More Thoughts on Teaching's Revolving Door
Although the book is nearly 40 years old, Dan Lortie's Schoolteacher raises another related issue that is actually more important today than it was in 1975. We want teachers to be more collaborative within schools, but collaboration is built best on relationships. If teachers - members of a team - are constantly coming and going, will this force those who remain to retreat to the safety of their classrooms? Lortie saw that happening in the 1970s. Or will collaboration and the connections now possible through technology actually make it less likely that good teachers leave the profession? This is a topic for further discussion.
We can learn from other countries that have made significant progress in developing the quality of their teachers and the intergenerational structure of their teaching forces. Last month, I was part of a delegation to Finland. Much has been said in the recent media about how selective admission to teacher preparation is in Finland. Their government funds teacher education programs where a master's degree that is rigorously clinical and research-based is expected for all primary and secondary teachers. All new teachers have both content knowledge and pedagogical expertise.
Most importantly, teachers operate with professional autonomy, have more time to collaborate and develop their expertise, and take the initiative and responsibility for developing curriculum and assessment. Pasi Sahlberg, director general of the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation (CIMO) in Helsinki, Finland, believes that these conditions contribute to Finland relatively low rates of teacher attrition.
The solution for strengthening the teacher profession depends on the ability to retain and develop effective teachers across the career span. Attracting top talent into teaching is the beginning. Nurturing, sustaining, and building on that talent is the key better teaching and learning, healthier school cultures, and creating a true profession. A stable foundation of veterans ensures that new teachers entering the profession receive adequate mentoring and support. These new teachers stay and expand their practice and expertise. It's a virtuous cycle for increasing the attractiveness of teaching to new recruit and veterans alike. But who has the responsibility for creating these conditions: a country? A state? A district? Or is it the profession itself with these others entities designing policies that support such a culture?