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