Want good teachers? Turn them into entrepreneurs

Students listen to teacher (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Students listen to teacher (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
More than 7,000 teachers left the education system in 2017 – a higher number than ever before – according to recently published data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). This is not a one-time event but a phenomenon. An increase in teacher attrition has been recorded for five consecutive years, and according to the CBS, the teachers who leave actually have higher statistical rankings (matriculation and psychometric scores) than the remaining teachers.
The phenomenon is not surprising for those who are familiar with the prevailing winds in teachers’ lounges. For a teacher to want to stay in the job, they must live with a sense of unique achievement and satisfaction. Teachers who teach what is dictated to them and only follow instructions quickly lose their desire to teach and the ability to touch the souls of students and awaken them to creativity and learning.
One way to restore the joy of creativity and teaching to teachers is to turn them into entrepreneurs. In the AMIT Network, for example, we established groups of teachers who teach what they develop. Teachers build study units based on the curricula that are meaningful, long-term and holistic, and that foster a new approach to teaching and learning, directed toward imparting 21st-century skills.
Methods of evaluation and learning are changing, as is the learning environment. Instead of a classroom where an active teacher stands and speaks, and usually dictates the material to passive, tired students, these teachers lead the learning in a space in which the learners are active, working cooperatively or learning independently, while creating products that they present before the group – learning products that parallel real world activities.
Entrepreneurial teachers are rebuilding education. They work many more hours than other teachers, but according to the evaluation indices of the AMIT Network’s research department, they feel empowered. More than 80% of them report having a sense of satisfaction and feeling appreciated in their environment. Some of them are veteran teachers, but the innovation reinvigorates the passion that initially brought them into teaching. They are not only teachers, but developers and educational creators, working in an educational start-up that is continuously innovating.
To stem the flight from teaching, we must expand the number of developer teachers, and allocate more time in the system for development. The more that teachers are occupied with developing the new educational language, the more that good teachers will want to stay in a system whose DNA is that of a developing, innovative society. Teachers will no longer be moored in the old world, but will be directed toward the future.
The Education Ministry needs to create a developmental horizon for these teachers. In some of the AMIT schools, teachers, with the support of the Education Ministry, went through a professional coaching course. They earned coaching certification, and in exchange they committed to investing coaching hours in their schools. The students benefited from meaningful dialogue and received outstanding tools, and the teachers gained an additional profession. Today we are promoting similar courses for selected teachers in various schools around the country.
Moreover, good teachers who are thoroughly invested in their work deserve appropriate compensation. Without investing in teachers whom the system wants, we will have difficulty keeping good people in teaching. Therefore, agreements must be reached with the teachers’ organizations to establish a new employment track, alongside the existing track in which tenure is preserved. Instead of a long-term employment horizon that is uninviting in the initial years, an employment track with time-limited personal contracts should be established, at a high salary that provides bonuses for success.
A combination of turning teachers into entrepreneurs along with building a new employment track will make it easier to attract new teachers who have gone through retraining for teaching in midlife – and will also stop the flight of young, high-quality teachers from the education system.
The writer is CEO of the AMIT Network, which runs state, state-religious and ultra-Orthodox schools.