One of the things that has kept me busy is the continued workshops I have been attending as part of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation in Education program, co-sponsored by Teacher for America and Technically Philly. While I may have gripes with some of the TFA emphasis on using classroom experience for policy change instead of sticking with teaching, I can tell you their social entrepreneurship initiative is pretty solid.
The focus I have chosen is teacher retention. Put simply, the idea that half of all new teachers are leaving by their fifth year is simply sad. There are myriad of reasons for this: new teachers are often put in the hardest classes in the hardest schools; they are often given the fewest resources; the demands of them are the exact same as veterans, without knowledge of the systems they work in. I could easily go on.
Instead, I've chosen to seek out and/or create a system of support for new teachers that provides for their sustainable future in the classroom. I can think of three major sources of assistance that would make this happen soon:
1) An easy-to-use online resource exchange. Instead of new teachers having to gather resources from many different sources (often wasting time in the process) we should provide a space where veteran teachers can share their lessons, worksheets, tests, and more with the new folk. These items could be ready to go without much change and would provide new teachers more time to learn their own style of teaching instead of making a list of word problems.
2) In-school mentorship opportunities. One of the best and most-easily accessible resources in a school are the people in it. New teacher should be provided with coverage if and when they want to observe others in their classrooms. And veteran teacher should be provided the same in order to give feedback to the new teachers. Programs I've mentioned before like Critical Friends would be a great template to use.
3) Out-of-school support groups. I have been involved in many of these over the past few years and have gained new ideas and professional feedback through active discussions. I think these groups should be regionally based at first in order for teachers to avoid wasting time transporting from place to place. If these were coordinated and organized by teachers they would be more enticing as well.
If major school districts could think of the investment they should be making in new teachers instead of leaving them to fend for themselves, they could potentially save more than $7.3 billion annually. Money like that could go a long way to supporting future generations.