Teaching enables joy and fulfilment of a purpose bigger than the individual. (Marg L)
Guiding children’s learning through the stages of development is a unique privilege. (Ken Mc)
I have found that the smaller successes – such as when a student finally “gets” a concept … or when a student overcomes a conceptual or technical roadblock with which s/he has been struggling … are often as exciting as the larger ones. These are the little experiences which provide an overwhelming cumulative personal joy and professional satisfaction. (Ann L)
To the almost 2500 new teaching graduates who gained registration at the end of last year, and the 1500 teachers from interstate and overseas who have recently registered, I’d like to welcome you to this most valuable profession in Queensland.
Experienced teachers, like those quoted above, speak about their work with students as providing the most rewards.
However, in recent years there has been an increasing commentary around teachers who leave the profession early, with some stating that their work with students was overtaken by administration and demands from outside the classroom. I discussed these issues in a number of blogs towards the latter end of 2018.
However, I want to caution you about what is often an overwhelming negative sentiment – and what is too often based on anecdote and not data. Queensland College of Teachers’ (QCT) survey data has indicated that attrition in Queensland, at 14-15 per cent over a five-year period, is significantly less than sensationalised numbers. This is far from the 50 per cent attrition figure which often appears in media statements. The QCT (2013) report also suggested that this does not appear to be higher than in other professions. Following a detailed examination of attrition figures cited in various reports, and the processes used to gather them, Weldon (2018) concluded that “In reality, there is no robust Australian evidence, and figures do not agree. What evidence there is, nationally and internationally, suggests that attrition is dynamic, varies by school level and location, and is not always negative and not always due to the school environment. In the absence of Australian evidence, articles should be more cautious about figures cited, and about causation” (p. 61).
The biggest challenges for early career teachers are often related to short term contract and casual employment. This hampers their ability to receive adequate induction and mentoring, which is so critical in the early years (QCT, 2013). A recent article in The Conversation by Suzanne Hudson and colleagues “Six ways to support new teachers to stay in the profession“, emphasises the importance of strategic mentoring support for beginning teachers. They discuss roles for universities in partnership with schools; a planned orientation with a collegial welcome program; the value of a mentor for each beginning teacher; provision of a community of mentors within each school; an ongoing induction program (which continues after the first week or term); and a regular review of the induction and mentoring program. These strategies for early career teacher support are also cited in the QCT (2013) report, and include:
- structured induction
- mentoring by trained mentors who have been given sufficient time to undertake this role
- reduced workloads
- not being placed in difficult locations, and/or allocated challenging classes
- a collegial, supportive school environment.
These suggestions are directed at systems; however, I encourage beginning teachers to reach out within their school and request mentoring support, and indeed develop support and mentoring within groups of colleagues.
I would welcome hearing from beginning teachers about the experiences which have helped them as they begin their teaching careers.
Queensland College of Teachers. (2013). Attrition of recent Queensland graduate teachers.
Weldon, P. (2018). Early career teacher attrition in Australia: Evidence, definition, classification and measurement. Australian Journal of Education, 62(1) 61–78.