Teachers and Staying Power

April 2024

Over my 34-year career, with over 20 years dedicated to teaching (following 13 years in industry), I find myself approaching retirement with a deep-seated mission. My goal is to ensure that the students I leave are nurtured by educators who share my passion, possess a work ethic like mine, cherish their students wholeheartedly, and feel respected by their students, school administrators, and the general public.

Challenges on the Horizon

Unfortunately, the field of education is facing challenges. The number of new teachers entering the profession is dwindling, and experienced educators are leaving prematurely. I am not referring to teachers like myself who are close to retirement, but rather to “mid-career teachers” who have devoted between 6 and 20 years to teaching. Witnessing many colleagues leave the profession (or express a desire to do so) pains me, as I believe most educators chose this path to make a positive impact on young lives.

As many know, teaching extends beyond subject matter expertise, and educators must be well-versed in all aspects of students’ lives. The stress is palpable, and the Covid-19 pandemic brought a different set of stressors. Additionally, we face extra pressures imposed on our system by politics and individuals who may or may not prioritize our children’s well-being. The heightened pressure on the educational system has resulted in an increased departure rate, affecting not only new teachers and those on the verge of retirement, but most notably mid-career teachers. While this may not be groundbreaking news for those in education, it remains a pressing concern for the entire educational community.

Encouraging Teachers

The good news? Some districts offer special incentives for new teachers and even higher wages for those approaching retirement. However, the question remains: What about the mid-year teacher, someone who has dedicated enough time to be beyond the new teacher incentives but lacks a clear path to retirement? Many of my peers, teaching for 6 to 20 years, express a sense of being “stuck.” They still love teaching but yearn for more in their careers—not necessarily aspiring to become administrators. These mid-career teachers seek ways to expand their opportunities and knowledge while remaining in the classroom. The challenge lies in identifying and accessing these opportunities to stay motivated, especially when the financial reward is insufficient and retirement is not immediately on the horizon.

Opportunities for Growth

Reflecting on my mid-career years, I found engagement through opportunities to effect change in education beyond my classroom. I believe offering such opportunities is crucial for retaining mid-career teachers.

State-Wide: I am a member of the Michigan Teacher Leadership Corps (MTLC). This group works to inform Michigan legislators about creating and abolishing laws that affect our teachers and students. My sub-group plans to raise awareness about the challenges faced by mid-career teachers and the necessity for viable career paths that foster growth and motivation. We want the Department of Education to strongly encourage districts to implement career paths which include mentorship programs, hybrid roles like part teacher/part coach, and leadership positions within departments—which we hope could be supported, and maybe even funded, by the state. If we could get all states to implement programs similar to these, that would be a great step for teachers.

School-Based and District-Wide: Districts could provide mid-career teachers with the chance to participate in district-level initiatives, including creating pacing guides, contributing to curriculum development, serving on textbook selection committees, and facilitating building- and district-wide professional development. Additionally, they could allocate funding for teachers to attend conferences, join professional organizations, and become mentors or be mentored. School-based administrators could recommend teachers for these opportunities and provide different teachers within their buildings the chance to enhance their skills, positively impacting the classroom and the school community. Moreover, teachers could engage with external groups like the MTLC or consider joining programs such as CPM’s Teacher Researcher Corps (TRC).

Individual Responsibility: Creating awareness about these opportunities can be critical for mid-career teachers who find themselves “stuck.” While district support and legislative advocacy are vital, it is equally important for mid-career teachers to recognize the potential for growth and satisfaction outside their immediate teaching roles by actively seeking additional opportunities. In my experience, collaborating with external groups such as the MTLC and TRC underscores the importance of providing opportunities for mid-career teachers, both within and outside their districts. As we continue to advocate for better pay, it is equally imperative to communicate the value and growth potential that these opportunities bring, thereby contributing to job satisfaction and retention for mid-career teachers. As an example, I am part of CPM’s TRC because we help to facilitate increased math learning among students by investigating the problems of practice encountered by CPM teachers. Through conducting classroom research and collaborating with educators nationwide, I am better able to reflect on mathematics and contribute to the success of both my students and those of other CPM teachers. Experiences like the TRC not only provide stipends but also enable teachers to stay connected with the educational community, enhancing their teaching and professional skills.

I write this to bring attention to how we can retain our mid-career teachers. I want them to continue to love teaching and stay in the field because it is important to our children’s educational future. Like most educators, I have a deep passion for my field of study, which is mathematics and mathematical thinking. But more than just someone who loves math, I am someone who loves young people. I belong to the tribe of educators who believe they can change the world one student at a time. We will always need educators who feel that way, and that is why society and the world of education need to do whatever they can to keep what I consider the most important teachers, the mid-career teachers.

Also published on: https://imath.us/2024/02/13/teachers-and-staying-power/

Janine Scott

Janine Scott

trc-janinescott@cpm.org

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.