Good news: Young teachers bring enthusiasm, idealism, and lofty goals.
In the past month, I have attended several teacher hiring fairs. It is refreshing talking with brand-new teachers. They inspire me with their enthusiasm, idealism, and certainty that they are entering a profession that will make the world a better place. And they are right.
However, the United States currently faces a teacher shortage. According to the Learning Policy Institute, when school started around the country last fall, many students found themselves in classrooms with a qualified teacher. In fact, there are more than 100,000 such classrooms around the country.
While the shortage is partly a function of a retiring teacher force, over two-thirds of teachers who left the profession last year did so for reasons other than retirement. The number one reason? Teachers are dissatisfied with teaching. The reasons included a lack of administrative support, working in districts with lower salaries, dissatisfactions with testing and accountability pressures, lack of opportunities for advancement, and dissatisfaction with working conditions.
I think about this a lot as I talk with teachers who are interested in Willow. How do we attract and keep the very best teachers for our school? After all, our students deserve nothing less. Here are some things we are doing:
- Support. The most important job I have as the Executive Director is to help teachers become the most energetic, most effective educators possible
- Leadership. Our founding staff will have a massive impact on the culture and direction of our school. We will nurture future leaders and provide opportunities for teachers to have an impact beyond the classroom
- Joy. Just as we want the learning experience for students to be joyful, we want the same for our staff. Teaching is a stressful job. Teachers burn out. By infusing joy into the workplace, we will have happier staff. And besides, we are a fun bunch to work with!
- Compensation. Charter schools must do more with less money compared to traditional district schools. We are not eligible for levy funding, while district schools are. However, we can create a pay scale that is untethered to the district or state scales. Therefore, we can offer a competitive salary, and in many cases, provide a higher salary than the local district.
The hiring process takes time. There are resumes to read, interviews to do, and reference checks to make. In the past three months, however, I have been privileged to visit the classrooms of teachers who are dedicated, passionate, and inspiring. And that gives me hope for the future of education in our city, state, and country.