Supporting New Educators’ Well-Being Beyond the Teacher Education Program: New Teacher Needs and Perceived Support
Journal of Maine Education
In Maine the number of teachers who quit prior to reaching retirement age increased in 2022 (Wolfe, 2022). Current national trends estimate that as many as 44% of all new teachers leave the profession within five years (Cineas, 2022). Some suggest these numbers are quite high; others argue they are on target. Podolsky, et al. (2016) suggest that teachers who feel a perceived lack of support are more than twice as likely to quit than those who receive mentoring and other help. Support for new teachers typically consists of assigned mentors (with differing levels of fidelity within these programs), school site and district wide professional development, and a variety of informal, “inspirational” activities designed to improve morale or work culture within a school. Each of these are often viewed as surface level and inauthentic; many teachers might view them as an additional demand on their time.
Unfortunately, few of the typical programs implemented to bolster teacher well-being in the workplace do so in a codified, systematic manner. Teacher well-being has gained importance over the past decades as educators and researchers have attempted to understand why teachers leave the field and how to prevent this phenomenon. Early research tended to emphasize negative constructs such as stress, negative emotions, exhaustion and burnout. More recently, research has changed the focus to positive emotions, engagement, and job satisfaction (Collie et. al., 2015). Today, teacher well-being is broadly understood as, “teachers’ responses to the cognitive, emotional, health and social conditions pertaining to their work and their profession” (Viac & Fraser, 2020, p. 18).
One can intuit that a new teacher whose professional well- being is nurtured and cultivated, who feels good about their
work, is managing stress in effective ways, and perhaps most importantly, feels like they are good at their job, would not only be more likely to stay in the profession long term, but would also be a better educator of children (Carroll et al., 2021). Simply defining and understanding teacher well-being isn’t enough to provide interventions that effectively support new teachers as they develop. What does support for teacher well-being look like in the context of schools? This is where the research falls short and serves only to complicate rather than clarify the issue. Hasher and Waber (2021) performed a systematic review of the research on teacher well-being covering the years from 2000-2019. Common across the research was that social relationships play a pivotal role in teacher well-being. Unfortunately, social relationships are very contextual, and it can be difficult to create a system of social support within a school setting when we consider differing personalities and levels of preferred interaction from one teacher to the next. When considering the whole educator, the voices, needs, and perceived support of new teachers is of paramount importance for the future of the profession. Therefore, the purpose of this preliminary investigation was to explore, within the context of schools, the varied support that new teachers feel they are receiving for their professional well- being, from their own experiences and in their own voices.
The snapshots that follow do not point to any single method or strategy that would work for each of the typologies. It is likely that any teacher well-being support system would need to be just that, a system. These efforts cannot be a top-down, mandatory, patchwork of random workshops, professional seminars, and the like. Rather, they need to be based on the needs of new teachers as expressed in their own words. The following snapshots provide a glimpse into the experiences of five early-career teachers in their first 1-5 years in Maine classrooms. Each teacher describes what has worked for them in their school, and what they believe can help other new teachers joining the profession to thrive.
Hollibush, Matthew Ph.D. and Reichmmuth, Heather Ph.D., "Supporting New Educators’ Well-Being Beyond the Teacher Education Program: New Teacher Needs and Perceived Support" (2023). Faculty and Staff Scholarship. 43.