Sunday, October 20, 2013

Teacher burn out/turnover

This year, perhaps more than any other year I am hearing teachers across the country voicing their fears about burning out.  These fears are coming from experienced teachers who are considering giving up the ship in the face of the rising tide of changes.

1.  Federally mandated changes to teacher evaluation systems that MUST include test scores
2.  Test prep for the next generation of online tests for CCSS. (PARCC has not produced a practice test, yet schools could be accountable for the scores on the field test this spring)
3.  Still being accountable for a state test based on frameworks that have been replaced by CCSS.
4.  Technology demands of CCSS despite lack of current technology in many schools.
5.  Prep time lacking for making these important changes

While the new teacher attrition rate has been high in recent years, with 46% of new teachers leaving the profession within 5 years, experienced teachers are also expressing burn out fatigue at an alarming rate. Poor, rural, and inner city schools tend to suffer the most.  Burnout as defined by  Susanne Carter (1994) is "physical, emotional, and attitudinal exhaustion that begins with a feeling of uneasiness and mounts as the joy of teaching begins to gradually slip away."

Schools need to encourage their teachers to find a healthy balance between their teaching lives and their lives outside of school to prevent the rising tide of stressful changes from washing these experienced teachers out of our schools. During this Connected Educator month, we need to consider what it means to be continually connected to our work at home, at the ballpark, and at other times and paces when we should be seeking rest and balance instead.

Disconnecting is difficult. Perhaps we need to discuss this important topic within our schools.  Is this a topic discussed in your school?

Carter, S. (1994). Teacher stress and burnout. Organizing systems to support competent social behavior in children and youth. Eugene, OR: Western Regional Resource Center. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

#edcamp reflections


Today, I had the joy of attending Arkansas's first Edcamp.  It was hosted by UCA in Conway, Arkansas.
I looked forward to finally meeting face to face with colleagues from the Twitterverse.   (@smith5987: @DaisyDyerDuerr @sabrapro @AudraKimball, and @lconley86) It was great to meet so many #arkEdChat tweeps! It was akin to meeting a relative for the first time-Comfortable, yet slightly disconcerting.  :D

As a beta tester of the first Edcamp, my curiosity was piqued, but my expectations were low. Luckily, Michael Mills, @aquiamigo, wonderfully organized the day. The opening was low-key and allowed the participants to ease into the day.  Once the schedule was set, Michael organized a full scale rock, paper, scissors event. We met many of our colleagues, moved throughout the room and cheered for our winners, as we paraded toward the final battle. Fast, furious, and friendly competition that got us all on our feet and mixing with our colleagues. What a heart pumping way to begin the day! We then decided which of the 16 sessions we would attend.

In reflection, this is a wonderful set up for a day of school based professional development. Simply place a few important sessions on the schedule and then add in suggested sessions (especially those with teachers stepping up to facilitate!). I liked the  4 x 4 block. 4 different sessions for each of 4 scheduled time slots. Two were before lunch, and two were after lunch. I can see how this would allow/encourage our teacher leaders to step up and share their knowledge. I can also see how this might help encourage them to apply to be presenters at conferences. Allowing teachers to vote with their feet and move freely to the session that best fits their own needs sounds ideal.

This year, Arkansas is fully implementing a new evaluation system based on the Danielson Framework. TESS-Teacher Excellence Support System. Each teacher creates a professional growth plan and develops a plan for their own PD based on their own specific needs. They are then formatively observed on these PGP identified areas for growth. Keeping their PGP in mind, they can suggest a session/ offer to facilitate a session for the school based PD.

Has your school or district attempted an Edcamp? Are you willing to share your best practices?