Many educators have left the school environment to join edtech companies, seeking new ways to serve students while solving for the shortcomings they felt in the school-based workplace. How has it worked out, and what have we learned?
The experience has shifted the equilibrium in the corporate world, as edtech companies tap into a larger talent pool and it has been eye-opening for former educators as they bring their expertise to the table in new ways. It has also provided valuable insights for school administrators seeking to improve their retention of teachers.
Insights for school administrators
Educators left schools in larger numbers this year because they were seeking solutions to some of the fundamental challenges they perceived in their school careers. They turned to edtech companies with the hopes of finding greater opportunities for career progression, flexibility, and support for their personal well-being. School administrators have the opportunity to turn around retention challenges by providing solutions to these areas that educators are saying matter most to them.
School-based educators have transparent paths to salary increases based on experience, but typically have limited paths for advancement, perhaps moving between grades, obtaining certifications, or earning advanced degrees to enter into a leadership position. The corporate world offers a broader variety of paths, whether in sales, product development, marketing and more. A former special education teacher reflected after making the move to edtech, “After 10 years of teaching, I didn’t think I had the option to do anything else. Now, I have the ability to grow by moving into different roles.”
Washington, DC teachers rated ”flexible scheduling options” as the most impactful action that the district could take to reduce turnover. Many educators are seeking more control over their day-to-day, or even their minute-to-minute, work lives. The school day tends to be reactive, steered by unexpected problems to solve and excess work to cover, for instance when a colleague is absent. The appeal of choosing how to prioritize their time is strong for educators who are considering a corporate environment after years of putting the priorities of others ahead of their own in schools. A former classroom teacher thinks of it this way: “Remember that you have to put your own oxygen mask on first. You can still act on your heart of service without being in the traditional classroom. But with the transition to the corporate world, you will also have the ability to do things like sit down and go to the bathroom when needed.”
The National Education Association recently reported that 90 percent of teachers surveyed expressed burnout as a serious concern. Teachers are directly faced with the everyday challenges students are experiencing in the classroom. One middle school social studies teacher from Pennsylvania made his decision to make the leap to a corporate role after breaking up fights in the hallways became a near-daily activity. He recognized that there was more going on in the lives of the students and wanted to offer support, but through a different lens.
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