OK, it may seem like I am harping or I could even appear to be having a grumble, I promise I’m not.
I am just wondering if you helped someone you teach with this week.
During the workshops I have hosted over the past few weeks I have met with many teachers from a wide range of educational settings. Some of the teachers I have worked with recently have included preschool teachers, teacher librarians, early years teachers, teacher assistants and elementary school teachers. Whilst these educators are working with diverse groups of learners, in very different settings they all had two things in common. I was struck by positive and how hard working they are, (some of my workshops are scheduled outside of school hours). I also felt inspired by how passionate they were about sharing their ideas and supporting each other as they strive to help the young people they teach to develop and achieve to their potential.
However it seems that unlike the teachers I have worked with recently, many teachers are feeling dissatisfied and unsupported in their profession. Recent research states that nearly half of all newly qualified teachers leave the profession within five years, whilst reasons for them doing so are many and varied; this is a very interesting phenomenon. The new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found just 44 percent of the teachers they surveyed were satisfied with their jobs, compared with 59 percent in 2009. MetLife claim that 15-percentage slide represents a record drop and takes teacher satisfaction to its lowest level in 20 years. Whilst teachers have control over aspects of their profession, many decisions that directly affect teachers are made by governments, school boards and principals. Iím not sure, but perhaps this contributes in some way to the dissatisfaction and unhappiness of teachers revealed by recent surveys.
One of the happiest school staff I have ever worked with in over twenty years of teaching, also happened to be working at a school in a very low socio economic area. In this context, many problems outside of classroom learning needed to be dealt with; including providing breakfast and lunch for some children and managing the high anxiety levels of children so they could focus on classroom activities. I have often reflected on this time in my career in an attempt to identify why we were such a happy staff when we were faced with such difficult and at times ëtryingí situations. Without wanting to be too simplistic, I feel our sense of ‘happiness’ and connectedness was due to how the teachers supported each other.
One particular staff member comes to mind – I’ll call her Sue (not her real name) – made a point of remembering each of our birthdays, and organised a birthday cake roster so each of us had a cake with some candles to blow out on our special day. It certainly added to my birthday experience when my colleagues wished me a happy day and shared my birthday cake. Sue also organised regular staff competitions and games. One staff favourite was our weekly ‘Gotcha’ draw. Sue placed two boxes in the staff room into which teachers could put names into. One box held the names of staff who had done a special deed for another staff member, such as doing an extra duty, the other box held the names of staff who had been caught ‘stuffing up’, such making a typo on a parent letter. Each Friday, a name would be drawn out of each box. A prize was given to the staff member who had done a special deed and the person whose name was drawn out of the ‘stuffing up’ box would need to provide a small gift for the next week. At the end of year Christmas morning tea, Sue would share all the staff ‘stuff ups’ for the year; she ensured that every staff member received a ‘stuff up’ award. This was done in a very positive and funny way. Sue’s efforts led to increased staff interaction, and camaraderie. She made many of us smile each day.
At another school I taught at the Vice Principal, I’ll call him Bob, would write personalised thank you notes for teachers. Finding one of his notes or cards (they sometimes came with a chocolate) in my pigeon hole or on my desk always made me smile and feel valued. Bob would also organise staff breakfasts, staff bike rides or walks to school. He also set up a staff buddy system, and during the year would host ‘buddy breakfasts’, buddy coffee meetings, and other opportunities for staff buddies to get together. Bob’s efforts helped staff to feel valued and supported, he made a difference!
I would love to hear how your staff support each other. Who knows maybe we can come up with some ideas to help young teachers in ways that will stop them from leaving the profession, we need them to stay.
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