Educators Talk About How They Know They're in the Right School (or Not)
Every school is different. Different administrators, different colleagues, different families, different buildings—very possibly different funding and curricula, too. Finding the right school might be a big challenge, but how hard is it really?
Following up on a special report that Education Week Teacher published in January on teacher recruitment and retention, we held a Twitter chat on Wednesday night to dive into those topics, with a special focus on supporting new teachers and improving teacher diversity.
Our #ewedchat featured Eric Cooper, president of the teacher-training-focused National Urban Alliance, and Danielle Brown, a National Board-certified teacher from Arizona (among many other major accomplishments). While the discussion covered a lot of ground, I think it's worth highlighting two questions that dealt explicitly with how teachers enter and exit schools. Here's what we learned.
As a new teacher, how much did you know about the school you ended up at?
Here's one point that got hammered home: Many teachers know very little about the schools they end up at.
A1:It's hard to "know" about a school until you experience it firsthand.Often, what you think you know is merely another's opinion #ewedchat— Diana Maskell (@DianaMaskell) February 4, 2016
#ewedchat A1 when I walked in the door, the 2 secretaries greeted me warmly and carried on a pleasant conversation. That is all I needed!— Kim Dunnagan (@MrsKDunnagan) February 4, 2016
A1 For me, it was easy to pick up the routines of my school, but harder to understand and apply system-level expectations. #ewedchat— Carly Lutzmann (@MsLutzmann) February 4, 2016
A1. Had to ask the students who they thought was the best teacher. I went to that teacher and learned from that teacher. #ewedchat— Natl Urban Alliance (@NUATC) February 4, 2016
Some teachers don't even have a say in what school they choose:
Teacher Kristie Ennis had an advantage—she grew up in her district. And she explained that more than just being a resource for curriculum and instruction issues, mentors can also make sure out-of-town teachers feel comfortable in their new surroundings:
@itsapun It's a tough call. In my district, the more Ts get involved, the more they feel a part of the "club". Have to find their niche.— Kristie H Ennis,NBCT (@KristieHEnnis) February 4, 2016
What factors do teachers consider when deciding whether or not to leave a school?
If nothing else, new teachers might be well off determining the quality of their school leadership; many of the factors that cause teachers to consider leaving are tied to administration:
Q6: Long term planning: Is this distract taking streets in the right direction? Are we teachers being heard? #ewedchat— Brienne Metzgar (@MissMetzgar) February 4, 2016
A6. Are kids and families treated with respect? Would I ever let my future children attend this school? I said no & had to leave. #ewedchat— Cody Norton (@codybnorton) February 4, 2016
A6: feeling empowered, room for growth, feedback, and visionary leadership #ewedchat— christine dahnke (@ChristineDahnke) February 4, 2016
A6. Retention plans that ignore the uniqueness of each teacher have an inherent weakness, which can also lead to departure. #ewedchat— Natl Urban Alliance (@NUATC) February 4, 2016
If none of that sounds new, it's because it really isn't. Studies have shown that many of the factors mentioned above influence teacher attrition. In a sense, this chat served to tie anecdote and living educators to a wealth of data and research on this topic.
But as former educator Rosa Nam wrote in an Education Week Teacher commentary piece last year, there's another reason for teachers leaving, too; sometimes, it's the right thing to do:
My students deserve a better teacher. In an ideal world, the folks in charge of educating the youth of America would be the most passionate, level-headed, mentally stable, and educated scholars amongst us, but that's like finding a unicorn. All I know for sure is that teaching can be depressing.
Maybe colleagues and administrators can't prevent all those negative feelings, but there's plenty of qualitative and quantitative support for the idea that the negativity Nam describes can be mitigated.
Here's our special report on teacher-recruitment challenges, if you want to read more about this subject.
More on teacher recruitment and retention:
- Recruiters Look for Teachers on Social Media
- National Network Seeks to Get More H.S. Students Interested in Teaching
- Teachers Without Mentors Leave the Profession Much Faster, Study Finds
- Researchers Offer Prescriptions for Retaining Teachers