|Did you know that in Alberta, a staggering 40% of new teachers quit the profession within their first five years? While these rates are typically tracked provincially, this attrition rate is likely comparable across the country. That means that Canada is not only losing great teachers to “beginner’s burnout,” it is spending large amounts of money each year to recruit and train their replacements.|
Teachers nationwide cite many reasons for leaving the profession, but we are going to take a closer look at some of the more common explanations. And, even more importantly, we’re going to offer tips on how to minimize that turnover rate.
High turnover among rookie teachers
Today’s teachers are facing greater obstacles than before. With ever-changing technology, a lack of time and an increased workload, many beginner teachers become burned out. And how can we blame them? Here is the climate some of our nation’s educators are facing:
- Looming layoffs: As school boards struggle to balance tight budgets, many teachers across the country are facing pink slips. In fact, the Toronto District School Board recently released a report that recommends cutting up to 250 secondary school teachers in the next school year. With continuing resource cuts and budget shortfalls, teachers are starting their new positions with a lack of job security. The need for stability may cause well-intentioned teachers to look elsewhere.
- Low wages: The national average starting salary for an elementary school teacher is $34,443. Many would argue that this is an acceptable wage. But what it doesn’t account for is the extensive workload teachers spend outside the classroom grading papers, designing lesson plans and developing innovative ways to engage with students. This may cause teachers who otherwise love their positions to pursue a more lucrative career elsewhere.
- Standardized testing: Many educators may feel disheartened by the increased emphasis being placed on standardized testing, rather than on fostering a lifelong love of learning. This may lead to increased stress and decreased job satisfaction.
Battling high teacher turnover
So, how can we turn this grim outlook around for our newest teachers? Here are some tried and true methods to battle the first-year teacher burnout blues:
- Mentoring: New teacherswho are assigned a mentor are half as likely to leave during their first year of teaching and report higher job satisfaction than those who go it alone. A mentor can provide advice on time management, tips on dealing with stress and an insider’s view on the culture and expectations of the school. Encourage new teachers to take on a mentor by promoting it internally. Provide newbies with a survival kit consisting of a jotter and pen to note helpful tips and tricks, a fun stress reliever and an invite to network with one of the school’s more seasoned educators.
- Balance: Many teachers may find themselves overwhelmed and lacking balance during their first year. After all, they are tasked with developing lesson plans, grading papers and being available to students and parents outside of normal class hours. This can lead to coming in early, working through lunch and staying late. Let newbies know it is ok to set limits. Encourage teachers to take a lunch break in the teachers’ lounge (not at their desks). Host a new teachers’ lunch to jumpstart the habit—provide a sack lunch in a school logo’d lunch bag complete with a tumbler as an extra incentive to attend.
- Saying no: It may be tempting for new teachers to take on every task that comes their way in an effort to prove themselves worthy of their new positions. In reality, this type of behaviour perpetuates burnout. Let new teachers know that it is okay to say “No” and that their first year is a great time to observe. After all, they have the rest of their careers to lead after-school clubs, take on coaching jobs and volunteer.
Remember, first year teachers have an uphill battle. We can’t eliminate the stress factors completely, but an awareness and simple tips to battle the burnout can get these valued employees through the first stretch and on their way to a lifelong, rewarding career.
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