Caveat: Although not a member of the Millenial Generation, I should disclose that I scored an 87 on the Pew Research quiz, “How Millennial Are you?” Go ahead and try it out
At W. Erskine Johnston PS, we switched to a school blog a little over two years ago. Our next move was to link our blog to a twitter account and a facebook page. Since then we have realized many of the benefits of harnessing electronic communication and social media:
- Our parents are better informed and involved. They get timely information, which becomes crucial when buses are cancelled, field trip forms are due, or information nights and parent council meetings are scheduled.
- Our staff and students see themselves and their accomplishments celebrated. We post about the goings on in classrooms, as well as band concerts, track meets and other special events.
- Our time is better spent – we can hop on the blog and give a quick update in a matter of minutes, rather than engaging in the laborious task of aggregating information and laying out a newsletter that only goes home monthly. This gives us more time to focus on what really matters – the learning happening in the building.
Of course, anyone reluctant to use social media and blogging might argue that they do just fine with a paper newsletter, however, that only gets into the hands of families currently in the building. It isn’t good Public Relations and it doesn’t help with recruitment. When we made the switch to social media, what we didn’t realize was how useful these tools would become in attracting new teachers who bring with them the drive, commitment and talents that make them tremendous assets to our school.
Attracting Top Teaching Talent
Finding a full time teaching position in Ontario is a daunting task. Even with a yearly wave of retirements as the Boomer Generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) settles into retirement, declining enrolment across the province means that the number of full-time teaching positions available each fall is very limited. According to data collected by the Ontario College of Teachers and included in the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ Ontario Job Futures,
In 2007- 08, the Ontario College of Teachers’ Transition to Teaching survey found that 20 percent of English- language Primary-Junior-qualified teachers reported finding a regular teaching job in their first year, which is down five percent from the previous year.
In other words, there is a huge bank of qualified teachers clamouring to get into their own classrooms. These teachers work casual assignments and sometimes take on a part time job in the evenings to subsidize their incomes. When a teaching position becomes available, schools are flooded with resumes and the task of selecting candidates for interview requires careful consideration. Once a candidate has secured an interview, it is in his best interests to do some research to determine how he will compliment and contribute to the culture of the school.
Getting a Flip-Flopped Foot in the Door
For Millennials (the term coined by Neill Howe and William Strauss to denote the generation born between 1982 and 1999) entering the teaching profession, the old adage, “an apple for the teacher” takes on a whole new meaning. Outfitted with ipods, iphones and ipads, information is always at their finger tips, thanks to wireless network connectivity. And while those of us who taught this generation as they made their way through high school and university may have encouraged them to be responsible in how they represent themselves online – through facebook, myspace, twitter and the like – it may have escaped our attention to turn inward and examine how we are representing ourselves and our schools online. For while we may have fretted that this generation was over-sharing, it may be that those of us belonging to previous generations (Gen X, the Baby Boomers, etc…) may have too easily dismissed the value of a dose of prudent sharing. Even though there remains an incredible number of qualified teachers without permanent employment, I sense a shift with the Millennial Generation: Less willing to settle for any teaching position just to get a foot in the door, this generation will be looking for school communities in which they will be engaged, appreciated and given a certain amount of choice and flexibility in assignments. If we aren’t able to provide that, we may not be able to attract and keep the most promising teaching talent.
How Stale is Your Digital Presence?
If we want to attract top teaching talent, a school website that hasn’t been updated in over a year may in fact become an obstacle. Joanne Sujansky and Jan Ferri-Reed write inKeeping the Millennials: Why Companies Are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What to Do About It:
The technology orientation of the Millennials carries over into their job searching. They regard the internet as a research destination where they can ferret out information on companies that catch their interest. They browse corporate web sites to learn about prospective employers … hence the need for companies to convey corporate brands on their web sites…
Millennials look for companies that truly take an interest in their employees; companies whose leaders inspire and challenge them to grow, who create ways for them to use their talents and skills, and who provide them with the resources — technological and otherwise — to do their jobs and self-develop. Companies that address these issues on their web sites come out ahead in attracting Millennials
A candidate recently shared with a colleague that she had some reservations about a potential position at a nearby school because “their website is old”. Millennial generation teachers want to work in environments where they see themselves fitting in, growing and even moving into leadership positions fairly rapidly. When you consider that Google was launched in 1998, these new graduates have never known a time when you couldn’t quickly and easily access information about someone or something. And we need to ask ourselves what we are publishing to the web for them to find.
Many of our recent interviewees remarked that they had spent some time on both our school blog and my own professional blog while preparing for the interview. They felt that they had a pretty good handle on what we are all about – what we value and what we expect. They were able to articulate how they would contribute to our learning community’s goals and vision. If we want to attract teaching candidates who are ready to take some risks and experiment with innovative teaching practices, how are we using blogs and social media to communicate this? If we are using these well, then we are conveying our learning culture with the community and letting potential staff members know what we are all about.
It is well worthwhile as school leaders to ask ourselves what teaching candidates might find when they google us.
cross-posted to shannoninottawa.com