I recently had an experience that hit home the concern of new teachers leaving the profession.
I spoke with a new teacher who had only graduated at the end of last year. Let’s call her Lisa. By all accounts she was a capable new teacher, knew her content well, delivered engaging lessons to her students, was willing to learn herself, and important, passionate about wanting to teach and motivate students to science.
And, last year, I was excited to hear that a local well known school with a strong reputation was considering her employment.
When I met her again last week, I discovered she had left the profession. She was burnt out.
The school placement fell through and instead got employment at another school. This school has its challenges especially where it is socio-economically, and I am sure there are dedicated teachers there.
However, Lisa’s experiences were far from supportive. She arrived discovering that each teacher was working on their own unit of work, there was no collaboration in producing programs across each year. More alarmingly, when Lisa asked to see the programs, she was told that there was no sharing, she had to do it all on her own.
When she had classroom management issues (we will all have them) she got no support from her immediate supervisors. She was left to fend for herself.
To me the attitude she was facing was akin to a parent telling a toddler , “get your own food, I’m busy and I font's care”.
Thus it isn't that surprising she started getting panic attacks, and eventually left.
This resonated with me, as I had a very similar experience in my early career.
I don't think this isolated.
Recently , I heard a similar story from a more experienced teacher who was also placed in another school, who got no support from her faculty, especially with dealing with student issues, from the faculty head no less.
Studies seem to suggest the attrition rates for new teachers can be as high as 25% in the first 5 years and a Commonwealth Study from 2014 found 5.7% teachers leave in any given year - see the link below for further details.
I appreciate the fact that teachers leave for a variety of reasons, misplaced expectations, changes in circumstances, other professional opportunities, but high on the reasons provided in studies is a lack of support.
Being based in NSW, Australia, I refer to the the Department of Education and Training (DET) and DET do have policies in place to support new teachers. But I am concerned that possibly these polices aren't always enacted on.
Add to the fact that many new teachers, especially in government schools, are placed in schools that have a high turnover rate - schools in disadvantaged areas, schools that are remote, or both. Yet, these are the places that need experienced teachers to effective teach in challenging circumstances.
I acknowledge I am no expert in understanding the complexities of the reasons behind the teacher attrition, but as a science educator I am especially cognisant of the need of effective science communicators to advance a passion for science and grow a scientific literacy in our community. And when we see good science educators leave because they get no support, we all lose.
Please add to the conversation - experiences, thoughts, ideas
....Well, finally started my first blog.
My hope is that this will be a repository of my musing on science education, not just physics, but other topical issues in the news where science communication is key.
Other topics will include the state of science education, and share ideas to better communicate science, not only in the classroom but beyond as well
So here is my first musings...(and they are meant to be musings to promote discussion so are not too tightly edited)
I have just completed a series of three videos on evidence for climate change. (You can find them on my YT channel)
One of the main drivers for this topic has been my frustration at seeing climate deniers on social media, post things such these...
What's frustrating is the cherry picking involved and the often the unwillingness to look at the evidence properly. And it seems that climate deniers have a poor understanding of the process of science.
(I call them climate deniers not sceptics because science relies on scepticism. True scientific skepticism is where they challenge the prevailing views, look at the evidence and change their views accordingly.)
Science works on the principle where "evidence trumps opinion". Unfortunately much of what what I see about climate denial, is the complete reverse! (and I am sure many of you would see the same in other areas as well, where opinion trumps evidence.)
A friend posted this picture recently and it captures this well...
Apart from vested interests, I think one of the main contributors is the poor scientific literacy.
Educational researchers have in recent decades bemoaned the data that shows an uptake in science, both in high school and in higher institutions, had steadily decreased.
There are many reasons suggested for this, and I am not going into it now - that would be a loooong discussion - but I do want to highlight one.
In a world, of instant this and instant that, there is a decreasing trend of critical thinking.
There is an unwillingness to have 'considered views', one where one needs to take time to look, time to think.
Science relies open that. There is no quick soundbite. It takes time - collecting data, analysing data, thinking through the implications.
It's easy to teach science as facts, but that's not what science is. Teaching the process of science is much harder challenge
There are many fine teachers who are working very hard to teach science well, but are finding it a challenge to teach students to be critical thinkers in an age of instant information.
The result: more ill-informed opinion being presented as fact, when the evidence isn't there.
What do you think is the reason behind this rise is climate denial? What do you think needs to happen to address the scientific illiteracy?
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