The Chicken or the Egg? Recruitment or Retention?
Which comes first? Obviously for us, we need to recruit to have a steady supply of teachers to replace those who are retiring or leaving the profession, but if we kept the 30 percent of young teachers who leave in the first five years of teaching, our shortage would not be so noticeable. Which leads to the question recruitment or retention -- which comes first?
First off, let me state that we need to continue to support and work with the National Teach Ag Campaign to identify and encourage those we feel would make good agriculture teachers. Sometimes where we look is not necessarily just in our classroom, but to those with an agricultural background, and people in other professions that possess a passion for agriculture. Once we have them enrolled, we can’t ignore them for the next three years and expect them to just show up someday to begin student teaching. What can we do as teachers in our profession to help the universities in keeping as many of our students in agricultural education as possible?
If we have done a good job of recruiting and these young people are ready to begin teaching, what do we do next to retain them? I really believe a lot of this can be solved with a quality mentoring program, but this is often hard to do on the local level, especially in a one-teacher department. Many states have programs in place to help beginning teachers, but we still need more. We, as leaders, in our organizations at the district, region or state level need to step up and make sure that we are there to encourage and help young teachers and not just during the first year, but all the early years!
Recruitment or retention? They are both going to have to play an important role as we strive to find and retain quality teachers. As the world population increases and society becomes more disengaged from where their food comes from, our job becomes even more important. I challenge each of you to reach out to a beginning teacher this year and offer your assistance.
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