Supporting our Teachers
In today’s cultural landscape, education is an especially difficult field. So difficult, in fact, that schools all over the country are struggling to find enough teachers. The number of people going into teaching is decreasing, with enrollment in teacher preparation programs declining by 35% in the past five years. And as fewer people enter education, the number of people leaving education mid-career is on the rise. The US has an 8% attrition rate among teachers—twice that of teachers in countries with high-performing schools. And former teachers give plenty of reasons: lack of administrative support, lack of preparation, high-pressure tests, exhaustion.
Teaching is a demanding job, even under the best of circumstances. That’s why at The Oaks Academy, teacher care is a top priority. This begins with competitive pay, but extends far beyond that. The Oaks strives to create a school culture where all are known and loved, and that applies as much to faculty as students.
The administration, and particularly the heads of school, are one of the primary ways that The Oaks cares for its teachers. While many schools are organized on a hierarchical model, The Oaks Academy flips this on its head. Rather than managing or overseeing their teachers, the administration at The Oaks seeks to support and serve teachers. The Heads of School maintain an open-door policy, and frequently meet with teachers to discuss any problems or questions. Similarly, the Heads of School observe teachers in their classrooms not as a performance evaluation, but as an opportunity for coaching and growth. The administration also supports teacher in addressing behavior issues. The Oaks has several administrators dedicated to working with students one-on-one to resolve behavioral issues so that teachers can focus on teaching the rest of the class.
The Oaks also supports its teachers by providing several days of professional development that encourage and challenge teachers to grow in their careers. Several teachers comment that professional development at The Oaks is a refreshing change from professional development in other settings. One teacher said, “One thing I’d had a lot of in public schools was ‘professional development.’ The professional development that was provided for us when you’re coming in new to The Oaks was the best and most meaningful professional development I’d ever had. There was so much support here—both from administration and colleagues—that you feel from the very beginning that they want you to grow and they are here to support you as a teacher.” Another teacher had a similar experience. She said, “Professional development at some schools can be just a waste of time and really feel like a disrespect to me as a professional. I have not once felt that when I get professional development here at The Oaks. Every teacher comes away better equipped to serve their students, more inspired to be a teacher.”
But the Heads of School are not merely committed to teachers’ success in the classroom. Current teachers comment that the Heads of School also provide support outside of the classroom. One teacher said, “All the leaders are very committed to me as a family person first. I can be a husband and father. I always feels supported that I’m not only valued for what I can do in the classroom, but my whole life is valued by the administration.” Another Oaks teacher agreed. “I never had imagined that a school could be so supportive of a teacher who is also a parent. It’s just been really neat to be able to have adult relationships with people who want to see me grow as a teacher, but also care about my kids and care about my life and pray with me when I’m struggling through something. I feel like a whole person being here.”
And on top of the support from administration and the professional development, Oaks teachers appreciate something else: the curriculum. As a private classical school, the Oaks curriculum is not driven by standardized tests, legislation, or school ratings. Instead, teachers provide their students with a feast of ideas—only the best and most beautiful works of history. And because Oaks teachers get to focus on their subject and their craft in a supportive environment, many have fallen in love with teaching again.