More educators are talking about leaving the profession this year than ever before. Unfortunately, teachers were already searching for a way out, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Approximately half of new teachers in the United States leave the profession within the first five to seven years (Boogren, 2015). Educators’ desires to seek other work is increasing this year, with 66% of teachers wanting to leave their job in 2021 alone (Campbell, 2021).
Why are teachers leaving? Among the reasons for why they are choosing to change professions, new teachers report frustration around feeling under-supported or under-valued by school leadership; stress related to workload, expectations, or volume of responsibilities; and anxiety related to lack of expertise (Boogren, 2015). Almost all teachers wanting to leave the profession, regardless of experience or age, are citing similar reasons and feelings. Additionally, most thought that 2021 would be a better year for teaching. Switching back and forth between in-person and remote instruction, uncertainty about the return to schools and anxiety about personal risks have all put extreme strain on teachers (Morrison, 2021). Many are also finding that students have fallen behind due to interrupted and unfinished learning.
So, in a time of great need, how do we support ALL teachers, in hopes of preventing them from all leaving? One essential actionable step to keep teachers in classrooms is to encourage collaborative reflection, which is a team approach to building support amongst educators. In my book, Student-Centered Mentoring: Keeping Students at the Heart of New Teachers’ Learning, I include several strategies to promote a collective partnership amongst teachers and to support new teachers in ongoing reflection. Below, I highlight three of the collaborative strategies that are most impactful in retaining teachers. These strategies promote conversation and help keep the teaching passion alive for ALL teachers. I hope these strategies and conversations will help keep teachers in the classroom and in the profession.
Strategy #1: Celebrate and Reflect Together
I love to set goals to keep me on track with my work. I also love to celebrate achieved goals! It is key to celebrate the little wins along the way to achieving larger long-term goals. It is also important to celebrate the attempts we have made throughout the learning process, which includes chances, imperfection, and messiness as we take risks and sometimes fail. As mentioned in my book, without taking opportunities to reflect and celebrate the effort and growth throughout the process, we can easily lose sight of the purpose for our goals (Brueggeman, 2022).
Here are some ideas for celebrating and reflecting on teaching practices:
- The first time teaching a lesson doesn’t always go right. Think of a time when your first time teaching a lesson didn’t go according to plan. What happened? How did you respond?
- Teachers must be flexible with changing plans mid-lesson. Think of a time when you had to change plans mid-lesson. What did you do?
- Remember why we do this work. Think about a moment or experience that reminds you of your passion for working with students.
Strategy #2: Reflect Together on Beliefs
This strategy sets out to support beginning teachers’ efficacious beliefs and actions. By reflecting together on beliefs together, the joint efforts foster a stronger sense of collective teacher efficacy in a mentoring partnership. According to John Hattie’s Visible Learning research, collective teacher efficacy has a high effect size and also matters most in raising student achievement (Donohoo, 2017; Hattie, 2020). Encouraging collaborative conversation around beliefs can help new teachers stay in the classroom.
Consider a self-assessment rating (never/sometimes/always) around these belief statements and discuss them with colleagues to encourage reflection on shared beliefs:
- I believe all students have the ability to learn.
- Learning takes place in my classroom because students are not worried about external factors in their home life.
- I am willing to try new methods to better meet the needs of my students.
Strategy # 3: Help Make Adjustments to Classroom Management and Student Engagement
Management and engagement go hand-in-hand in any classroom. Many will find that relationships are at the center of both concepts. In this strategy, discuss the similarities and differences between management and engagement in order to consider ideas for potential adjustments to both. Take new teachers through a deeper analysis of whether students are learning by considering the effects of management and engagement routines. Then, go through the steps of revision and try new options based on student needs.
Utilize these questions to encourage reflection about management and engagement:
- What needs to be adjusted to make sure students are engaged and learning?
- What arrangement can promote dialogue over monologue?
- What tools and resources are needed to promote student independence?
Brueggeman, A. (2022). Student-centered mentoring: Keeping students at the heart of new teachers’ learning. Corwin
Boogren, T. (2015). Supporting beginning teachers. Marzano Research.
Campbell, J. (2021) Teacher Burnout Statistics 2021 – Definition, Causes & Solutions. https://newmiddleclassdad.com/teacher-burnout-statistics/
Donohoo, J. (2017). Collective efficacy: How educators’ beliefs impact student learning. Corwin.
Hattie, J. (Producer). (2020). The power of feedback. [Webinar] hosted by GrokSpot & NextLesson.
Morrison, N. (2021) Stopping the great teacher resignation will be education’s big challenge for 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorrison/2021/12/24/stopping-the-great-teacher-resignation-will-be-educations-big-challenge-for-2022/?sh=5aecedca157c