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Recruiting Teachers


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.


Dear Betsy,

Here in New York City, a program, largely funded with money from Bill Gates, has been converting large “failing” high schools like mine into small schools with a narrow focus. Currently, in my building there are seven schools. Evander H.S. has taken in its last group of freshmen this year and will wither away by 2008. Four of the new schools had only freshmen this year, one had ninth and tenth graders and the sixth will have its first group of seniors in September. This has caused a large reshuffling of staff. The new schools must take 25% of their staff from the large school (so if they have four classes, one of our teachers finds a job) the rest they are free to hire from anywhere. This changeover has afforded me the opportunity to see the process of building a staff from both angles—since I helped write the proposal for one of the schools I was part of the staffing committee, since I work in the large school, I am part of the group scrambling for a job. So here are some of my thoughts.

“We need a few experienced and dedicated teachers to replace those leaving…”
I have found that, in general, teachers are nesters. In a very short time they settle in, gather things, burrow into the staff and make themselves comfortable. As good teacher a as you are, I am sure you felt a sense of loss in leaving the place where you knew the culture, knew how to get things done, knew where your stuff was. Most dedicated teachers aren’t just dedicated to teaching; they are dedicated to their place. We invest ourselves in the children, staff, and community and we want to see the results. Usually it takes some great upheaval (like winning Teacher of the Year :-) ) to bust us loose.

As for the veteran part, that, of course, is tricky. Those first five years in teaching are a time of discovery and despair. Remember suddenly finding yourself saying things your mother used to say? Remember having school frustration dreams the night before returning after a long week-end? Remember the kid who raised her hand to say, “I have to vomit” and then did so? There is an energy and hope to new teachers that is undeniable, but they have sooo much to learn and they learn it on the kids in front of them. On the other hand, veterans are professionals, they’ve been there seen that. They have certain expectations and certain ways of doing things. They can talk the game and play it, but may well play it differently.

Those are some of the challenges. So, what do you have to offer?

Well, one thing that many of us crave is dynamic leadership. We want to be in a place that is alive with possibility; that takes our good ideas and runs with them. It sounds like Brighton has become such a place. Next, well, Brighton has a need. Teachers are attracted by that; we give little pieces of our lives to those who have a need—that’s our business. Finally, you have a group of children; for those of us who see potential in every child’s face, what could be more irresistible than that?

I'm sure you'll do fine. Whoever you get, don't forget to listen to them.


Dear Betsy,

I am a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and my newly obtained undergraduate degree is in Astrophysics. During my senior year, I had the unique and amazing experience of participating in a program that recruits high school math and science teachers. This program, The Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics-Teacher Preparation Project (STEM-TP) not only recruits highly qualified individuals that are considering teaching as a profession, but they also provide these students with the opportunity to actually teach as Learning Assistants in reformed lower division university class rooms.

These Learning Assistants (LA's) are required to take a semester-long education seminar during their first semster of teaching. The seminar teaches revolutionary learning and teaching techniques and also serves as a support group for LA's to communicate and resolve all of those questions and jitters that are inate to the intitial teaching experience. I can honestly say that I learned more about life and myself through being an LA than I did through every other university structured learning experience combined.

The STEM-TP program directed my career path as well as enhancing my college experience. Although I am not currently considering becoming a K-12 teacher, I am working in education policy at The Education Commission of the States (ECS) and will soon be working as the Assistant Project Coordinator for the STEM-TP project. This allows me the ability to work with education policy and future teachers simultaneously. In reading your journal, I have become inspired by what you're trying to do and would like to help in whatever way I can.

I would like to discover a way to commincate the need that particular schools, like yours, have for new teachers to these teachers-in-training. I know that they are and will be incredibly qualified, inspirational leaders in their educational communities. I also believe that some would be interested in going where they are needed most. Do you have any ideas on how this can be accomplished?

Thank you for all that you're doing, and keep up the good work!


Dear Ms. Betsy Rogers,
I am a sophmore at California State University of Long Beach studying to become a teacher. Recently, I was given an assignment from my math technology class and I am to email a teacher and ask to share their thoughts, ideas and a favorite demonstration on how they teach a certain aspect, a trick that they use or a particular example of mathematics in their classroom. So, I was just wondering if you can please help me with this assignment. Thank you.

Joyce Lee
[email protected]

Retention of teachers may be the next moutain to climb in teaching. Here in my District veteran teachers are being asked to consider early retirement. We are considered too expensive. Our District is willing to give substantial signing bonuses to new teachers, and offer anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 to veteran teachers to retire early. It doesn't make any sense to recruit teachers to a district that will want to spit them out after 10+ years. How education is funded is a mess in our state (CALIFAS)and becoming much more privatized and dependent on corporations, ie. Bill Gates.

And back to accountability. This time of year I lose sleep over the students who are to be retained because they're not cutting it on the tests, haven't quite mastered reading (I teach 1st grade)and are living in crisis mode (yet have still made substantial progress that is not measured by any District/State tests). There is no support, no intervention except that which the classroom teacher provides. If retention triggered additional support for the student over and above what the classroom teacher provides and there were a whole cadre of people triggered....

What are you thoughts?

I would love to return to teaching. I have ten years experience working in urban schools in the United Kingdom. I cannot, however, secure a teaching job in the United States where I now reside. Why? Because I don't fit in, because not every state will recognise my UK teaching qualification. I am now considering moving to any state in order to secure a teaching job, basically any state that is willing to take me.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Elaine Walton: I would love to return to teaching. I have ten read more
  • Albertina: Retention of teachers may be the next moutain to climb read more
  • Joyce: Dear Ms. Betsy Rogers, I am a sophmore at California read more
  • Angela Baber: Dear Betsy, I am a recent graduate of the University read more
  • Joe Bellacero: Dear Betsy, Here in New York City, a program, largely read more



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