How do we inspire the best and the brightest to become educators

I was offered to work as a teacher in a small town, a place which seemed to have no ambitions, no opportunities and too small for my career and social expectations, but I quickly changed my mind after a meeting with the school principal. How did she convince me? I came in with lots of ideas and she was open, supportive and it was all I needed to hear. A supportive principal, who wasn’t threatened by an ambitious teacher for me outweighed the limitations of the town.

Schools desperately need the best and the brightest to become educators and schools theoretically are a great work environment for the best and the brightest.

Schools are dynamic. Each day is different, as a teacher you work with lots of people every day, you have to reflect on daily basis and change your plans accordingly. Schools offer challenges. Teachers are problem solvers – one student has an early basketball practice and has to miss a lesson, another student is crying and you have no idea why, students have different previous experience and skills, and lots of other problems that need immediate reaction. Schools have resources for creative ideas. Human resources – colleagues that can help you with music, art, local geography, even chemistry for some crazy ideas, wide variety of rooms, halls and spaces and other resources.

Well, this does not look like a perfect job description, but we are talking about the best and the brightest, about leaders and often that means that they are different. They are curious, creative, self-organized, problem solvers. They ask questions, challenge themselves, their colleagues and situations. They are team players and communication is crucial in their everyday life. They love what they do and usually do more than what is said in their job description.

What’s missing?
I left this school after 2 years of teaching, because I was tired being the only teacher with initiative to do more, to change outdated routines. I was tired of listening to colleagues talking that soon I’ll stop being proactive and be more like them.

School environments are steady and changeless despite that classroom environments are dynamic. “We’ve always done it this way” is a common mindset and no one wants to change that, even if preconditions of why traditions and routines were introduced have changed dramatically. School demands cooperation and teamwork, but teamwork is not happening.

As a principal I have succeeded to attract great teachers. More than a third of our teachers travel to work from other towns, in the last two years 8 teachers in our school have returned to teaching profession after working in other fields and 6 professionals with close connection to our school have decided to become educators.

If you’re a leader in your twenties or thirties, you’re looking for growth, you’re looking for mentors, for role models. To get the best and brightest to become educators, they need at least a few more like-minded people on their team for long term success. There are no magic tricks, we need to recognize the qualities of the best and brightest educators and work relentlessly to ensure that our schools celebrate these qualities and mindsets.

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