Are We at a Tipping Point in Education?

by | Jan 15, 2018

Where are we right now?


The state of education – in terms of teacher resilience – is bleak.

I don’t want to paint a doom-and-gloom scenario, but perhaps it’s time to. Nearly 50% of teachers leave within their first 5 years. They sight lack of support, lack of respect, low pay, and lack of time as major factors in their decision to leave.

On top of that, each year, less and less teachers are entering the profession. Perhaps this is due to the same stressors that cause such high teacher attrition numbers portraying education as a less attractive career.

With schools unable to retain good teachers and college unable to persuade students into becoming pre-service teachers the writing seems to be on the wall.

Unless conditions change for teachers we have a future epidemic on our hands.

Already fields such as special education and counseling are feeling this shift.

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What is a tipping point?

The Tipping Point in Education

The term popularized in 2000 by Malcolm Gladwell in his bookThe Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference represents the moment in which a situation hits “critical mass’. When it reaches its boiling point. It can’t be ignored anymore.

Gladwell’s book not only highlights the moment when change occurs, but also how these moments rose to action. He references the “Law of the Few” as the idea that the path toward a tipping point is paved by small groups of individuals.

If not now, then when?

If not now, then when? Tipping Point

In his book, Gladwell states, “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”. Undeniably, people-power is what drives a movement.

So, when will education reach its tipping point?

Well, in some ways it has.

We are seeing more and more schools pivot from the traditional school model to include more innovative approaches. Teachers are embracing choice-based, project-based, and entrepreneurial education models that empower students to take ownership of their learning – and empower teachers to focus on what really matters in teaching.

While when it comes to the resilience and retention of good educators – we still seem far away.

The statistics aren’t moving. Teachers are still leaving the profession in droves and the number of new teachers entering the field continues to decrease.

Instead of receiving resilience training to build strength against the occupational stresses commonly associated with education, many are experiencing an increase in pressure. In an effort to increase performance some districts are turning to performance-based pay, which many argue discourage educators from trying new/innovative approaches to teaching and learning can penalize them for the diverse make-up of their classes.

With little being done to keep good teachers in their positions and promote the profession to potential future teachers we find ourselves at a crux.

Will we reach the tipping point in time or will we have to wait until education profession is in a full-blown epidemic for change to come?

If change is fuel by people-power then we can be the change-agents that education needs, now.

What can we do?

teacher - what can we do - the tipping point

We know there is a need for change.
We live it every school day.
But, what can we do?

  • We can ask for resilience training
    • Offer resilience-focused books when doing book studies in professional development
    • Offer resilience-building speakers when giving input into future presenters/professional development
  • We can take matters into our own hands
    • Seek out our own sources of inspiration and support
      • websites (like this Joy in Teaching), books, videos, and colleagues
  • We can contact our legislators and inform them you are concerned about the state of (and future of) education. Click here
  • We can rally
    • share resources with colleagues and talk (and listen) about the need for resilience-building for education. Make it a common topic of discussion – only then will the issues related to teacher attrition and burnout come to the surface. And, only then will decision-makers and stakeholders take notice enough to help education reach a new tipping point.

Are you looking for more resilience-building tips? Check out these articles:

8 Tips for Stronger Teacher Resiliency

Protective Practices for Teacher Well-Being

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