‘Individual struggle’ facing those who switch careers to teaching

Sep 2, 2019 by

By Pallavi Singhal –

Attrition rates for new teachers are estimated to be as high as 40 per cent over the first five years, but those who have come from another career have cited greater difficulties as they struggle to adjust to the job.

New teachers commonly cite a lack of support and excessive workloads as reasons for leaving.

"I came into the classroom at 40 and students and teachers wouldn't see me as a beginning teacher": Teresa Wilson.
“I came into the classroom at 40 and students and teachers wouldn’t see me as a beginning teacher”: Teresa Wilson.Credit:Nick Moir

These issues are often worse for older entrants who have switched careers than for those who enter the classroom straight out of university, a researcher and career-change teacher has found.

“I came into the classroom at 40 and students and teachers wouldn’t see me as a beginning teacher,” said Teresa Wilson, who is a senior student mentor at a public high school in south-western Sydney.

Dr Wilson surveyed 80 new teachers in NSW, including 37 who had changed careers and interviewed 17 of the career-change teachers over two years as part of her research at Western Sydney University.

“They all spoke about what they needed, when you go into a new job you need support, that was crucial,” Dr Wilson said.

“Some spoke about generic support programs, a 40-year-old versus a 22-year-old would have different skills or different learning styles but it was often a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Acting federal president of the Australian Education Union Meredith Peace said assumptions about older beginner teachers can affect the level of support they receive.

“Certainly we do have people coming in from other professions and they bring a wealth of experience and we welcome that,” Ms Peace said.

“But we need to be careful not to make assumptions that because you’re a leader in another field, you’ll be fine in teaching.”

Problems are also being exacerbated by a rise in the proportion of new teachers who are initially employed on a temporary or casual basis, from 40 per cent in 2003 to 54 per cent in 2014.

Source: ‘Individual struggle’ facing those who switch careers to teaching

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