Well into the school year Metro Schools found itself searching high and low for teachers. Though the new school year scramble is not unusual for an urban district, for years MNPS has been charged with hiring too late, missing out on the highly sought after newbies. While missed opportunities is an easy fix (better planning), there are other systemic human resource deficiencies that must be identified, addressed, and remedied.
In his recent blog Does MNPS Have A Teacher Attrition Problem?, high school AP History teacher Josh Rogen does what he does best by taking the reader on a journey through data in an effort to arrive at the truth. In this case, it seems the data takes him to a conclusion in opposition to his “pre-research” suspicions. The first half of the blog takes the reader through the numbers of teachers of all experience levels leaving Metro Schools. On par with the nation, the largest group of teachers leaving their posts is first-year teachers. And according to Rogen, there is a good reason for it in Nashville.
That entire first year, my principal saw me teach maybe two times. The vice principal, maybe two times. My literacy coach never entered the room. I had no explicit mentor…
The remainder of Rogen’s post is a generous account of his first five minutes as a teacher and the lessons that remain with him today. What I appreciate about Rogen’s blog is the invaluable consultation he offers for free to MNPS when they are notorious for lavishing tax dollars on over-priced consultants who provide lean advice and questionable outcomes. But I digress. He provides an important lens into the heart of the teacher attrition issue that is rooted in a culture of poor or absent in-school supports for new teachers, particularly in schools with a high concentration of poverty and where the teacher’s race stands out from the student population.
Let’s also be real that race and class played a huge role in my experience. I was an upper-class, privately schooled white kid who was teaching in a very different environment. The teaching movies lied to me! J Were I a teacher of color, I think my experience might have been different, which really underscores just another reason that principals should be trying to hire teachers of color. But most of my friends within the district experienced something quite similar, including teachers of color.
From my perspective, teaching is not one of those gigs where a “go get ’em, Tiger!” will do. Think about it — new teachers are generally very young, experiencing new cultures and working with adults as an adult for the first time, and then suddenly solely responsible for dozens of little minds for 6 hours a day. We owe them titanium supports.