Teaching

Where Have All The Teachers Gone?

A friend posted an interesting Article on Facebook today about the drain of experienced teachers in Australia. So, where have all the teachers gone?

Experienced teachers are disappearing into the sunset

They Have Retired!

Or at the very least, they’re thinking about it. Years of experience and skills walk out of the classroom every day, leaving a void that is hard to fill.

I retired almost three years ago from a teaching career that spanned the eighties, nineties and more than the first decade of the 2000’s. My career took me from Jelly Pad to iPad, and everything in between.

Why did I retire?

The pace of teaching has increased to the point where it is hard to keep up. We’ve gone from teaching the three R’s to teaching so much more, including how to function in the modern world of technology (cyber-safety). The curriculum is at breaking point and I shudder every time I hear ‘why aren’t they teaching that in schools?’.

I loved my job and gave it 100% of effort, but I found it hard to sustain the long hours.

It was time to go.

When a teacher retires, they hand in their laptop and their identity. A teacher’s world is contained in the files on the Government issued laptop; when they hand it back, their teaching world ceases to exist.

Departure time

But the retired teacher goes full circle – they embrace retirement with the same enthusiasm and passion they had for teaching when they were a new graduate. The difference is – they are now the boss and work to their own hours.

I’ve come full circle

But my heart is still back there in the classroom, wanting to help just one more student, or another parent battle the maze of paperwork to have their child diagnosed and accepted as having extra needs.

Should we try to lure retired teachers out of their new comfort zone and back into some kind of meaningful relationship with classrooms?

A lot could be gained:

  • We could salvage some of the knowledge and experience that walked out the door with the retiree
  • new graduates could be mentored – something new graduates identified as an area of need
  • the agility of mind that took teachers from Gestetner machines (if not, Jelly Pads) to Smart Boards and iDevices could be put to good use in the busy classroom in a meaningful way

Supply teaching is available to retired teachers, but it doesn’t offer the opportunity to pass on the experience of years of teaching. And it doesn’t highlight the depth of skills of the older teacher, especially in managing difficult behaviours and diverse classrooms.

New graduates start their teaching careers with enthusiasm, passion and a lot to learn – as we all did. They are the first to arrive at school each day, and usually the last to leave – at least for the first few years. The smart ones take advantage of senior teachers on staff and ask lots of questions – others prefer to learn the hard way.

Was it easier back then?

  • How did we go from Jelly Pad to iPad?
  • How did we move from chalkboard to Smartboard?
  • Where and how did we learn ‘the look’ – you know, that look that stops a wayward student in their tracks – without a single word?
  • How did we manage a classroom of over thirty students, many with Special Needs, without a teacher-aide or Special Education support staff?
  • How did we cope with thirty 4 and 5 year olds in their first year of school – on our own?
  • What could retired teachers teach new graduates that would help them over the five-year hump?

If only there was a way to bridge the gap between retired and newly graduated teachers – it would be a win-win, and the children in today’s classrooms would be better off.

Our Prime Minister surprised me yesterday when he gave the Closing the Gap Report. To get better results, Mr Morrison offered to wipe the HECS Debt for new graduates who offer to teach in remote areas.

I applaud the offer to help new teachers find a job, but our most vulnerable students deserve the expertise of our most experienced teachers. An ideal way to marry experience – with the exuberance of youth – would be to offer incentives to retired teachers to mentor new teachers in remote areas.

Mr Morrison – I’d go!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Teaching, 0 comments

Day 19 – UBC – Oops! Will the Delete Key Fix That?

What is the best invention in the world? It has to be the Delete Key! How many times has that little button saved us from a potentially catastrophic consequence? It’s a wonder mine still works; I’m sure it is the most used key on my keyboard. But what about those other mistakes? You know, the ones we make in the real world, away from our i-Devices and laptops. Where is the Delete Key? And how do we fix things when the Delete Key just isn’t there?

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. Wait, maybe I should rephrase that – most of us make mistakes. I have known one or two people who think they are the exceptions to that rule – but for the rest of us mere mortals, it happens. And in the real world, there is no delete key – once it happens, it’s out there for all to see.

Errorless Teaching – Really??

In my teaching career, I made mistakes. And when I did, I apologised to my students, and took whatever consequences we deemed necessary at the time. By being as vulnerable as they were, we all learned how to cope with mistakes, from both sides of it.

At the beginning of each term, my students and I would sit down and work out our Behaviour Plan. One of the problems we had one year, was having a few students who found it hard to filter out the words they shouldn’t use, before they spoke. The result was, ‘expletives’ would fly around the room – usually at the most inappropriate time. Well, was there ever an appropriate time?

Don’t Say It!

We drew up a list of words that could be used as alternatives. We also talked about the words that just wouldn’t be accepted, ever! And for everything else, there were consequences. The funny thing with kids is, if you ask them to set their own consequences, they’ll be a lot tougher than most adults would be. With a bit of tweaking, we managed to get an acceptable level of consequences. There was never any judgement if someone fell off the wagon – it just happened – the offender accepted the consequences, and we all moved on. Including the day it happened to me.

I had worn a pair of boots to school that day – it was winter and my feet needed extra warmth. All was going well until one of the students commented on how big my boots were. Without a second thought, I said “All the better to kick butts with”.

“Right, Miss”, was the quick reply, “that’s two minutes at recess!”.

“Damn!” I replied. “Uh – that’s another two minutes!”, he said. I could see where this was heading and had the good sense to stifle any further comment.

And Your Time Starts – Now!

You see, the plan we came up with at the beginning of term, was to ‘fine’ offenders two-minutes of their break time for every wrong word. I’d just racked up two fines, which totalled four precious minutes. Heck, the morning break was short enough, and I’d just lost a sizeable chunk of it. So, I spent the first four minutes of the break, sitting quietly in the classroom, reflecting on my choice of words. And trust me, the students were less lenient on the list of bad words than I would have been, but the die had been cast, and I was guilty, as charged. Just to make sure I spent the required time in deep, silent reflection – two students volunteered to be the time-keepers.

As a teacher, one of the keys to success is showing students that you are vulnerable and human, and just like them, capable of making mistakes. It’s how you react to your own mistakes that teaches kids how to deal with theirs. The students had ownership of the plan, and I accepted the same consequences for any wrong-doing. And believe me, the kids were tougher on me than I was on them. But it worked.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. Benjamin Franklin

Trust me, this method works well for all those times when there is no Delete Key.

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Teaching, 2 comments