Mike McFalls of Texas works in education as an administrative leader. In the following article, Mike McFalls, Principal explains that with teacher retention rates at an all-time low, now’s the time to revolutionize how we train and mentor young educators.
The American education system is in a state of crisis as more and more teachers look to transfer out of what was once a life-long career. Given the amount of stress they’re forced to burden, though, it’s no surprise that so few educators are willing to stick it out. This unfortunately means that unless something soon changes, the number of educators willing to teach the future generation will dwindle to zero.
Mike McFalls, Principal says that to reverse this impending disaster, we must work to increase teacher retention by restoring the respect and high value the profession once held. Rather than leaving teachers underpaid, unappreciated, and without enough resources, it’s time to put education back on track by giving teachers something to be proud of. Only then will the youth of today be ready to face the coming future.
The Power of Mentoring New Teachers
No one goes into teaching expecting to make a fortune. While it’s certainly a benefit to have almost absolute job security, teaching is unfortunately one of the most underpaid professions in the country according to Mike McFalls of Texas. So, what brings young adults into the field and how can veteran educators help to make them feel welcomed and supported in their fledgling careers?
For most, it’s finding a community of like-minded people who care about the futures of children. To foster this community, though, it’s up to the more experienced teachers to mentor their younger co-workers. Without this support, Mike McFalls, Principal explains that beginners are likely to feel fed to the sharks whenever they’re first dropped into a classroom full of students.
Yet, mentoring doesn’t mean watching over them like a hawk and critiquing their every mistake. Instead, mentors should meet regularly with their trainees to informally discuss how things are going. If the students are acting up, mentors may suggest some appropriate disciplinary actions. If a particular lesson didn’t go as planned, the mentor may have a better pedagogical approach to share.
It’s through this back-and-forth of sharing that trainee teachers come to learn more about their careers, while also feeling a sense of comradery with their coworkers. Mike McFalls, Principal says that if they should ever start to feel the burnout, they know they’ll have someone to talk to. This simple shift is enough to increase retention rates among new recruits. But is it enough to retain the teachers who are a decade into their careers?
Mentorships Work Best with Administrator Support
For veteran teachers, the idea of taking a new trainee under their wings may feel like an added responsibility rather than a step toward progress. Mike McFalls, Principal says that this is why it’s so important that the administration gets involved as well. Teachers don’t always have the time or energy to give to their coworkers, especially as their own workloads pile up. In those moments, administrators should act to support their staff.
Even someone with a decade of classroom experience is bound to feel stressed at some point. If they’re passed the stage of being mentored, who can they turn to? Mike McFalls of Texas says that they can hopefully turn to the principal, vice principal, or someone else within the school system for help. Ideally, though, there should be some formalized system for teachers to vent their frustrations.
Without a pressure release valve, it’s inevitable that teachers hit a wall in their profession. Rather than rising to meet their responsibilities, they have no other choice but to buckle under the pressure. If administrators were to recognize this problem and work to address it at a system-wide scale, more teachers would feel respected and valued for their efforts.
Training Teachers to be Mentors in and Outside of the Classroom
Mike McFalls of Texas says that the best part about this approach is that mentoring skills aren’t just limited to training other new teachers. They can also be applied in the classroom. Research has shown that teachers who connect with and form healthy relationships with their classes are far more effective than teachers who simply drop in and out within a single year. Mentoring plays a major role in building these relations.
When students feel that their teachers care and want to engage with them on an interpersonal level, they dedicate themselves to learning the material. Mike McFalls, Principal explains that this creates a healthier classroom atmosphere that young teachers can also benefit from. Rather than fighting day in and day out with their students, teachers who act as mentors are instead able to see and feel the positive influence they create.
The Bottom Line
Until State and Federal legislators choose to pay our teachers a fair wage, it’s up to schools and administrators to create positive influences and supportive work environments for their teachers. Unless new trainees feel that they are valued and supported, teacher retention rates will continue to fall. There is hope, though, that through mentoring young teachers, they’ll be able to succeed.