Teacher Appreciation Week, part 4 of 4

teacher appreciation heart

Teacher Appreciation week is next Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

So last week I left us wondering: what creates the kind of teacher stress that compromises wellbeing and leads to high attrition rates? The truth is, there are a plethora of factors that contribute to the issue and there are numerous ways that we might classify and evaluate these factors. But one of the themes that emerges is the lack of appreciation that teachers feel. That is an oversimplification, of course, but a real problem none-the-less. For the sake of this series and this particular post, I am going to break this down to two types of appreciation.

The first type of appreciation relates primarily to “me” (school and district leaders) and the ways that I can help my teachers to know and understand that they are appreciated. This includes a variety of variables such as autonomy, empowerment, decision making processes, distributed leadership, opportunities for collaboration and peer feedback, work environment, professional development, pedagogical support, flexibility, peer connections, and student relationships.

The other type of appreciation relates to you the parents (and maybe even the students who are reading this). A number of authors have written about the important role that parents play in promoting teachers’ wellbeing. Here are two pieces that especially caught my attention:

One research project in particular explored teacher-pupil, teacher-teacher, and teacher-parent relationships and the impact of each on teachers’ pedagogical wellbeing–specifically, the frequency that teachers viewed each relationship to be either (a) empowering and engaging or (b) stressful and burdensome. The authors concluded that student relationships have the greatest influence on teachers’ wellbeing, student and colleague relationships have the greatest positive impact on teachers wellbeing, and parent interactions tend to be more stressful than empowering for teachers (Soini et al. 2010). More specifically, “If parents were not interested in their child’s education or questioned the teacher’s pedagogical efforts and authority, the situation was considered problematic and burdensome by the teachers” (Soini et al., 2010, p. 743).

Yildirim (2014) noted that parent appreciation was a key component of teachers’ professional wellbeing and concluded that “Initiatives to develop teachers’ professional well-being should focus on … opportunities to appreciate them for their efforts” (p. 74).

So what might this mean for parents?

Well, I would suggest that teachers definitely need something from parents. First, teachers need you to be involved in your child’s education. This can be tricky. Over-involvement can not only be counterproductive to your child’s education and growth but also might drive teachers nuts. On the flip side of the coin, a lack of involvement can be frustrating for teachers and leave them feeling very alone and unappreciated. So please be involved in your child’s education.

But in addition to your involvement, teachers also need to know that you understand, respect, value, and appreciate the work that they do each day. They bring an incredible amount of heart to the hours of education, study, and ongoing professional development that it takes to be a teacher in the 21st century. They need to hear, see, and feel your appreciation in tangible ways. I believe (and research suggests) that in so doing, you will help to promote the wellbeing of teachers. This, in turn, will benefit your children, leading to better relationships with their teachers and improved achievement (there is actually research to document that).

Next week is teacher appreciation week. Please take a second to show our teachers some heartfelt appreciation with a sincere note, a gift card to Starbucks or a restaurant, a Caribbean cruise (wait a minute…that might be a bit much), or some other honest heartfelt gesture. Even just taking the time to look them in the eye, shake their hand, and say “thank you” can go a very, very long way.

Cheers!

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References

American Federation of Teaches (2015). Quality of Worklife Survey. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.

Acton, R., & Glasgow, P. (2015). Teacher wellbeing in neoliberal contexts: A review of the literature. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 40(40), doi:10.14221/ajte.2015v40n8.6

Banerjee, N., Stearns, E., Moller, S., & Mickelson, R. A. (2017). Teacher Job Satisfaction and Student Achievement: The Roles of Teacher Professional Community and Teacher Collaboration in Schools. American Journal of Education, 123(2), 203-241. doi:10.1086/689932

Bermejo-Toro, L., Prieto-Ursua, M., & Hernandez, V. (2016). Towards a model of teacher well-being: Personal and job resources involved in teacher burnout and engagement. Educational Psychology, 36(3), 481-501.

