School children in class.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
How many teachers are returning to their classrooms this year? One in three high school teachers leaves the profession within their first five years. Most of the Education Ministry’s budget, NIS 48 billion, is expended on teachers’ salaries. The investment is essential, since according to the McKinsey Report, the quality of the education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. It is also clear that we are losing good teachers, who get discouraged and leave.
Are the best and brightest teachers leaving? Is their passion for teaching extinguished? I’m not sure of the answers to these questions, but what is clear is that after hundreds of encounters with teachers, most teachers would like to see change and innovation in the system.
Teachers are the first to understand that 21st-century schooling needs to be significantly different than the educational systems of the past. Teachers who continue using yesterday’s methodologies ignore the fact that today’s children have the entire world at their fingertips. They are often disconnected from the emotional needs of the “touchscreen generation” – and become irrelevant to the students of today.
These students value the teachers’ knowledge less, assuming that Google knows better. They do not understand why they have to physically sit in a classroom and listen to a teacher lecture when they can find the material online.
They wonder why they need to memorize material that can be readily accessed, and question why they are tested via methods that do not enable meaningful, long-term learning.
In order to approach this new reality, schools must reinvent themselves. Most of the teacher training institutes do not understand this. It is the teachers themselves who are most capable of bringing about change, with the guidance of experts in pedagogy and cultural change. Teachers who have persevered, and remain in the system, most likely enjoy teaching. Many are educational entrepreneurs. They just need time to learn and innovate, and need to be part of a system that believes in them.
The Education Ministry must give principals and teachers more autonomy in the schooling and evaluation processes.
This does not have to come at the expense of excellence.
Actually, we believe that the opposite is true. A student who is challenged will excel; if he is motivated to be proactive, he will become more creative.
A student who embraces collaboration and teamwork will be better prepared for life; if she actively participates in the learning process, she will integrate and take responsibility for the values that are an integral part of her education.
At AMIT schools this past year, we formed research and development teams of teachers.
Teachers come to school to learn and not just to teach. One day a week, they are engaged in the creation and development of education that is tailored to today’s generation. We provide teachers with mentors for cultural change and pedagogical experts to facilitate the change from teachers into learners, from teachers who transfer knowledge into teachers who spark learning and inspiration.
In most developed countries, schools have already begun making physical changes to the classroom as well. Teachers no longer face students in dreary classrooms, filled with rows of chairs and desks. Instead, classrooms have dynamic and flexible furnishings and teachers move among their students, inspiring, encouraging and coaching them to work and create on their own.
In the 30 AMIT Network schools that have begun a holistic change, the salaries of teachers have not changed and their investment is not compensated – but the teachers have renewed energy and a newfound sparkle in their eyes. They are working harder, but have greater satisfaction.
If we want to avoid losing teachers to hi-tech and other professions, we should bring the entrepreneurial spirit into schools, avoiding the loss of good teachers and propelling the education system forward.
The author is director-general of the AMIT network.