Study: unconventional teaching jobs are more satisfying

(Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action)

Teachers in unconventional roles are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, according to a new report released today by the Center for Reinventing Public Education.

Educational leaders and policymakers are looking for ways to attract and retain teachers at a time when enrollment in teacher preparation programs is decreasing and more teachers are dissatisfied with their jobs. The most common solutions are recruitment strategies, better compensation, targeted professional development, and more accessible pathways into leadership roles, according to the report, “Teaching, reinvented: How Unconventional Educator Roles Pave the Way for a More Fulfilling and Sustainable Profession.” 

While these efforts may help repair the teacher pipeline, they don’t address teacher burnout and demoralization, according to the report. 

CRPE research analyst Steven Weiner spent six months interviewing teachers in nine school systems who had one of six unconventional roles — lead or mentor teacher, team teacher, solo or community learning guide, technical guide or empowered teacher. Solo learning guides teach small groups of students using third-party curriculum, and community learning guides create learning experiences related to students’ cultural backgrounds or through partnerships with the community. Empowered teachers work with administrators and other teachers to set school policies and priorities.

The teachers liked their increased autonomy and deeper personal connections in these roles, which they said cultivated a sense of ownership and investment in their jobs. The downside was that autonomy can be isolating, collaboration can be difficult and innovation means more responsibility and less guidance from leaders, according to the study.

Most of the teachers said they were uncertain about the sustainability of their roles and didn’t see themselves in them for more than a few more years. According to the study, public school teachers expressed these types of concerns because they “were not confident that their schools would maintain support for their redesigned role.”

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