Cahill, H., Coffey, J., McLean Davies, L., Kriewaldt, J., Freeman, E., Acquaro, D., & Archdall, V. (2016). Learning with and from: Positioning school students as advisors in pre-service teacher education. Teacher Development, 20(3), 295–312. doi:10.1080/13664530.2016.1155478

Collie, R. J., Shapka, J. D., Perry, N. E., & Martin, A. J. (2015). Teacher Well-Being: Exploring Its Components and a Practice-Oriented Scale. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment,33(8), 744-756. doi:10.1177/0734282915587990

Crown, K. M. (2009). Do interactions between mentors and mentees decrease levels of new teacher attrition? (Order No. 3340918). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305179238). Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.skyline.ucdenver.edu/ docview/305179238?accountid=14506

Goldring, R., Taie, S., & Riddles, M. (2014). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-Up Survey. First Look. NCES 2014-077. National Center for Education Statistics.

Grenville-Cleave, B., & Boniwell, I. (2012). Surviving or thriving? Do teachers have lower perceived control and well-being than other professions? Management in Education, 26(1), 3–5. doi:10.1177/0892020611429252

Helms-Lorenz, M., & Maulana, R. (2016). Influencing the psychological well-being of beginning teachers across three years of teaching: Self-efficacy, stress causes, job tension, and job discontent. Educational Psychology, 36(3), 569-594.

Hills, K., & Robinson, A. (2010). Enhancing teacher well-being: Put on your oxygen masks! Communique, 39(4), 1.

Hudson, P. (2012). How Can Schools Support Beginning Teachers? A Call for Timely Induction And Mentoring for Effective Teaching. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(7).

Ingersoll, R. M. (2001). Teacher turnover and teacher shortages: An organizational analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 499–534. doi:10.3102/00028312038003499

Ingersoll, R. M., & May, H. (2012). The magnitude, destinations, and determinants of mathematics and science teacher turnover. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(4), 435–464. doi:10.3102/0162373712454326

Jurow, A. S., Tracy, R., Hotchkiss, J. S., & Kirshner, B. (2012). Designing for the future: How the learning sciences can inform the Trajectories of Preservice teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2), 147–160. doi:10.1177/0022487111428454

Lambert, R. G., McCarthy, C., O’Donnell, M., & Wang, C. (2009). Measuring elementary teacher stress and coping in the classroom: Validity evidence for the classroom appraisal of resources and demands. Psychology in the Schools, 46(10), 973–988. doi:10.1002/pits.20438

Margolis, J., Hodge, A., & Alexandrou, A. (2014). The teacher educator’s role in promoting institutional versus individual teacher well-being. Journal of Education for Teaching,40(4), 391-408. doi:10.1080/02607476.2014.929382

Markow, D., & Pieters, A. (2012). The MetLife survey of the American teacher: Teachers, parents and the economy. New York: Metlife.

Portner, H. (2005). Teacher mentoring and induction: The state of the art and beyond. Choice Reviews Online, 43(04), 43–2340–43–2340. doi:10.5860/choice.43-2340

Price, D., & Mccallum, F. (2014). Ecological influences on teachers’ well-being and “fitness”. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education,43(3), 195-209. doi:10.1080/1359866x.2014.932329

Rath, T. (2007). Strengths finder 2.0: A new and upgraded edition of the online test from Gallup’s now discover your strengths. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

Rath, T., & Harter, J. (2010). Well-being: The Five essential elements. United States: Gallup Press.

Rumsby, R. (2007). Staff Well-Being: Negotiating New Organizational Realities in Schools Facing Challenging Circumstances. International Electronic Journal for Leadership in Learning, 11(17).

Soini, T., Pyhalto, K., & Pietarinen, J. (2010). Pedagogical well-being: Reflecting learning and well-being in teachers’ work. Teachers and Teaching, 16(6), 735–751. doi:10.1080/13540602.2010.517690

Spilt, J. L., Koomen, H. M. Y., & Thijs, J. T. (2011). Teacher wellbeing: The importance of Teacher–Student relationships. Educational Psychology Review, 23(4), 457–477. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9170-y

Van Petegem, K., Creemers, B. P. M., Rossel, Y., & Aelterman, A. (2005). Relationships between teacher characteristics, interpersonal teacher behaviour and teacher wellbeing. The Journal of Classroom Interaction, 40(2), 34–43. doi:10.2307/23870662

Vazi, M. L. M., Ruiter, R. A. C., Van den Borne, B., Martin, G., Dumont, K., & Reddy, P. S. (2013). The relationship between wellbeing indicators and teacher psychological stress in eastern cape public schools in South Africa. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 39(1). doi:10.4102/sajip.v39i1.1042

Yildirim, K. (2015). Testing the main determinants of teachers’ professional well-being by using a mixed method. Teacher Development, 19(1), 59-78.

