Improving teaching conditions goes hand in hand with boosting student success
- School leaders sometimes wrongly assume they have to choose between focusing on student learning and teacher learning, but a report from 100Kin10 suggests the two go hand-in-hand — when teachers feel supported, they keep their jobs longer, leading to students getting more effective lessons and performing better, eSchool News reports.
- The report highlights several catalysts — which could improve STEM learning — and uses them to discuss three major challenges in teachers' work environments: professional growth during the school day, collaborative opportunities for teachers during the school day and school leaders' responsibility to create a positive place to work.
- Well-defined roles for teacher leaders, ongoing support, standards-aligned curriculum and resources for professional growth activities can encourage more teacher development and collaboration. Four themes outline actions schools can take to improve conditions: shifting collective beliefs about schools, creating structures that support teacher learning, giving leaders more room to create those structures and adding flexible resources.
A positive school environment has been identified as a key factor in encouraging student and teacher well-being, but within STEM education specifically, this element has proven to be equally important. As STEM skills are becoming increasingly popular and in demand, schools are looking for more ways to hire qualified, experienced and motivated teachers in those subject areas — and retain them by giving them the support they need.
As it stands, some schools are struggling to not only find sufficient numbers of teachers to fill their classrooms, but they're also facing shortages in educators with specialized STEM skills and experience. Professional learning resources for teachers, as well as more time to access these resources, can help educators get what they need to be effective and knowledgeable in the classroom — to help themselves and their students. For instance, access to outside training programs can equip teachers with the foundation and the passion they need to make STEM curriculum exciting and easier to understand.
Giving teachers choice in the form and content of professional development is likely to make them more engaged, enthusiastic and effective in the long run. And by letting teachers work together and share ideas — which many say they don't have enough time to do as is — they gain more expertise in their subject area as well as more connections with other school staff members. They're also more likely to feel valued and stay in their jobs.
As school leaders, principals are tasked with the responsibility of handling administrative issues, giving staff members the environment they need to consistently do their best, and serving as "drivers of a community and culture within their buildings," eSchool News notes. And while schools continue to transition to becoming education hubs that embrace the future of STEM education, it's up to these leaders to unite, encourage and stand behind their staff members as they adapt, both through allocating tangible resources and making sure they also feel valued and supported. In the long run, teachers, students and schools will reap the benefits not only in the area of STEM, but also as a whole.