It’s been a long time since I was a beginning teacher but I still have many memories of those first couple of years – and some of them are rather scary in hindsight (I feel sorry for the kids in my classes that first year :-). For the people just starting out in the profession today things are even tougher with all the standarized tests, No Child Left Behind, large numbers of students who speak little English and other major problems hanging over their heads.
So I wasn’t surprised at all by this article from the Arizona Republic that says that nearly 30 percent of all new teachers will leave the profession by the end of their third year. While the combination of long hours, low pay and lousy schedules (try five periods of senior “last chance to graduate” math :-) is bad enough, none of those factors top the list of reasons why new teacher leave. The number one reason cited is the lack of support and assistance in their schools. Most schools still just assign a classroom, add the kids and wish everybody good luck. We don’t do that with lawyers, doctors or even hairdressers.
Some school systems have set up some kind of new teacher induction program (and a few states require one) to provide support and training for beginning teachers. But obviously not enough considering that 30% statistic.
A few months ago I moved into a job in the office in our district that manages such an induction program. The problem is that we have a very small staff and a very small budget to provide help to the 500+ novice teachers our system hires every year. So we have a program but it’s underfunded and understaffed. I guess that’s better than not having one.
You’d think the cost of high turnovers would make putting more money into induction programs a no brainer. But school systems, like most government bureaucracies, don’t think long term. Planning is only in one year increments even though most kids will be with us for twelve. And we’d like the teachers to stick around for more than five which is when most studies say a teacher learns their profession well enough to be effective.