25% – 40% of beginning teachers in Western World countries are “burnt-out” and are likely to leave teaching in the first 5 years (Ewing and Smith, 2003).
Alarm bells! Anyone? This is obviously a major problem but not really surprising considering the demands that teachers are required to deal with along with an often non-supportive Government, media and community.
I have the benefit of wisdom (aka age!) and experience to know that there are high turnover in many fields of work, especially in the early years in a new career. It is not surprising that beginning teachers are disillusioned by the realities of the job once they gain full-time employment after being a full-time student for 4+ years. We do Prac, practical in-school experiences, but these are in no way real versions of what life as a teacher is like. As a beginning teacher you are the ONLY adult teacher in the room and that responsibility of young adults or children may be a massive issue for some beginning teachers. Personally, I can’t wait for this but I’ve also taught before so I have the confidence and the experience to know that I will be OK.
The major problems for beginning teachers that I see are: disillusionment of ideals, workload, lack of support and isolation.
During a teacher’s University days there are many opportunities to discover and explore all the wonderful and often idealistic theories and perspectives of teaching. This is an excellent exercise in thinking, learning and growing for teachers and I highly recommend this (although 4 years of it is a bit much imo!). However, the practicalities of teacher-life MUST be addressed and should be found-out and sometimes the idealistic view is held too tightly by the Education professional staff at Universities. The fact is that there is a LOT to teaching that is NOT talked about at University. So a beginning teacher that has not actively participated in non-University learning of the realities of teaching will be swiftly disappointed and disillusioned by the job. Some ways to prepare for this is for pre-service teachers to join International Ed discussions via Twitter, Facebook etc and to join Australian professional groups/bodies and get involved in what they do.
The workload will be big, especially at the beginning when you’re trying to “prove” yourself to yourself and others. IF you are reading this and are at the early stages of just thinking about the idea of being a teacher, then make sure that you understand that teaching is not a simple 9 to 3 baby-sitting job. Get ready to prepare lessons, mark work and possibly communicate with students throughout the weekend and evenings. I know what is required and I know what it’s like to walk into a classroom with a lack of preparation, so trust me when I say you will need to be organised and motivated to work.
In some schools there is no support for teachers and teachers have to learn to FIND support. The bigger your network of support the better; and that goes for any job. I have treated all my prac experiences as a big interviews and so not only have I tried to prove to the school that they want to hire me but also I’ve made sure to find the right school for ME. I have found a great school and I HOPE to work there next year when I graduate. This school has a very supportive culture of sharing knowledge, ideas and friendship.
New teachers can often feel physically, geographically, professionally and emotionally isolated (Buchanan et al., 2013). I think a lot of this can be overcome by building a supportive network around you.
Support the teachers in your life. They work hard and have studied more than you realise. Students NEED committed, motivated and experienced teachers in their schools.