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Paving the way for more—and more satisfied—teachers

Equipping educators with the right tools, training, resources and feedback to combat the teacher shortage crisis
Todd Whitlock, CEO  Standard For Success
Todd Whitlock, CEO Standard For Success

It’s no secret teachers are jumping ship in record numbers, and the dwindling numbers of incoming grads don’t even come close to patching the gap as the demand for teachers rises. The Learning Policy Institute reported in 2016 that enrollment in teaching programs is down 35 percent nationwide (and has been for years), and the annual shortfall could grow to 112,000 teachers by 2018 if current trends persist.

A perfect storm, and a sinking ship
Much of teacher attrition is an outcome of shrinking budgets. Starting around 2011, many states passed legislation that reduced their ability to collect taxes to support General Fund Expenditures, which feed teachers’ salaries. Schools had to make sharp cuts to operate within their shrunken funding. Teachers who remained were then tasked with managing larger classes and teaching subject areas that were out of their comfort zones.

At the same time, numerous legislative agendas—such as increased school choice and more stringent teacher performance standards—passed at the national and local levels. A new level of assessment and accountability increased scrutiny on teachers, and decreased their flexibility in what and how they teach.

Encouraging an interest in education
Teachers, administrators, sponsors and coaches all must get back to promoting the why behind their decision to become educators: making a difference. Many students participate in cadet teaching programs that allow them to work with teachers on a daily basis. These experiences and a positive view of education will do wonders to drive up the number of students pursuing education preparation programs.

We must also encourage peer learning and collaboration where students get to help others learn. When they experience, first-hand, the satisfaction of helping someone learn, an interest in education may follow. One way teachers can encourage this is to pay attention when students demonstrate a love for a particular subject, and encourage them to expand and share their knowledge with their peers.

Equipping new teachers for success & satisfaction
Once students get on the path to becoming educators, we must be more effective in preparing them for success by coaching them; by equipping them with the right tools, training and resources; and by providing constructive feedback to help them navigate their first years in the classroom. Too often, a new teacher is thrown into the waves and it’s sink-or-swim. We need to do better by providing feedback for professional growth.

Beyond equipping them adequately, we also need to ensure teachers’ job experience is rewarding. What works? Intrinsic drivers — the desire to do things because they matter, because we like them, because they’re interesting and because they’re part of something bigger.

There are three elements to intrinsic motivation:

  • autonomy: the urge to direct our lives
  • mastery: the desire to get better at something that matters
  • purpose: the yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves

It’s why I founded Standard For Success, alongside other educators, to equip teachers with the kind of feedback and ongoing dialogue that matters—not increased assessment exercises that keep schools compliant with regulations but lack meaningful feedback for professional growth.

The road to stop the bleeding in education is a bumpy one, but we do have the tools to get there. It begins with changing our conversations with our teachers, along with those who may one day join our ranks.

This piece was produced by District Administration for Standard for Success. For more information, visit www.standardforsuccess.com

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