My husband is a professional chef. And yes, I fully understand that I am the luckiest woman in the world. He was working in the restaurant kitchen when he was asked to come out and speak with a chef who had come to the restaurant to get some advice about vegan cooking. The restaurant owner walked by and semi- jokingly said to my husband, “Don’t give any of our secrets away!”
As my husband was telling me this story, I drew some connections. In teaching, we often keep trade secrets, but we shouldn’t.
Teachers identify support as one of the top five reasons they leave the profession (according to an). There were over 2,000 teacher vacancies reported this month throughout the state (according to ). In Arizona, 18.8 percent of teachers left the profession entirely between 2012 and 2014, nearly triple the national average. Equally frightening, between 12 and 24 percent (depending on the source) of current teachers in Arizona plan to leave teaching in the next two years, double the national average.
The numbers don’t lie and the experience can be felt strongly throughout our schools today. The number of veteran teachers in our schools is dwindling. We are surrounded by more and more new teachers who need support. New teachers need ongoing professional development and mentoring since a lack of support is one of the main reasons why teachers leave a school or leave the profession entirely.
This job keeps getting harder and harder. More and more students enter my classroom, many of them unprepared for the level of academic rigor our current standardized tests measure. Increased class size makes it harder to see and feel that I am making a difference with individual students. Many of my students have social and emotional needs that are outmatched by my range of teaching skills. I am supposed to teach more and more hungry, world-weary kids. Even as my students’ needs have increased, and the demands for increased rigor have been raised, the school support services have been cut.
Well-intentioned but perhaps short-sighted people don’t understand classroom support services fall under “administrative” dollars. People balk at administrative costs without really understanding the kind of services that can fall under that umbrella.
Honestly, if I were entering teaching at this time, I’m not sure I would last. I didn’t have the skill set at the beginning of my career to handle the needs of my current students. Sometimes I’m not sure I have what it takes now, after 17 years of experience! I would have left in frustration and probably, shame.
But I can do something to help the many new teachers in my building. I can help a new teacher with submitting book orders, scheduling parent/teacher conferences, finding time management strategies for the endless piles of grading and paperwork. I can stop in to say hi and listen. I can help them learn to reflect on their students and teaching.
Let’s not keep trade secrets. Find a new teacher in your building or district and buy them a cup of coffee. Ask them how it’s going. Share your favorite lesson or technique. Boost their morale.
Sometimes I forget why I teach. But I remember the many, many reasons when I’m talking to a person who is just figuring it all out. Just beginning to see how massive and challenging this job really is. Just realizing it takes the strongest of the strong, and the smartest of the smart to do this job well. But that is why it is so important that we are there for each other. To do what we do best and TEACH each other our trade secrets. Our students deserve teachers who know all the tricks of the trade and who are in it for the long haul. Long enough to invent some new tricks of their own.
By the way, I’m pretty sure my husband’s trade secret is black truffle salt.
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