Please Don’t Go!

Keeping Teachers in the Classroom by Celebrating Awesome

By Monica Genta

Three out of 10. A statistic that those in education don’t like to talk about. It’s a startling stat about the number of teachers who leave the profession after just five short years. To put that into perspective, if students earned a three out of 10 on an assessment, that would be a failing grade. Schools across the country are earning an F in keeping their educators in the classroom.

So what happens in that short period of time? How does a teacher go from passionate about making an impact on kids to totally burning out? It is the frenzy of paperwork that hits their desk? Is it the lack of support from administrators or other educational leaders? Maybe it’s the crazy parents? It’s gotta be the crazy parents, right? Or perhaps we should point a finger at the lack of preparation at the university level? Is it one variable that leads teachers to packing up their cardboard boxes, walking through the front doors and never looking back, or is it a perfect storm of all of these?

I’m not here to research the why of the problem. I’m here to examine the how. Let’s answer a complicated question that has a simple answer. How do we keep great teachers in this great education system? The solution: celebrate awesome!

I’m not talking about just in those big, obvious “wow” moments. Don’t get me wrong, when the whole class is well-behaved and earns off-the-charts assessments scores that is great! I’m also not referring to when your instructional coach gives you a level four rating in all domains. That’s great too, but that isn’t what keeps teachers walking into the jungle of education. I’m talking about those little tiny moments of awesome that fit together perfectly to build one great, big awesome year! Like when you sit down at your desk for the first time all morning at 10:42 a.m., have your first sip of coffee and it’s magically still hot. Or when a student dances down the hallway because they have a beat stuck in their head. Let’s step back and cherish those.

It’s time to be honest. I’ve been in the classroom for nine years. I have beaten the scary statistic. I lasted more than five years. (Break for a dance party celebration) But the reality is this, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. After year four I found myself having one, big holy freak-out. I loved my job, but I wasn’t in love with my job. What scared me even more was the fact I was calling it a job. Before I preferred terms like career or calling. Now it was a J-O-B. Gross. I was considering selling used cars and even considered taking an application as the local Wal-Mart as they were hiring greeters. I knew I had to do something fast to change my mindset.

The following year I promised myself I was going to journal every day. I went on a quest to find the awesome each day for a whole year and documented it each night. To make a 365-day journey short I will explain it in one simple statement. It was a game changer! You see, I became intentional about looking for awesome. What I realized quickly was, it was there the whole time. The passion and purpose I had my first years teaching was right in front of me. Maybe too much Axe from the middle school hallway had fogged my vision. I simply had to step back to see things from a different perspective. Overall, my 365-day journal informally became something I called 365 Days of Awesome.

Let me be clear, it’s wasn’t the writing that changed things for me. It was the celebrating. I once read that a simple answer to one question sums up your perspective in life. The question format is every student’s favorite, fill in the blank with no word bank. Life is a ___________. How would you fill in the blank? I know my answer. Party. I believe each and every day we get the opportunity to celebrate this awesome gift. And as teachers, this celebration isn’t a party of one. It’s a party of 28 kids in your classroom. (ok so maybe 32 if your budget is tight) It’s a party with numerous other teachers. It’s a party with parents and school leaders and community members. Tons of people have RSVP’ed for this awesome celebration of education so take a seat at the head table and embrace the educational confetti and the jello surprise.

So what is the secret to success in keeping great teachers where they belong? It could be a mentoring system or a really great PTO that brings in pizza every Wednesday. But I actually think it can be summed up in three words: Passion, Purpose, and Positivity. When educators focus on the awesome of each day, they will teach with passion, live their purpose, and positivity will pour out of the four walls of their classroom.

Just remember, awesome is all around us. Every day you walk into your school something amazing is bound to happen. Some days that awesome is easy to see, it comes in the form of laughter, academic progress, achieving goals and building relationships with kids.

As the calendar rolls around to August and you start the next 180 day quest, learn to focus on those little awesome moments that have the power to change everything. Because sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

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