In education there is always a certain amount of roundabouting. Teachers leaving one school and moving onto another. The Dutch secondary school where I teach is no different in this regard. Most years we wave goodbye to one group of colleagues only to say hello to another. This year is a continuation of this pattern, and maybe a few more than we are used to are making this changeover.
Are we unique in seeing a larger than normal switch around of staff looking for pastures new to explore? Well, if I look at the number of advertisements for teaching posts in circulation my conclusion would very definitely be no. Maybe even more indicative of a more general change are the number of art teaching vacancies that are passing through the Dutch art teaching Facebook groups I am member of. Art teachers are used to having to wait and be patient for teaching opportunities. The odd teaching posts that come by are often temporary, small in the number of hours offered and hugely oversubscribed for. This year though is different, there is a positive deluge of vacancies!
What is going on? What has changed this year? Dutch education in general has a personnel shortage. The work can at times be very challenging and the hours are long with a tendency to spill all over your life. Added to this the classes are getting bigger, the administration workload more far reaching and the demands from government, parents, and the pupils themselves at times, is more pressing. Getting new people into the profession is a constant necessity. Or should I say, getting the right, talented, driven people into the profession is a necessity.
But the general shortage of teachers is a longer running problem. This end of year, job circus feels different. Like I said at the start, it feels like a roundabout, a game of musical chairs is perhaps also a good metaphor. Most years it feels more like a situation of more mature colleagues leaving the profession at the top end, to be replaced by recent graduates joining it at the bottom end. This year though, teachers at all stages of their working career are on the move, and as soon as one makes the switch it opens up another space that needs to be filled. That will in turn perhaps tempt someone else to make the jump from another school, and so the rotation goes on. This certainly seems to be what is going on amongst those much sought after art teaching posts. The way new vacancies are popping up with just days to go until the end of the school year are evidence of this.
Is this all perhaps a consequence of the Corona years? Are teachers less likely now to just stay put and make do? Have the Corona years lead to an urge to work closer to home? Were tough years of online, hybrid and generally chaotic education the final straw in a decision to leave education and head off in a different direction? Or is simply a case of hoping that the grass will be greener on the other side of the fence?
I’m really not sure where the reason lines, one thing is sure though, I’ll have quite a few new colleagues on the other side of the summer holiday. I will also be missing a few others who have been familiar and much valued faces in the staffroom.