“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
― Haim G. Ginot
What do you think will reduce the churn rate of teachers?
Being a teacher is an incredibly tough, tiring, frustrating profession that also brings great joy, excitement, and a sense of fulfillment. Yet we continue to hear about the numbers of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years, and more recently the lack of people applying for leadership roles, particularly at the Principal level (though the recent Principal Wellbeing survey results I think are indicative of one reason why that may be).
If this is the case, how can we improve the process by which we educate our teachers through their initial training? How can we strengthen it to ensure they have not just the knowledge of content, curriculum, pedagogy, educational philosophy and history, but also how to empathise with students, de-escalate situations, recognise student well-being issues and not only know what to do procedurally, but what to do in the classroom or the playground in the moment? How can we screen those who are entering initial teacher education programs to look for best fit without the feeble increase the entry ATAR requirements?
I have seen over the last few years a number of articles that are pointing towards the use of avatars and virtual reality training such as is outlined in this 2010 Inside Higher Ed article, and this article from VR ROOM in 2016, and finally, this Market Watch article from 2017.
One problem with this scenario is that in all of the articles that I have seen where this is addressed, the classroom is very traditional with the teacher at the front and some very stereotypical student mis-behaviours. It does not allow for the teacher to get alongside the students, to deploy some basic classroom management skills such as the simple use of presence or nearness. Additionally, where the students are performed by actors who are in a building nearby, they are trying to work against the teacher and may push well past where an actual student would.
These systems also seem to presume that the classroom in which all teachers practice are simply those with the teacher at the front of the room giving a lecture. While this does happen, I have never met a teacher who only stays at the front. There may be a lecture component, but then the teacher is moving around the room, working one-to-one wit students, answering questions and providing assistance. This system of training teachers could potentially, therefore, embed poor practices before those teachers have even entered a classroom.
I do not know what the solution to reducing the churn rates within teaching is, but I do not think that using avatar and virtual reality simulations is it. More support in the early years, job security, mentoring, better respect from the broader community and less blaming of teachers and education for the ills of society would all go a long way.
What are your thoughts on reducing the churn rate in teaching?
“Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take.”
– Attributed to Christopher Reeve
Just a very brief article as I have a short break between classes. We currently have a pre-service teacher (PST) in our school, who is on her first professional experience placement. By all accounts she is quite capable. I have chatted with her a bit about my experiences and given her some advice based on my time as a PST, which she has been receptive too.
Today (I am writing this on Thursday 25th June 2015), is the last day of the term for me, so I took the opportunity last night to compile some resources and content from both my own initial teacher education (ITE) and that I have gathered since I transitioned from being a PST into the teaching profession, went up to her class this morning and gave her my USB to copy the content across to her own so that she could benefit from my mistakes, my learning and my experience to help prepare her for the remainder of her own ITE, her own professional experience units and then her initial entry into the profession.
The look of unbridled joy and excitement was all the thanks I needed. To know that someone was so thankful for a few resources that I have accrued over time and have no problem disseminating if they will benefit others is a great feeling in and of itself. Additionally, her cooperating teacher’s wife is in the same ITE cohort, and so he is also taking a copy of everything for her. Eventually I would like to set up a system whereby teachers can keep resources, digitally, and share them to other teachers, royalty free. The concept of the sites where teachers share with other teachers is great. I have a real problem with charging for access to those resources though, especially when people use the argument of “I should be paid for my time.”
I do agree teachers should be paid for their time, and they are. But trying to claim payment for time spent developing resources, that you would have developed anyway for your own use, is a great example of the sunk-cost fallacy. Others may disagree with me, and that is fine; I am happy to agree to disagree, but I personally will never charge access to resources that I have created for my own use. I get paid every fortnight, that is the payment for my time.
If you have ideas about how to effectively set up such a system, whether a purpose-built website, use of Google Drive etc, I am open to suggestions. If you would like to engage in a discussion regarding the above concepts, happy to do that as well.
Thank you for reading, and enjoy your mid-year break.
“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.”
– Dan Rather
The last few articles that I have published have been an examination of emerging themes from a Twitter conversation regarding pre-service teachers (PSTs) and initial teacher education (ITE). The conversation can be viewed in the original article in this series. There have been some thought provoking responses on Twitter and in the comments section on the various articles. Thus far in this series, I have written regarding ITE courses and ways of making the entry to those courses more rigorous, the value of teachers and teaching as perceived in the public sphere and the role of the Education and Training Minister and his/her (currently his) stance towards education and teachers and the way the Education Minister is perceived by teachers. This article will discuss the integration of graduate teachers into the wider profession at the culmination of their ITE, from a collegiate point of view.
