A new slate of guest columnists is lined up to write for The Learning Professional in 2023. February’s journal will debut pieces by Kathy Perret and Val Brown, who address the issue’s educator retention theme through their unique lenses – Perret’s as a veteran instructional coach, author, and consultant and Brown’s as an adult learning and education policy leader who believes that education is a vehicle for social change. Also in the February issue, Laura Lee Summers writes a teacher well-being column, a 2023 staple that will be written by a variety of authors throughout the year.
Summers: Let’s build a wellness culture
Summers recently wrapped up facilitating Essential Strategies for Sustained Educator Wellness, a Learning Forward online course during which she explored eight dimensions of wellness for educators and led reflective discussions to help educators focus on their own well-being and the well-being of those they support. The time for a mindset shift in education that prioritizes teacher well-being is now, Summers said, because U.S. K-12 teacher burnout rate is 52% – higher than workers in all other industries nationally.
“It’s not that teachers weren’t getting burned out before the pandemic,” Summers said, “but it seems people now do not want to stay burned out, they are choosing to leave the profession.” A 2022 RAND research report on teacher and principal well-being confirmed that teachers and principals who experienced frequent job-related stress, burnout, symptoms of depression, and who were not coping well with their job-related stress were more likely to indicate that they intended to leave their jobs.
Summers is an associate clinical professor in the School of Education and Human Development at University of Colorado Denver. Her courses afford educators space to reflect and learn strategies for developing actionable self-care plans for personal wellness that transfers to school, team, and community. Summers acknowledges solving the educator retention crisis requires “more than sending someone to a one-time workshop.” Ultimately, she said, the larger question is how do we build and sustain a wellness culture within schools? Summers said she advises educators on how professional learning communities of practice can be beneficial in supporting the social and emotional well-being of colleagues and students.
“It’s taking the time, even though we feel like we don’t have the time.” Educators are more likely to stay in the profession if they feel like they belong, are valued, and are able to exert some control within their environments, Summers said.
Oftentimes, educators are not used to putting themselves first because in a service profession, it might be taken as being selfish or not caring enough. Yet Summers likes to help educators understand that by focusing on their own well-being, they can be better equipped to attend to the diverse needs of their students.
Brown’s column will encourage reflection and action
Brown is Director of Future of Learning at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which is working to significantly increase the number of underrepresented students who have access to engaging, rigorous, equitable, experiential, and effective teaching and learning. After spending years as a middle school teacher, Brown pivoted to district-level leadership development and instructional coaching before she worked designing professional learning and leading anti-racist education. She also co-hosts the Integrated Schools podcast and is a past member of Learning Forward’s board of directors.
Brown said high-quality professional learning is the catalyst for lasting change in schools. “There’s no other way to fix some of the problems that we have. We can all do better as we learn more.”
In her column, Brown said she will tell stories and pose questions that will push people toward reflection and action in order to create better systems for educators and students. Community-building will be a recurring theme because “coalition building is really important to the work we need to do in order to get us to where we all want to go. We know we have to do this work together.”
Brown comes from a family of educators and has two children currently attending public schools. Her husband teaches high school. She came to teaching through an alternative certification path and in her first column, talks about her experiences of receiving unintentional messages that she was an outsider.
Perret’s #educoach Twitter chat has endured
Instructional coaching expert Perret said her The Learning Professional column will share insights honed from a diverse and distinguished career marked by a through line of helping educators succeed.
In her February 2023 column, Perret shares a story about a school principal who establishes voluntary “stay” interviews to help her better understand how to effectively improve conditions that will likely retain teachers. Perret likes storytelling and showcasing educators who are “out there implementing.” It is a tactic she said she will use throughout 2023 to keep a focus on the transfer of professional learning into improved practice.
Citing research from Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers, Perret maintains that coaching is instrumental to the transfer of professional learning. “Transfer is more likely with coaching,” Perret said. “That doesn’t mean it has to be instructional coaching all the time – it can be two teachers coaching each other. It can be the principal wearing a coaching hat and helping to build that transfer.”
Perret believes everyone deserves a coach. Her latest coaching book, co-authored with Kenny McKee, provides compassionate coaching strategies that help teachers overcome the “most vexing challenges they face,” including lack of confidence, failure, isolation, disruption, overload, and school culture challenges. A compassionate coaching framework helps coaches avoid the distractions, obstacles, and detours that can take educators off course. Perret’s consulting practice, including onsite and virtual instructional coaching and training, and her affiliation with Sibme’s Virtual Coaching, are her platforms for empowering teachers, coaches, and school leaders across the world to shine.
Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Central have been a standing hold on Perret’s calendar for more than 11 years. That’s when @KathyPerret co-moderates #educoach, a Twitter chat she co-founded. #educoach has helped Perret find a coaching community, as well as two co-authors, Jessica Johnson and Shira Leibowitz, for a publishing project that became the book The Coach Approach to School Leadership.
Suzanne Bouffard, The Learning Professional editor, said she is excited to regularly present viewpoints from the 2023 guest columnists and is “grateful they have signed on to share their invaluable perspectives about equity, growth, leadership, educator well-being, and other aspects of high-quality professional learning.”
Bouffard said the February issue looks at how educational systems are providing their teachers and leaders with the instructional, logistical, financial, social and emotional, and other supports they need to continue thriving in the field and benefit students for the long-term. She announced the 2023 journal themes and publishing deadlines last year.