There are milestones in teaching. The first, most obvious milestone is the getting through the first year of teaching. The next milestone is getting through your first five years of teaching. As more and more research shows, five years is the time when a large number of teachers choose to leave the profession (25% to 40%).
There is a global shortage of teachers. There are newspaper reports after newspaper reports about the looming massive retirement of the teaching force and the need to recruit more teachers. However, there are signs that it is just as important to work out what is keeping teachers in the profession because a lot of teachers leave within five years. There is no educational benefit to students of recruiting lots of teachers just to have them leave within five years.
Well, this is my fifth year of teaching and I have no plans of leaving the profession. There are numerous articles (eg. Sydney Morning Heard, The Age, The Herald Sun) that tell you why teachers are leaving. But I’m going to go through why I choose to stay:
- I love my job. Yes, teaching is stressful. Yes, teaching is hard work. Yes, teaching involves long hours. Yes, teaching means you never stop working (this could just be me not knowing how to switch off). But I don’t mind because I honestly love what I do.
- I had a fantastic teacher mentor, head teacher and principal in my first school. We had a teacher mentor who didn’t have a teaching load. She was an experienced teacher who had a wide range of teaching repertoire, who just mentored us. She’d come into the classroom to team teach and was always there when you needed support. She wasn’t there to “judge”. She gathered all the beginning teachers at our school together every fortnight so we can share our positive and not-so-positive experiences in the classroom. If it wasn’t for her, my attitude and enthusiasm for teaching would’ve probably been very different.
- I had a fantastic colleague, who was also a beginning teacher, when I first started. We shared resources and supported each other through the good times and the bad times. I continue to have fantastic colleagues who work together as a team and share our resources and ideas with the aim of enhancing of our students.
- I was provided with leadership opportunities very early on in my teaching career. Both my head teacher and principal actively encouraged me to take on leadership opportunism. My current principal and school executive continues to do so.
- When I had an idea that would benefit student learning, I was allowed to run with it. The school leadership at all the schools I’ve worked at, were very supportive. This is particularly true at my current school,
- I do other things while I am teaching. I have done a range of freelance work with UNSW and UTS, mostly in the school holidays. While this was hard work at times, it provided me opportunities to work with people who in industries outside the high school system. This offered me something different to work with.
I hope that all beginning teachers have the same positive experiences I’ve had. Or perhaps I’ve just been lucky?
Part 2 of my reflections of 2011 will be on my journey as an educational leader. Watch this space.