The way that a teacher is integrated into the teaching profession will vary according to how they are engaged – permanent, part-time or casual, and for casual teachers, according to the view of casual teachers from the school with which they are engaging. My experience has generally been positive and I have felt like a valued professional in the majority of my engagements as a casual teacher. There has been, however, little support by way of integration offered in regards to an invitation to attend professional development sessions when they are conducted on the day I am in that school (only received from two schools I was engaged with), advice and feedback, whether constructive or positive, regarding my work (I utilise a template I designed when in a school on a casual basis that allows me to indicate what was done during the day within each KLA and asks for constructive or positive feedback to be sent via e-mail) or general advice in relation to such areas as playground duty expectations, how to deal with minor injuries students acquire whilst playing, how to engage with or avoid staff room politics or the realities of dealing with the paperwork and administrative requirements of teaching.
Casual teachers, l believe, fall through the gaps in regard to professional development, particularly those graduate teachers who are in the early days of their career and are trying to get their foot in the door. Greater efforts need to be made by the relevant bodies (NSW DEC, BOSTES AITSL etc.) to ensure that graduate teachers who are still operating casually receive assistance with finding their feet in the teaching profession. I should point out that the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) did put on a casual teachers seminar on the Central Coast earlier this year that was open to all casual teachers regardless of the time in teaching. This seminar was beneficial but I felt aimed more at casual teachers hero had been in the system for a while and had a good understanding of navigating their way through acquiring work etc. Casual teaching can be very lonely, given that day to day you may be in different schools, let alone different classes. Additionally, casual teachers in general and new graduates specifically may be somewhat isolated as many school staff rooms are devoid of life during break times due to playground duty personnel requirements, sporting and other extra-curricular activities or those teachers who elect to remain in their classroom to complete marking or other similar duties. I know that at my current school, if there are more than three or four people in the staff room it is unusual.
That has been my experience as a casual teacher across a range of schools. I dropped off a one page resume with copies of relevant documents such as my approval to teach, my Working With Children Check, my anaphylaxis training certification etc. attached, to twenty schools. I did this based on advice from a friend who is a Deputy Principal and indicated that many schools will not contact you at all for any number of reasons including but not limited to not needing any additional casual teacher on their casual list, teachers arranging their own casual cover as opposed to a central person within the school, not liking the font you used, that you emailed it as opposed to dropped it off in person and not liking the way you have set your resume out. Some of these are valid reasons, some of them are rather petty, but they are all reasons I have heard at various points.
The experience for those who receive permanent positions straight out of university is markedly different. The summary of that experience is based on what I have been told by some classmates who were in such fortunate positions. The initial phone all with the offer of a position is rather exciting to receive, of course, and those whom I know in such a position have all indicated that they were told what year group they would be teaching and were invited to attend during the summer holidays at some point to visit their classroom, meet colleagues, begin planning and programming and to begin the administrative process required to become a permanent employee. The main issue that I am aware of, again, from conversations with friends, is that there is no advice given as to the paperwork process that is required. A classmate was advised she had a permanent position, met her colleagues, saw the classroom was asked to begging planning and programming with but said to me that she had not received or signed a contract and was a little worried about that fact.
Clarity would no doubt have been appreciated from her as to what was happening. I learned, after asking the question at a local branch NSWTF meeting that “on boarding” was a lengthy process and that no contract would likely be seen until the paperwork had all been completed. The anxiety felt by my classmate would no doubt have been alleviated by a thirty second conversation that contained words to the effect of “the paperwork is being processed and it normally takes … You will receive your contract when it has been processed.” I want to reiterate the point that this summary is based upon what I have been told, not my own experience and that the classmate in question was feeling rather overwhelmed at this point.
On the plus side, as a targeted graduate, my friend received an additional session of relief from face to face (RFF) each week to provide her with additional time to plan and prepare as well as general guidance from an Executive Teacher. My understanding is that she was generally quite happy with the support she received, however was left feeling overwhelmed with the unanticipated responsibilities and duties that were not fully explained, either in description of in explanation of the time investment required to complete them.
I received my temporary engagement after having been working on a very regular basis in my school as a casual teacher for most of the year to that date, however, my understanding is that for temporary teachers, the experience of transitioning from pre-service teacher (PST) to teacher falls somewhere in between that of casual and permanent teachers.
I would very much like to hear from you as to your experience transitioning from PST to teacher and the support and guidance received from more experienced teachers and the various bodies to which teachers are required or encouraged to join, or for those of you who are in senior positions within schools, the systems or processes in place to integrate new graduates into the teaching profession and assist them with finding their feet.
Thank you for reading today, and I look forward to hearing people’s opinions on this topic, particularly anyone who came out of their ITE with a permanent or temporary position and can shed more light on the experience of transitioning form PST to either of those roles.
See here for the list of articles in this series.