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Teacher Appreciation Week, part 3 of 4

Hard-Work

Teacher Appreciation week is Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Wow–what a crazy week it’s been! Thursday night we sent all the kids home for a long weekend, but I remained at school until about 8:45. Then yesterday, on our day “off,” I was right back in the office at 6:00am and finally took off for the night around 7:45pm. Here’s the thing: I wasn’t the only one working yesterday. Almost the entire staff gave up part of their day off to sacrifice their own time for students. Teachers were…

  • Giving practice AP exams so that students would have the best possible chance of earning some college credit in that class.
  • Prepping for AP practice exams (so they could come back in on Monday’s day off to work with students).
  • Supervising “Saturday” detention.
  • Working on the schedule for next year to ensure that students get as many of the classes that they’ve asked for and ensuring that teachers have time to work collaboratively as a team–an enormous factor related to teachers’ wellbeing.
  • Prepping for the art extravaganza next week.
  • Prepping for Senior projects next week.
  • Straightening up the classroom that got away from them last week because they devoted all of their free-time to students.
  • Creating lesson plans for next week.
  • Coaching.
  • Chaperoning prom and after-prom.

These are the things I was able to confirm for sure. Who knows how many other things were happening throughout the building that I didn’t even know about.

Great teachers are the hardest working people I’ve ever known! But it’s not the hard work that creates stress, burns them out, and leads to high attrition rates in education. It’s actually…

(Stay tuned–final part of the series next Thursday. Here is an informative read to peruse between now and then: Teacher Shortage Crisis Getting Worse.)

Cheers!

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Teacher Appreciation Week, part 2 of 4

teacher attrition cartoon.jpg

Teacher Appreciation week is Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Last week I began a bit of a discussion around teacher turnover, staff wellbeing, and upcoming Teacher Appreciation Week. I noted my passion for finding ways to positively impact the system by promoting the wellbeing of teachers.

Although the idea of teacher wellbeing has been on my mind now for about six years, it wasn’t until this past September that I found myself inspired to pursue this as part of my dissertation. A professor of mine flipped a switch inside of me when he started class last semester noting for us all some of the the recent statistics and trends in schools. The statistics that most captured my attention:  50% of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years, and more than 50% of teachers have less than 2 years of experience. Yikes!

So I started to do a little digging–anecdotally at first, and then with some more empirical research. The result was a fairly lengthy paper, but here are few highlights:

“…Riggs (2013) notes that “overall job dissatisfaction” is one of the primary reasons that teachers choose to leave the profession. The American Federation of Teachers conducted a Quality of Worklife Survey in which teachers revealed that their enthusiasm for teaching had dropped from 89% at the start of their career to only 15% in their present placement (American Federation of Teachers, 2015, p. 3). The research of Markow and Pieters (2012) further amplifies these points, demonstrating that “Teacher satisfaction has declined to its lowest point in 25 years and has dropped five percentage points in the past year alone, from 44% to 39% very satisfied. This marks a continuation of a substantial decline noted in the 2011 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher; teacher satisfaction has now dropped 23 percentage points since 2008 (p.45).”

…One of the most obvious and oft-cited symptoms that creates job dissatisfaction and leads to turnover is stress. Spilt (2011) notes that teaching is one of the most stressful professions (p. 458). Riggs (2013) echoes this assertion noting that teachers who leave the teaching profession often cite individual stress as their reason for their decision to move on.

…Other than job dissatisfaction and stress, “High rates of teacher turnover are of concern not only because they may be an outcome indicating underlying problems in how well schools function, but also because they can be disruptive, in and of themselves, for the quality of school community and performance” (Ingersoll, 2001, p. 505). Thus, while teacher turnover is a serious concern that does disrupt the quality of school performance, turnover is not the problem. It is a symptom of more serious issues that exist beneath the surface.

