This post is written by member Anna J. Small Roseboro.
Why do so many early career English Language Arts teachers leave before their fifth year as classroom teachers? No, it’s not because of salary. They know teaching is one of the lowest paid professional jobs in our country. No, it’s not because of inadequate academic preparation. Our colleges of education prepare our new colleagues well. No, it’s not the long hours adapting lessons or grading papers. Men and women planning to teach English Language Arts know about this labor-intensive component. So, what’s the issue?
Consider your first years as a classroom teacher: There are only 168 hours each week, and preparing and teaching in K–12 classrooms easily consume 50 percent of those hours. What time is left for family, friends, and fun? Yes, the reason people leave teaching is the tyranny of time. Thankfully, there are numerous ELA teachers reading this blog who have learned to manage their time, remain in the profession for lengthy careers, and leave—successful and satisfied with their career choice. What was the key? Developing personal relationships with mentors who demonstrated ways to balance personal and professional lives showing us when to push, when to pull, and when to step back and rest.
The new Commission to Support Early Career English Language Arts Teachers is a group within the Conference on English Education (CEE). We’re here to support not only new teachers, but also college of education (COE) professors who can become overwhelmed trying to sustain the level of personal attention they give their current and former students. COE educators also have only 168 hours per week but know that their recent graduates still have questions and concerns that, if unanswered can lead to frustration, discouragement, and a sense of worthlessness that drive well-educated, highly motivated teachers to abandon the profession.
This CEE Commission is collaborating on the launch of the online Early Career Community of Practice (on Connected Community). Here, novice and veteran educators can meet, greet, post questions and concerns within the group, and when appropriate, migrate into one-on-one pairings using email, Hangouts, Facetime, and other technology to address more personal and private issues.
Yes, online mentoring works. Since 2008, I’ve been a part of the NCTE Early Career Educators of Color program and have had the privilege of working with novice educators across the nation and in China. As a mentor for the Conference on English Leadership’s Emerging Leaders Fellowship, I communicate regularly with a teacher now working in Abu Dhabi.
So, take this as an invitation. College of education professors, urge your students and recent graduates to reach out for help. Early career educators, join the community of your peers knowing that veteran educators are there for you. Retired educators, join the community of early career educators and share experiences as you respond to their questions and offer your shoulders for support. All of us need all of us to ensure that we continue to develop the strong, confident educators needed to teach our students to be there for us when we need them!
ANNA J. SMALL ROSEBORO, NBCT, a retired educator, is a published poet who mentors early career educators. She is a regular speaker at NCTE and CATE, has articles in juried professional journals, and her books serve as texts in colleges of education and handbooks for transitioning teachers. NCTE awarded her the 2016 Distinguished Service Award at the convention in Atlanta. Roseboro, a mother of three children, lives in Western Michigan with her husband.