Why are Teachers Leaving?

“Welcome to the U.S. teaching force, where the “I’m outta here” rate is an estimated 8 percent a year — twice that of high-performing countries like Finland or Singapore. And that 8 percent is a lot higher than other professions.

The teaching force is “a leaky bucket, losing hundreds of thousands of teachers each year — the majority of them before retirement age,” says a recent report from the Learning Policy Institute.

…overall, teachers and researchers say, educators want a bigger voice in school policies and plans. Many feel left out of key discussions.”

Sounds a lot like we need to make sure there are leadership opportunities for teachers other than becoming administrators. Read the nprEd article here.

On Being a Learner (Again)

On a recent #FITTeaching trip to upstate Michigan, I was invited to go kayaking on the Rifle River. While I have been a passenger, I’ve never kayaked solo before. I was a little intimidated, but also intrigued, and my hosts reassured me that it would be a piece of cake. I was told there was one important thing to remember: don’t grab onto a branch because that will tip you over.

Ready to set out.

We began paddling down the river and it was truly spectacular. The sun was shimmering on the water and shining through the trees.

The beautiful Rifle River in Michigan.

I relaxed into the journey, chatted with my hosts, and craned my neck to view the scenery. I became overconfident and failed to anticipate a branch leaning well into the river and the next thing I knew, it was coming up fast. In my panic, I did the one thing I wasn’t supposed to do: I grabbed the branch, tipped the kayak, and dumped myself into the river.

No injuries (except my pride) — and my hosts kindly retrieved my kayak (now well down the river) and helped me back in. As we continued, they gave me some pointers on how to properly hold the paddle, how to use it as a rudder, how to control my speed. I focused more on my job and managed to stay afloat, despite the occasional obstacle.

Here’s the thing: at a certain point in life we become comfortable with our skills and enjoy our expertise. We tend to concentrate on doing the things we’re good at. It can be easy to forget that there’s great value in trying something new.

For those of us who teach, it’s critical to remember that our students are novices. We ask them over and over again to experience discomfort and try new things. That’s really hard — and we need to be there to support them when they take the occasional fall into the river.

Will I try kayaking again? Absolutely. My hosts gave me an opportunity to experience successful failure. I dumped myself in the river and learned from my mistake. I look forward to another outing where I can try out what I’ve learned and develop a new set of skills.

The Importance of Student Thinking

In an NPR interview with Philip Sadler of Harvard:

“Students are not empty vessels,” he says. “Students are full of all kinds of knowledge, and they have explanations for everything.” From birth, human beings are working hard to figure out the world around us … cognitive science tells us that if you don’t understand the flaws in students’ reasoning, you’re not going to be able to dislodge their misconceptions and replace them with the correct concepts …

Teachers who find their kids’ ideas fascinating are just better teachers than teachers who find the subject matter fascinating.”

Read the interview here.

 

FIT Teaching … the book!

FITT_Cover(Warning: shameless self-promotion ahead )

Very excited that the book I’ve co-authored with Doug Fisher (@DFISHERSDSU) and Nancy Frey (@NancyFrey) is available here!

FIT Teaching is a field-tested and experience-honed process that captures the essentials of the best educational environments and empowers teachers to adapt the most effective planning, instructional, and assessment practices to their particular context. We highlight teachers as leaders who work collaboratively to support their students.

Star Wars Guide to Professional Learning

How can we resist professional learning based on Star Wars philosophy? My favorite is lesson 3, Collaborate and Connect:

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi

Read the rest of Star Wars-based PL on Learning Forward’s site here.

The Ultimate License Plate Game

An 8th grader was sharing during social studies class that her family has spent the last few years playing the License Plate Game, attempting to find all 50 states. “So a few months ago, we were down to 10 states,” she explained, “and my dad said that whatever state was the last one, we would go visit over spring break.”

“Last month it was down to two states: Hawaii and South Dakota. We got really excited because we figured that there was no way we’d see a Hawaii plate.”

“So …” asked the teacher, “what happened?”

“So in March, we’re visiting South Dakota.”

aloha

 

Start All Over Again …

It’s been a great summer. I’ve had the chance to criss-cross the US working with dedicated educators who — despite the challenges — are determined to do their absolute best for the students in their charge.

As Labor Day approaches, I often wax nostalgic about my days in the classroom or school district. But as I look forward to a fall line up of exciting work (Southeast, Midwest, West Coast, New England, Old England, China!) I recognize that we’re all in this together. Every school year is an opportunity to give it another try.

In the spirit of trying again, here’s a classic from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: