This is the time of year when schools and boards complete the staffing process – the prediction of how many teachers will be needed for the next school year. It’s also the time when teachers who are low on the seniority list wait to see if they will have a job next year. I remember going through that every year for the first five years that I was in the classroom. Getting a letter at the end of April thanking me for my work for the board and also letting me know that, at that time, I wouldn’t have a job the following year. And then getting a letter at the end of May congratulating me for being able to work for the board for another year.
I remember the stress I felt living with that uncertainty. I remember the stress in the school as those who had been newly hired waited and wondered.
At one time, what you taught had an impact on whether you were rehired for the following year. Now, except for tech and science where there are specific safety issues to be considered, that is no longer the case. It’s all a numbers game.
What has always struck me is that the lives of students would be diminished because they would lose the possibility of having bright and energetic and creative teachers. I also know that working with these teachers who were caught in the numbers game that is staffing energized me. Their capacity and potential increased my own.
It’s also the time of year when the next group of teachers graduate from their teacher training programmes. They enter the profession with hope and full of possibility. The Lamp of Learning should be their symbol. And then they confront the whole hiring process. Will there be positions open in their areas of expertise? Will they be called in for an interview? Will they be called back for another and perhaps more intensive interview? Will they get the gig?
And if they are hired, will they have the opportunity to be in the classroom for more than one year? After the hiring process comes the staffing process.
There are a lot of new teachers entering the profession each year. And there are a lot of teachers who have not had the chance to demonstrate via their resumés that they have had one longer term position. They all apply for available jobs and all get caught in a ‘catch 22’. Principals want to hire teachers with experience but how can newer teachers get that experience when they aren’t hired? As a friend of mine said, “How can you get experience when no one will hire you and to get experience that means that you have to volunteer which means no income and being dependent on others?”
There are statistics that show that the greatest time of attrition – of teachers choosing to leave the profession – is within the first five years. I can understand that. It’s hard to believe that teaching is where you are called to be and to maintain both hope and the ability to keep your eyes on the prize when you can’t get hired.
I’m thankful for all teachers who, I know, have the potential to help their students to transform the world; teachers who are the invitation to their students at achieve their potential. I know that it is the next generation that will be the change in the world. I know that these students will be profoundly affected by those who teach them to ask questions and explore the immensity possible in the journey of exploration.
Systems become entrenched in the belief that there is only one way to organize and structure things. In education, that means that we continue to use a 19th century structure to serve the needs of a 21st century world.
What I know is that transformation in education is too important to wait for someone else to effect the change. And I believe that our world is lessened when the force which is those new to the profession has no possibility of its full expression. Isn’t it time to consider something different? It may seem chaotic but in chaos is the energy of transformation and creation. After all, necessity is the mother of invention!