In this presentation, titled “The Myth of the Super Teacher”, educator Roxanna Elden addresses the core of a major problem in the field of education: the training gap. She reminds us that, “half of all teacher leave by their fifth year, and half of all inner-city teachers leave by their third year.” The high turnover trends result from, in part, improper training and unrealistic expectations teachers receive. She shares her stories of struggle and failure – and she is not alone.
In general, High employment turn-over rate, like that seen in new teachers is a sign that something is wrong in the system, namely: a gap between what new recruits are prepared for before the first day on the job, and what they get when they arrive at school. Elden posits, “The great teachers of the future know they are not great yet and many of them won’t stick around long enough to become great.”
Such disparities exist in any field. A software engineer landing a big break at corporation may find that the glamour of the job is not what she expects and she burns out. That new sales associate is going to quit in 6 months because the actual tasks of the position turn out to be a poor fit for his natural talents – he has decided to go into teaching instead. These stories happen all the time. The question is: what can be done to combat this trend?
Some fields, like medecine for example, attempt to deal with this by requiring much higher professional qualifications, and an arduous process of pre-employment training at the graduate level. And the only turn-over rate that medecine is feeling is at the retirement age.
Education is not like this (but close). One can enter the the teaching profession any number of ways: undergraduate degree, Teacher for America-like programs, master’s degree with first-time licensure, online or in-person and more (just ask Arthur Levine). We get out of this system of training exactly what we should expect: very disparate outcomes in terms of real preparation to succeed and sustain in teaching.
In her book, See Me After Class: Advice For Teachers by Teachers, Roxanna Elden aims to give honest, practical advice and humor – what she sees as a significant missing element to the training of educators. Could it be that this most-human and informal information is what teachers are looking for? It’s certainly ripe with humor, like her description of how teachers should view their administration: “”Your administration is like a bra: if it provides the support you need, you look better and feel better. If it fits poorly, it gets in your way and can even become painful.”
We can only hope that Elden’s dose of humanity is what the doctor ordered.
What honest, practical and humorous advice would you give someone entering your field? Have you read Roxanna Elden’s book “See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers”? What advice from the book did you find most useful?