The prospects for new teachers are, many say, worse than ever. Inadequate pay, high-stakes tests that can sink a career or an entire school, and the statistics of violence in schools in the last five years are the highest on record.
It’s no wonder that schools have increasing challenges in attracting and then keeping teachers. It’s hard enough to draw interested college students into the profession. So recruiting and retaining teachers are key issues for many schools, colleges, and policymakers. And perhaps they can look at schools like Chapelwood Elementary School in Wayne Township, Indiana, as both a testing ground and a trendsetter for potential solutions.
New teachers at Chapelwood, like many schools, may not know what grade they’ll be teaching until after they’ve been hired. It’s a steep dive from the theory of school and the round-the-clock support of student-teaching into having to develop an entire year’s plan all but on the fly in a new school. At Chapelwood, they’re given a veteran teacher mentor to help with classroom strategies, and the school helps them in writing grants and contacting the community for help with classroom supplies.
They also have access to classes in acclimatizing to the job, which they can take any time in their first two years, so they’re virtually guaranteed an answer to any question they might have.
As far as teacher retention, Chapelwood acknowledges its privilege in being able to offer a very competitive salary (approximately $41,000) and the aforementioned supportive environment, and they lose few good teachers to poaching from other schools. But they watch other schools in their district bleed talent. To combat that poaching, they recommend a positive school culture. An environment in which teachers feel in control of their classrooms and have time to work on improving themselves if they wish.