How to nurture a long career in teaching: The Five Rs
In recent years, teaching has evolved into an even more complex pursuit, with teachers constantly facing competing demands. To teach successfully in today’s environment, there are several important attributes every teacher should develop.
In recent years, teaching has evolved into an even more complex pursuit, with teachers constantly being faced with competing demands, increasingly diverse student groups, high levels of accountability and the continual introduction of new requirements.
To teach successfully in today’s environment, there are several important attributes every teacher should develop. Not only are graduating teachers required to have relevant and up-to-date knowledge of their discipline and well-rounded teaching know-how, they are also expected to develop the capabilities that will give their career long-term sustainability, even as the teaching environment continues to change at a rapid pace.
This is a big ask of our budding teachers, who often have little time beyond their busy schedule to explore ways of making their own experience more lasting and rewarding. For this reason, it’s vitally important that tertiary education programs address the personal and professional development aspects of teaching in order to instil these values in our new teachers early on.
One way for educators to go about this is the 5Rs framework developed by Macquarie University. When consciously adopted and continuously developed, this method has demonstrated high-quality outcomes for both teachers and their students.
Below are the Five Rs we should make a conscious effort to enable for our budding teachers:
- Resilience practiced inside and outside of the classroom.
In order to be more resilient to the stresses of the teaching environment, teachers need to be aware of, and maintain, their holistic health and sense of coherence. They need the confidence and clarity of mind to manage uncertain and complex issues and unexpected events whenever they arise in their career.
Teaching is demanding for everyone; however, it has been observed that the teachers who thrive on challenges are those who are able to draw on their personal resources and the social and structural supports around them.
Educators are aware that we are losing some of our best teachers early in their career, with research telling us that 30 to 50 per cent of teachers leave the profession in the first five years. By facilitating the development of resilience in new teachers, educators will aid in mitigating this attrition rate among new teachers.
- Reflexive in their teaching practice.
Teaching is about understanding multiple and changing ecologies of learning. This encompasses individual students’ needs, the affordances of classroom spaces, student and teacher relationships, curriculums, school culture, parental expectations, community demographics and needs and expectations of the profession, and the effects of government policy.
Teachers must recognise and mediate all these elements, along with their own motivations and priorities. A reflexive approach to teaching assists in making effective and impactful decisions that ensure quality student outcomes on a daily basis.
- Responsive to students, colleagues, parents and professional communities.
Teaching is a relational profession. The best teachers make deep connections with their students, parents and communities. Most of us remember a great teacher, not because of what they taught, but because they were inspiring. They engaged us through the personal connections they made with us, and their recognisable care for our wellbeing and success.
- Ready to learn.
When teachers graduate from university, they are far from the end of their learning journey, but rather just at the beginning.
The ongoing pursuit of learning is a mark of a quality teacher. There are always new methods and ideas to try. But in practice, learning needs are not a one-size-fits-all affair. Teachers need to identify their individual learning needs within the context of their career. Then, they can pursue that learning to the benefit of both themselves and their students.
- Research engaged throughout their career.
Effective teaching practice is based on evidence. This evidence can come from their own research in the classroom and the latest academic research in learning, teaching, motivation, cognition, curriculum, technologies and spaces, to name a few. A critical understanding of data is essential, allowing it to be analysed and woven back into practice.
Data can be big or small – both types are equally important. Big data includes large-scale standardised testing, which is great for identifying unfolding trends in the teaching sector. Small data includes things like classroom assessment, which gives us details about how and why students are succeeding or failing in specific areas.
The 5Rs framework can help teachers stay focused on what’s important. It can give teachers the confidence to keep at their career, strive for personal improvement and maximise their positive impact on students. The last thing we want is for our best teachers to burnout or to leave the profession. We need to make a conscious effort to equip them with the tools they need to thrive, so they can inspire our great minds of tomorrow.
Professor Mary Ryan is the Head of the Department of Educational Studies at Macquarie University