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Making the Teaching Career Sustainable For New Teachers

Being a new teacher can be overwhelmingly terrifying. For those teachers that are in that boat you know. For those that left that boat, you may have forgotten. For those that will never get into teaching, you will never know.

Having a class to manage can be anxiety-inducing all on its own, but once you add in lesson planning, grading, principal evaluations, curriculum maps, and test benchmarks that anxiety can become a full-on panic attack.

Research as recent as of 2020 indicates that 44% of new teachers will leave the teaching profession within 5 years. And that is research BEFORE teachers dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic in full force. That is nearly half of the new teachers. Why is this happening?

As a new teacher myself, I remember feeling the pull to do habits that my teachers did growing up in the 1990s. I felt like I had to issue homework and had to stay up late grading papers in order to be a good teacher. Luckily, within my third year of teaching, I met some people that changed my perspective on what a good teacher accomplishes.

In my third year, I met a renowned teacher and author, Catlin Tucker, who literally wrote the book on blended learning in the classroom. At a CUE Conference in Sacramento, CA she shared that she was worried about the sustainability of new teachers and how they get stressed out and burnt out from out of date and ineffective expectations. When she claimed that teachers could take home no homework to grade and get better classroom results from 7 am-3 pm than the teachers that do take work home I was on board. Here is her full CUE keynote speech.

Photo: lindabuchner.com

It was at this point I began to look at what was most important in my teaching practice which was the standards and skills. If students have been prepared to succeed at the next grade level and the college level I have accomplished my job. That is literally what Common Core is about; making students college-ready.

This shifted my focus to what I could make my students do more of and learn more in the process while taking more off my plate. For example, instead of taking 150 essays home to grade with a rubric, I trained them how to use the rubric and to peer review each other's essays. Then I trained them to have conversations to help make their peer’s essay better. I watched as they gave and received feedback without me having to grade anything and they learned more because they had to critically think and have conversations about the literary process.

This is just one of many examples where students can take more off of the teacher’s plates while at the same time they advance more in their education than if the teacher would’ve done it alone.

These are the kinds of shifts that need to occur so new teachers can have less stress while getting better results than teachers before them. We need to look forward to new ways of thinking and teaching and stop looking backward because that is the place where student needs have been forgotten and teachers have left the profession in droves.

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