Early Career Teachers (ECTs) bring energy, enthusiasm and passion to the staff of a school.
Their attitudes are contagious and can bring renewal and fresh eyes to a staff of experienced teachers.
However, their energy can be quickly drained and their enthusiasm dulled, by the sheer scale of the work involved in teaching.
Attrition rates are worrying with researchers reporting figures of between 30 and 40% of graduates leaving the profession in their first five years.
Studies of ECTs highlighted the following significant issues: adjusting to full-time teaching demands, managing colleague and parent relationships, understanding the cultural contexts of the school and coping with the clash between expectations of pre-service teaching and the realities of in-service teaching.
Steve Francis, managing director of Happy School, told The Educator that the significant investment made into supporting and developing graduates in their first couple of years can be lost, just as they enter the ‘peak’ period of their effectiveness.
“Most ECTs learn as much in their first year or two of teaching as they did during their four years at university,” Francis said.
“It is important that school leaders provide practical support and a realistic perspective. Positive experiences among ECTs were often associated with having a supportive and empathetic mentor.”
Francis said many schools and school systems have provided additional resources and time to support both the ECTs and their mentors.
Looking after the well-being of teachers and helping them optimise their productivity is the focus of the WELL Productivity program developed by Francis and Louise D’Allura.
To avoid burnout, Francis said is vital that ECTs understand the following:
• Teachers are in a position of trust and have the opportunity to change people’s lives: that is never going to be easy.
• Schools are a reflection of society: You will be exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly of society. We are working with people after all.
• Ensure your expectations of yourself are realistic: teaching is demanding and never ending; there is always MORE that can be done.
• You can’t always see what you have achieved at the end of your day of teaching: Teaching is more like planting seeds, than painting a room. A painter, tiler or carpet layer can quickly see at the end of each day, what they have achieved. Teaching is more like planting seeds; sometimes the seeds take a long time to grow. You need to be patient.
• Time is a precious resource: there is always so much to do that it is vital to prioritise and focus on doing the most important activities, the ones that make the most difference.
• Set boundaries: you will have to do work after school, at the weekends and on the holidays. Set boundaries or limits to avoid schoolwork spreading over all of the weekend or dominating the holidays.
• Look after yourself: even when you are busy it is important that you take time to exercise regularly, eat well, drink eight glasses of water per day and maintain interests outside of school.