To the Editor:
Your article “Incentives Alone Not Enough to Prod Teacher Effectiveness” (Oct. 21, 2009) wonderfully illuminates the complexity of attracting, motivating, and retaining high-quality teachers.
Like most people, teachers work harder when they care about what they’re doing, and when they know they are succeeding. Research on teachers’ commitment (such as the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project on the Next Generation of Teachers) shows that a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors contributes to their remaining in the profession. Pay matters, of course, but teachers stay when they’re supported, valued, and respected in the difficult work they do.
A can-do attitude strongly predicts accomplished teaching. Educators with a robust sense of self-efficacy are more likely to reach every student. They build relationships and are open to new strategies to get students excited about learning. They view classroom challenges as a reason to work harder.
As teachers come to understand the direct influence they have on students’ success and failure, they become more confident. They are more receptive to being pushed to perform at high levels and more likely to challenge their students to do the same.
If more teachers were supported in these critical ways, we’d find fewer disheartened ones working in our nation’s most challenging schools. To quote Tom Carroll, the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, “It’s not that a low-income school is inherently a tough place to work.” These schools may present singular challenges, but their high-needs students are no less deserving of a quality education. As in any school, building a learning community makes all the difference in providing it.
Founder and Executive Director
Center for Inspired Teaching
A version of this article appeared in the November 11, 2009 edition of Education Week as Teachers Work Harder When They See Success