In a profession where graduates head out into the world optimistic about nurturing children and bringing about change, it seems reality hits hard and fast. For the fresh batch of teachers that started in 2016, within the next four years 30 – 50% of them will have left the industry.
As the teacher attrition rates continue to rise we must ask why.
Industry heavy weights tell us that we need to be better at bridging the gap between university and a teaching career. They say that our student teachers need an increase in both quality and quantity of practical classroom experience, because the reality of the classroom isn’t like the degree they’ve been sold on. They also say that since the skills of teaching are transferable to many other professions, many young people are using it as a stepping stone degree to branch into other areas.
I am sad to see so many young people leaving a profession that is truly such a rewarding avenue. Yes, the hours are long and the challenges are great – but this profession is a privilege.
My advice to young teachers, do not base your future in the teaching profession on your first year in the classroom.
While it might be entirely possible to have a good first year teaching, most people will describe an experience that makes a 15 hour flight with a baby a lesser evil.
Much of this will be due to factors that you cannot control. When you peak your head out from the warm fuzziness that came with being the “cool student teacher” and become the person in charge, it can bring a lot of unexpected pressure and anxiety. It also doesn’t help that students can smell fear and uncertainty in an adult authority figure. Even if you confidently do everything the way you’re supposed to, your nervousness is going to be picked up.
On my second day as a qualified teacher I was told by a senior co-worker to, “forget everything you learnt at University – you’ll understand how we do things here very quickly”. While yes, I agree that university cannot prepare you for every circumstance that you might face, I think many teachers can be intimidated early on by the dogmatic culture of some schools. My advice to young teachers is to be patient, it will take a good six months to understand the politics, the culture and the working environment, and not to feel any pressure to assimilate to a new style of teaching based on a fear that “I might be doing it all wrong”
Because after your first year, you’ll gain an aura that silently proclaims “I know what I’m doing.” That alone will help diffuse a large portion of the classroom control problems that arose from a few kids trying to test their limits against you, and the same can sometimes be said for other teachers.
In your second year you’ll also be ready for all the curve balls from last year and better prepared for the new ones that will come your way.
Knowing that you have made a difference in a kids’ life by teaching them a skill or how to better understand the world around them is one of the most amazing feelings in the world.