Over 200,000 teachers leave the teaching profession each year, with two-thirds of them NOT leaving for retirement. If this number seems high to you, welcome to the reality of the teacher shortage. What are teachers’ reasons for leaving the profession?
- Inadequately prepared to teach
- Working conditions
- Lack of professional support
- Other career opportunities
So, what can be done to ensure that we have the best prepared, qualified, compensated, supported educators in Collier County? Glad you asked.
Our school district has been aware of and working on this problem for several years. They recruit early graduates and offer contracts to the most qualified. Compensation in our county is now the second highest in the state for beginning teachers. Classroom equipment, technology and resources are continually adjusted to ensure that working conditions are standard. CCPS has initiated a mentoring program to assist new alternative certification teachers with their transition to our classrooms and procedures.
The problems occur when “working conditions” do not fulfill the expectations of the teacher and there is a feeling of isolation or perceived lack of support. There are difficult challenges in our varied schools, some more than others, so the solutions are not “one size fits all,” but need to be more individualized to assist the teacher with the transition and technicalities, such as learning all the technology for attendance, grading, curriculum resources, email, deadline schedules and more.
Career opportunities that provide higher compensation are hard to argue with, as are personal health issues. The decisions made by our legislators to further cut funding for education and continue a flawed teacher assessment system certainly don’t help retain teachers. However, there are things that you can do locally to improve the working conditions of our educators and ensure they will not want to move to another county or state and will return more energized, supported and even more effective. Here goes:
1. Support our local teachers! Don’t make life harder for them. You may not agree with them all the time, but when you discuss issues, listen, do it kindly and without malice or gossip.
2. Send them positive notes, handwritten if possible. Many teachers keep a file of their positive notes and reread
3. Volunteer. There are always classrooms that need more assistance. Work on a bulletin board, collate papers to go home, field trips, straighten out shelves…
4. Gift cards are always welcome. Teachers spend a lot of their personal money on things for their classrooms or their students.
5. If you have a rental, consider lowering the price for a teacher. (Yes, I know there are many other public employees that could use the same help.)
6. Spread the word to your college-bound relatives that Collier County is a wonderful place to teach. Encourage them to visit the local schools while vacationing with you.
7. Picture yourself managing 25 students of all ability levels and emotional needs and keeping them engaged in learning for six hours a day. Have compassion and respect for the teachers who have made this their profession.
8. Peppering teachers with emails during the day and expecting them to “get right back to you” is not reasonable. They are supposed to be teaching, not sitting at their computer. You could expect a response at the end or beginning of the day if there are no teacher meetings, conferences, phone calls, doctor appointments, child care issues, professional development training, mentoring of other teachers, committee meetings, etc.
9. Try not to overreact when your child comes home with some negative comment about the teacher or a situation. Confirm, “You seem upset.”Ask, “What can YOU do to help with this if it happens again?” Express confidence in your child, “I know that you are very capable and can solve this.” This is or “attention-getting” situations, not rare, serious issues.
10. Participate with enthusiasm at school events, fundraisers, programs, classroom events, PTO, SAC, contests, etc. You are role models for your children. If you have a positive attitude, so will they, and you’ll all have a more fulfilling school experience.
Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!