The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has been conducting a longitudinal study which has been tracking the career paths of beginning teachers from 2007 and 2008. The findings, which were just published by edweek.org (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2011/09/study_first-year_teacher_attri.html), declare that “almost a tenth of teachers who began teaching in 2007 or 2008 left teaching after the first year”.
Other findings include “three-quarters of beginning teachers stayed in the same school they'd taught in the previous year, but the others had moved to another public school or even another school district” during the period of 2009-2010. The study also mentions that 8 percent of the new teachers who had a mentor did not return to teach the following year. The report stated that 16 percent who did not have a mentor did remain in the career the following year.
What do these findings suggest? It is important to remember, as edweek.org states, that “This data isn't causal, so it's difficult to draw firm conclusions about it”. In other words, the report offers information that should be discussed. This is especially true with regards to reasons why beginning teachers may decide to leave the profession for which they prepared themselves over a course of four or five years in college.
One thing that is quite certain is that beginning teachers need guidance, ongoing professional support throughout their first year, and dedicated teacher mentors. The possibility might exist that the reason 8 percent of the new teachers who had a mentor departed from teaching is because they felt overwhelmed rather than advised. In most cases, a mentor who is assigned to a new teacher is a dedicated educator who has decided he/she wishes to continue the teacher preparation by familiarizing the beginning teacher with successful strategies, policies and procedures in the school, and applicable solutions whenever problems arise in the classroom.
The beginning teacher also has a role during the course of mentorship. It is significant that questions be consistently asked throughout the first year. A mentor can provide more efficient information whenever the new teacher is actively engaged in “wanting to find out the answers”. Whenever there is a communication that exists between the new teacher and his/her mentor, the chances are much better that the first year of teaching will be successful and rewarding.
Other studies, like the one conducted by NCES, have documented that many first year teachers are moving to other schools/school districts due to the fact that they are able to earn higher salaries and receive better benefits. No longer is the career of teaching one that suggests an educator stay in one particular district for 20 to 30 years. Rather, beginning teachers, via the use of the internet and resources, can survey the various schools and learn about the best scenarios when it comes to salary and benefits, classroom sizes, and community support.
As college students prepare to be teachers, they need to understand that this career is demanding. However, they should also consider that most careers that are linked with college degrees are just as challenging. As more data and research is conducted as to why beginning teachers may be leaving the profession, it is hopeful that schools, teachers, and parents will begin to analyze the reports and insure that the newest teachers remain within the schools. They bring new ideas, strategies, and knowledge that students in the schools must encounter.
The challenge for the first year teacher is to seek out ways to help improve the education in the school. There are many educators who are passionate about improving rather than destroying the system that exists. New teachers need to seek those individuals and become a part of the “group” that wishes to help all students regardless of their home environment, their demographics, and/or their personal needs. It is a matter of committing oneself to the most important career among all careers…teaching!
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Presented by: Donna Hupe, Adjunct Lecturer and Field Experience Supervisor, ED Dept., SVC