No one is more enthusiastic to hit the classroom running than a new graduate of a teacher-prep program. They’ve done their course work, studied educators in action, and worked alongside experienced teachers for months to get into the rhythm of the profession and they can’t wait to have their own class of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed students.
Too soon, however, their enthusiasm wanes—especially in high-poverty schools and districts—and those once-eager newbies start looking for the exit.
What’s to be done?
The key to successfully turning around those feelings of helplessness is developing productive school environments that serve up:
- Supportive working conditions that include time for professional development (PD)
- Collaborative activities
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes the effect of well-prepared teachers. The term “professional development” is referenced no fewer than 68 times in the nation’s national education law. ESSA defines professional development as “intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven and classroom-focused” activities intended to drive instructional improvements throughout the school year.
Keep in mind: ESSA explicitly calls on schools and districts to provide sustained professional development to teachers, openly rejecting the traditional “stand-alone, 1-day, or short-term workshops.” These experiences, in which teachers sit and listen to an outside expert and look at generalized bullet points on a PowerPoint (and try not to fall asleep!), are just “Sit and Get” or “Drive-by” PD.
Think back to that game you used to play at birthday parties: pin the tail on the donkey. “Sit and Get” or “Drive-by” PD is like that. The tools might be there in your hands and you understand the goal, but then you’re blindfolded and there’s no guiding hand to help you put the pin in the right place and you’re likely to miss the mark.
Just like that, teachers are left alone too soon to figure out for themselves what to do with the tools they’re given—how to put it all into practice.
With many districts facing challenges with a revolving door of teachers, it’s time to find ways to offer sustainable, relevant, and engaging PD consistently in and across schools.
The goal: to instill that newbie teacher’s energy and level of enthusiasm into all teachers heading into the classroom, no matter how long they’ve been in the profession.