Creating Need-Based Opportunities and Job Roles To Fight High Teacher Turnover Rates
By Qurratulain Anjum
As a teacher, I have witnessed high intentions to quit among my colleagues, with an even higher teacher turnover rate globally. Around 46-50% of the teachers quit within the first five years of teaching in the United States (Jalongo & Heider, 2006), 30% in Australia (Peters & Pearce, 2012) and 20-40% in Canada (Clandinin et al., 2015; Leroux and Theoret, 2014). I experienced and witnessed high stress levels among my colleagues along with the workload beyond capacity. As I became aware of this global concern, I wondered if we are doing justice to this highly motivated bunch of teachers, especially those who have just entered the profession.
Consider a female teacher who is a mother of two kids. She is expected to prepare lesson plans and material for class, provide extra help to students outside of class time, communicate with parents, play a role of in loco parentis during school hours while employing a duty of care toward students, as well as support staff and co-workers, manage the paperwork at school and attend meetings with administration. These abundant responsibilities are often carried to home due to insufficient time at school and most teachers spend a significant amount of their personal time on lesson planning as well as preparation for classroom activities. How many hours do you think she would have for her two kids at home? The responsibilities go far beyond her capacity to manage, leading to stress and burnout, and eventually quitting.
This is a familiar story to teachers in Canada and in the world, as teaching remains a feminized profession globally. Is there something missing? My experience, observation and research would all answer “yes.” As I see it, there is a persistent gap to be filled through new job roles that do not yet exist. Teachers’ limited capacity calls for new job roles such as professional lesson planners, activity planners and teaching assistants who can provide cohesive teaching support. For example, a teacher with a six-month-old child may require an on-site childcare service to be able to breastfeed her child during the short breaks on a school day, instead of waiting for an average of nine hours to look at her child.
For the fresh graduates, are they doing enough to identify the possibility of job roles that exist or need to exist? For the counsellors and the authorities and administration, is there a cohesive network for the fresh minds to create new job roles in this fast-paced world? With the COVID-19 pandemic, our globe is experiencing a different turn altogether. Cohesive framework requires all types of stakeholders, from the authorities to the administration, counsellors and young professionals, to support front-line workers in the teaching network.
At my school, I remember the relief on the teachers’ faces when they talked about staying close to their kids on the weekends, especially while they are young. Considering the given situation, are we, as career counsellors or educators, doing enough to provide access to the opportunities available? Or do we also need to show the gaps that need to be filled by our fresh graduates? Let’s not forget the current COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected the current career prospects. While many people are laid off, there are many opportunities introduced to be filled by those who create opportunities instead of only the ones that exist.
Qurratulain Anjum‘s personal experiences and various formal and informal interactions as a mentor moved her closer to becoming an educator and, later, taking up the role of a career counsellor. This journey developed a keen interest in career development and well-being, with a focus on well-being within the teaching profession during her graduate studies at McGill University.
Jalongo, M. R., & Heider, K. (2006). Editorial teacher attrition: An issue of national concern. Early Childhood Education Journal, 33(6), 379-380.
Peters, J., & Pearce, J. (2012). Relationships and early career teacher resilience: A role for school principals. Teachers and teaching, 18(2), 249-262.
Clandinin, D. J., Long, J., Schaefer, L., Downey, C. A., Steeves, P., Pinnegar, E., … & Wnuk, S. (2015). Early career teacher attrition: Intentions of teachers beginning. Teaching Education, 26(1), 1-16.
Leroux, M., & Théorêt, M. (2014). Intriguing empirical relations between teachers’ resilience and reflection on practice. Reflective Practice, 15(3), 289-303.