The DeHavilland Blog

Monday, December 12, 2005

Changing demographics of teachers

Interesting web-only article here in Teacher Magazine on the ways in which the teaching workforce is changing. According to Susan Moore Johnson, professor of teaching and learning at Harvard, teachers entering the profession today are very different from the group that entered 30+ years ago (and is now about to retire).

She notes that the last generation of teachers was made up primarily of women who entered teaching with few other career options at a time when lifetime employment was the norm. In contrast, teachers today have a number of career options available to them and don't see teaching as a long-term commitment.

Further, many teachers entering the profession today - 35 to 40% by Moore Johnson's account - have previous professional experience and are entering the teaching workforce as mid-career professionals. Since these teachers have been in a professional environment, they have different expectations in areas such as collaboration, authority, and career advancement.

To me, this is a fascinating new variable to add to the education reform mix. If teaching changes from a lifetime decision to become one stop in a string of positions, I believe that teachers will have more power to demand change: their threshold for institutional pain will be lower, and the fact that they're willing to walk should force schools to become more accommodating to them. I don't mean this in a traditional union-vs-school sense of negotiating over work hours and bonus pay, although that will certainly be a factor; rather, it could/should go deeper, to altering root-level issues that impact how pleasant and professional teaching is as a career.

This is doubly important with a wave of retirements coming up - interesting to see what happens!

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