have never been afraid at my school nor do I think any of the others teachers have felt any fear at Brighton. How do you change a reputation that is so unjustified?
When I first came to Brighton, my principal and I recruited a counselor we had worked with in our former school-Georgia James. Georgia is the most outstanding counselor I have ever worked with in my many years of teaching. Georgia’s area of expertise is Parenting Programs and coordinating testing. This year she has brought new life to our Parenting Program and according to the teachers testing never went so smoothly. When I called her to come to Brighton, I told her it would be just like our old school which I called “Camelot”. Well, Georgia and I will agree we do not quite have “Camelot” yet, but we are on our way. Georgia and I also agree these are the best children we have ever worked with in our careers.
Last week, in honor of the great effort demonstrated by our students during testing, our principal provided sack lunches for a picnic on campus. Georgia and I share an office and we were mesmerized as we watched our eighth grade students have their picnic outside our window. It was the most idyllic scene. We watched as the students ate their lunches while the teachers sat on a bench eating and talking. When the students finished, they gathered into small groups to talk and a few did some cartwheels on the grass. Georgia looked at me and said, “I love this place!” This was the exact same feeling I felt the first time I came to Brighton, “I love this place!”
I just do not know how to sell this idea to other teachers. Our working conditions are very good; no class has more than 20 students, resources are plentiful in terms of materials and people, and we have many hours of outstanding job embedded professional development. On the whole parents are very receptive to suggestions and work well with the faculty. It is stressful in the sense that we are under many State and Federal mandates. Lesson plans, weekly tests, benchmark testing, and seven month plans are strictly scrutinized. The greatest downside to the job that I have struggled with for most of the year is falling into the negative climate that that existed for a such long time. At this point, I truly can say I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a slow change. We need a few experienced and dedicated teachers to replace those leaving to help us completely reform this school. We are so close.
I welcome your comments on teacher recruitment in hard to staff schools.