Systems function as they are designed to function, whether by default or intentional design. In our current education system, one-quarter of students across America don’t graduate on time—and that number is as high as 50 percent in urban areas. Almost half of teachers leave the profession within their first five years on the job. And about a third of the profession is expected to retire in the next five years. These numbers signal a powerful need and an opportunity to restructure the design of the education system, particularly in how we recruit, train, and retain educators, as well as how we use our most valuable commodity: time.
If we are to achieve different results, one way to restructure is through the creation of hybrid positions that will enable current teachers to work in teacher-preparation programs. A recent report from the Department of Education states that 62% of students who went through teacher-preparation programs felt “unprepared for classroom realities.” We can bridge this gap by both bringing amazing teachers to programs to teach effective instructional methods, and also through guided observations and clinical experience for novices at school sites. Creating these contact zones requires us to restructure teachers’ schedules and roles so that a teacher might teach half the day in his or her school, and work the remainder of the day at a teacher-preparation program.
The traditional structure of the teaching profession currently provides insufficient time for teachers to effectively teach, grade, plan, reflect, collaborate, lead, forge parent and community relationships, and help train new teachers. Restructuring time within the profession is necessary if we are to help prepare new teachers to address classroom realities.
Although some may argue that funding and budgets will not allow such a restructuring to occur, we cannot afford to keep doing what we are doing. We must consider creative options, like how states can leverage projected federal teacher-preparation program funds in such ways.
Things will not get better by simply shifting the pieces of the puzzle, by incremental change, or by working twice as hard in the same structure. We need to dramatically redesign and restructure how we think of teaching and learning and what spaces teachers are in. A report by the Asia Society on last year’s International Summit on the Teaching Profession, describes deliberate, systemic approaches employed by high-performing countries such as Singapore and Finland. There is no magic bullet. However, utilizing hybrid roles (as part of a systemic approach to how we recruit, train, and retain teachers) can maximize on the window of opportunity as a wave of new teachers enter the profession. Rather than hoping for the best, we have to create the best structure to make it possible.
Linda Yaron is an English teacher in an inner-city high school in Los Angeles. She holds National Board Certification and served as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable 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.