by Becky Garske – Member-at-Large, Professor & Coordinator, Early Childhood Education – Mott Community College
One of the unfortunate lasting effects of the COVID -19 pandemic is the exodus of experienced professionals in education. There is a mass shortage of teachers in both early childhood education programs and K-12 school systems across the country. An unintentional consequence of this is the simultaneous loss of leadership in the profession. When teachers are supported and encouraged, they tend to feel valued and to see themselves as leaders in the field and therefore are more apt to remain in the profession. It is important for those who have more experience to share their expertise with those who are in the beginning stages of their careers. Below are easy strategies we all can do that encourage and support new education professionals in becoming the strong future leaders our profession needs.
1. Networking: create opportunities for new teachers to spend time with more experienced teachers and build supportive relationships. When teachers are invited to join and engage in professional organizations, they feel valued and empowered to hone their own emerging leadership skills. One way to do this is to ask a co- worker to join you to attend a professional organization meeting with you or arrange to hold a meeting in your building and encourage co-workers to attend and network with others in the field.
2. Professional Development: all teachers need opportunities to share their knowledge as well as continue their own learning. It provides them with ideas and renewed energy to continue when times are difficult. Invite colleagues to attend local, state, or national conferences and workshops with you and if possible, offer to sponsor their registration fee for an upcoming event.
3. Community of Practice: Form a Community of Practice with the teachers in your building or community. Take this opportunity to conduct a deep dive into a particular book on pedagogy or social issues impacting education or the children and families in your community. An example might be for teachers across your community coming together and sharing lessons learned from going remote during the pandemic.
4. Mentorship: volunteer as a mentor or coach to a new teacher in your building or community and share your expertise with them. Share your knowledge as a presenter in conferences, accept invitations to participate in community initiatives that advocate for education issues, students, teachers, and schools.
Taking time to network, engage and support teachers reduces the sense of isolation that many new teachers feel during their first few years in the field. Through these simple acts, seasoned teachers can help create new educational leaders focused on building community, encouraging a culture of ongoing improvement and inclusivity.