As a teacher, then an administrator, I have seen several sides of the lay off/re-call system in many different districts. Some districts lay off teachers in specialized areas, others do mass lay offs and some use the surplussing of teachers as a way to control the changing nature of school programmes, classes with increasing and decreasing enrollment. I have, in the past, called for a change in how we treat our new teachers: not giving them the scraps with 7 classes, 6 preps, 5 rooms; supporting their learning and growth as teachers through appropriate evaluations; providing support in professional development opportunities for their unique perspectives; and many many more ways to support the continuation of great teaching.
I recently had a great conversation with an amazing support teacher who made a difference in the short time she was at our school; contributing to the culture of learning and community in positive ways. Unfortunately, our district is going through an economic issue, where over 600 teachers (those beyond 8 years of experience) were laid off from their positions, whether temporary or continuing, to facilitate cost savings. Now, many of them will be hired back through the recall process; however, they will find themselves in new communities of learning, new positions and new classes throughout the district. Studies have shown that between 30%-50% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years; developing communities requires consistency and strong adult connections; teacher happiness is linked to student outcomes in a positive correlation, especially in vulnerable youth.
As a proponent of the ASCD’s Whole Child initiative, I firmly believe that every student needs at least one adult champion throughout their k-12 experience. Students bond with teachers in positive ways that improve their learning and opportunities in the future. Recall can nullify any positive development students have with committed, engaging, professional teachers.
The process of recall in my district is that a teacher on the recall list is given a number (1-600+) and when their number comes up, they are offered a position that is available and connected to what they say they can teach. If they decline the offer, a second and final offer is made. If that offer is refused, then the teacher effectively remains unemployed by the district. The process is arduous and I do not envy those that need to comb through all the positions and postings and find matches for each of the teachers on recall in order of their experience. However, in many cases, a teacher is offered a position at a different school when their old position may still be available, due to differences in continuing and temporary positions. If they teacher declines the offer, they may not get another offer that they like more and ‘take a chance’ that they will find their way back to the school where they have developed strong bonds with the school culture and students.
I have to point out that in my school, we have many amazing teachers who are masters of their profession and create great learning opportunities for their students. But this revolving door for newer teachers leaving each year creates an emotional roller-coaster for both the teachers and the students. It is frustrating to see younger teachers, eager to develop their own learning and improve the culture and learning of students become so well connected and then pulled away over the summer to a new school, which in most likelihood, had a newer teacher removed from that culture.
I do not have a solution to this, in our current economic reality. In my ideal world, we would hire a teacher into the school and nurture and support that teacher through professional development, mentoring and generally removing obstacles to allow him or her to teach students in creative, engaging and deep learning that is needed in the 21st Century. We would hold on to this teacher, mentored by the experienced teachers, for at least four years in the same school. They would understand the culture and know how they can positively contribute to it over this time.
It’s about building capacity in schools to create the next great generation of teachers and leaders who will move our education system forward in a caring, compassionate, and creative way.
This is not to disrespect anyone caught in this process of recall, it’s just that there must be a better way.