…Richard Ingersoll, a former high school teacher who chose to leave the profession, says, “One of the big reasons I quit was sort of intangible. But it’s very real: It’s just a lack of respect” (Riggs, 2013, p. NA). Interviews with other teachers who chose to leave the profession revealed that they also cited intangible reasons such as “work-life balance” for their decision to abandon teaching (Riggs, 2013).

As you can see, stress and “wellbeing” play an obvious role in this teacher attrition crisis that we’ve experienced in our nation. Sadly things have only gotten worse in the years since some of this research was first published. So what is to be done then???

Well, I suggest that there are a number of root causes driving this issue of teacher turnover (and the related problems of lower student achievement, higher drop out rates, increased mental health problems, etc…). Some of these root causes are within our circle of influence, while others are beyond our immediate control. But I do believe that schools, districts, and communities have the power to make a positive impact on these problems by addressing the wellbeing of teachers. …and some recent studies are beginning to support this idea. More on that next week.

Cheers!

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Teacher Appreciation Week, part 1 of 4

teacher appreciation

Note: Teacher Appreciation week is Monday, May 1 – Friday, May 5, and National Teacher Appreciation Day is officially Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

There have been so many things on my mind lately, and I have so much that I want to say to you all. There are topics I could discuss that will be of benefit to me…other topics that could benefit our students…and a few things that could even benefit our parent community. So, what I would like to discuss over the course of April is going to benefit all of us–because it will benefit our TEACHERS. That’s right: I want to talk about our teachers. By extension, I believe that this will benefit our students, our parents, myself, and our entire school community.

So let me begin this series by declaring that this is a topic of great importance to me. Throughout my career, schools and districts have claimed that they want to do what is best for students …best for students …best for students. We invest billions of dollars as a country seeking to do what is best for students. We develop curriculum, design initiatives, conduct research, invest in mental health programs, write policy, pass laws, and increase taxes (except in Douglas County of course).

Yet for all of our efforts to do what is best for students, we forget about the very people who spend the most time with them each day and who have an enormous influence in their lives: OUR TEACHERS.

Great teachers are the hardest working people I’ve ever known. They are up at 5:00am getting ready for the day. They are on their feet all day engaging students as best as possible, never taking a break–even to use the restroom. They stay late working with students and spend money out of their own pocket to buy things for kids. They arrive home late and stumble in the door in the evening. They grab a bite to eat before they sit down to return emails, grade papers, read a periodical about teaching/education, then start planning the most rigorous lesson they can think of for the next day. If they’re lucky, they get about 7 hours of sleep before doing it all over again (but let’s be honest: it’s usually about 3-5 hours of sleep during the week).

Okay, okay: I know what you are thinking. You are thinking of the worst teachers you’ve ever had. And I will admit that I have “learned” from and worked with some teachers who try to get by doing the bare minimum. There was even a time early in my career when I thought it was okay to sit at my desk while students worked, left school by 3:30, didn’t take anything home with me, and often didn’t grade papers for a week or two.

But most teachers don’t try to just “get by.” So I will say it again: great teachers are the hardest working people I’ve ever known.

But what do we do for them? We pay them poorly. We invest very little (certainly not billions) in their professional development. We don’t write policy or pass laws for teachers. We don’t care about their mental health or whether or not they are burned out. Instead, we suck them dry and then wonder why they leave the profession for something else.

In fact, the consequences have truly been disastrous. Next week, I am going to share with you a portion of a paper that I wrote last semester. It dives into the problem of teacher turnover in our schools and leads into the concept of teacher wellbeing. In fact, that is the topic I have chosen to pursue for my doctoral dissertation: wellbeing. I want to examine how schools and districts might prevent teacher turnover by protecting and promoting the wellbeing of teachers. (And in the past year, I have started receiving very strong support to pursue this topic–both from my doctoral colleagues and from professors at the University of Colorado Denver).

I believe that by investing in the overall wellbeing of our teachers, we will vastly increase the success and achievement of our students (both now and in the future). I am going to speak a little about that in the coming weeks. Next week: more on the increasing and alarming problem of teacher turnover in American schools (actually–all around the world), and what we can do about it.

Cheers!

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