Last week, I wrote about recruiting teachers to my school. This week my thoughts are turning to how do we keep good teachers in my school or any hard to staff school. One word comes to mind - support.
As I reflect on this year and the support that has been given to our school, it is a very mixed bag. From our State Department of Education, we have been given significant support. As a result of our school’s label of low-performing, our State Department of Education sent a Peer Assistant to our school. This veteran teacher has been a powerful and positive force in our school this year. Even though, she was the deliverer of the state mandates, she was able to present these requirements in such a way that she created a strong sense of assistance for our faculty. Our school was also visited by our State Superintendent and our Deputy Superintendent. These visits meant so much to me personally and demonstrated the interest and concern our State Department has for our school.
From my own district, I had dreamed of a team effort from our content area supervisors on how to best improve our school. However, this did not happen. In defense of my school system, it is a very large system and due to a financial crisis a few years ago, our district office has a staffing shortage. Our school received tremendous support from our Federal Programs Director and those who work in her department. I do not know how we would have survived if it had not been for the intense assistance from our district’s reading coach. In addition, our District Superintendent gave a strong verbal commitment to address the needs of our school for next year. This is very encouraging.
Our school has received effective outside support from local universities, civic organizations, educational companies, and other schools. All of this has contributed to a feeling that many people really care about our school. However, there have been many days I have felt like I was on an island and I am sure my principal and fellow teachers share this feeling. I have watched my principal become so discouraged after being denied the support she needed to carry out her hopes for our school. This hurts.
The area of support I feel is most lacking is the support that comes from within the school; the support you receive from your colleagues. I may feel like this because I am still on the outside looking in. However, I do not sense the collegiality I had in my former school. Seven years ago, I suffered the most traumatic event of my life when I lost my 46 year-old husband to a massive heart attack. I will never forget the reaction of one of my colleagues as looked me straight in the eye and told me, “We will get you through this.” I am not sure if the role of your co-workers needs to be an aide to your personal trials, but I have often seen others depend on this comfort. I do know how important it is to have the support of your colleagues in order for your professional life to grow and flourish. I had hoped I would be this type of benefit for our school this year. Instead, I have felt more like a first-year teacher leaning on my colleagues, than a veteran teacher offering help.
I never cease to be amazed at the people that come into our lives at the right time. This year I was asked to be a part of the Teacher Leader Network (www.teacherleaders.org.)led by John Norton. I can not tell you what this online conversation with teachers across our country has meant to me. Not only has this group inspired me with all they have accomplished and the passion they share for their work, but they have allowed me to vent my frustrations, encouraged my work, and have echoed my beliefs. This experience has been quite reaffirming as well as challenging. The option to have this type of support and intense dialogue among educators available through technology is incredible. These are the conversations we need to have at our school in order to support and uplift each other’s work. It is my hope that next year this will happen, but I do not see it happening automatically. I believe it will take training on how to discuss our work and the work we are asking students to engage in. There are several options available in our state to have this type of professional development. I am hopeful my colleagues will embrace the idea of creating a true learning community.
Your comments have also been very insightful and encouraging to me these past weeks. I hope you will continue to comment and share how your faculty supports each other and how to create collegiality in our schools.
The opinions expressed in Teacher of the Year are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.