January 21, 2021
by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School
“Welcome back to campus!” I said this morning as I greeted a Middle School student on their way into school. “What are you more excited about, being back together with your friends or seeing your teachers in person?” I asked. He paused for quite a while, pondering the rather unfair choice I was asking him to make. However, his response was emphatic, “Both!” Asking such a question of a Middle School student can be rather risky, but I wasn’t surprised with his response. The strong, personal relationships students have with their teachers is a hallmark of MPA.
MPA is incredibly fortunate to have an exceptional faculty who are genuinely dedicated to their students and truly committed to the school. Most teachers remain at MPA for their entire career and we all benefit from their experience and wisdom. At the same time, we’ve had teachers who experienced life transitions that took them in different directions, whether a move to a new city or sometimes experiencing a change in career. Enrollment, program changes, and external factors may also impact our faculty workforce. For instance, our COVID-19 health and safety plan led us to hire several additional teachers and teaching assistants to reduce classroom density.
Clearly there are exceptional teachers in all schools and I’ve had the good fortune to work alongside some very talented individuals in my career. Coming to MPA, however, I was struck by the sheer number of masterful teachers in all divisions and departments I encountered here. Creative, innovative, kind, hardworking, interesting, and yes, sometimes quirky. The strength of MPA is clearly in our people and as I look down the road, our continued success will depend on investing in our teachers and hiring the very best.
The pandemic has forced teachers at every level to rethink how they do their jobs; to prepare to pivot to a different method of delivering instruction at a moment’s notice and, in some instances, weigh the health risks of remaining in a career to which they’ve dedicated years of their professional lives. Given the increasingly accelerated evolution of the teaching profession and the increasing demands placed upon teachers, education leaders across the nation express serious concerns regarding teacher burnout and anticipate higher numbers of retirements.
For instance, a national longitudinal study of public school teachers conducted over the last 10 months reports that 31%of teachers and public school district leaders said that teacher morale is “much lower” than it was prior to the pandemic. That’s up from 26% from June 18, and nearly double what it was on March 25. The same study found that 32% of teachers report that they are likely to leave their jobs this year even though they would have been unlikely to do so prior to the pandemic. That’s up from 26% July 23 and 12% May 28. While the situation is significantly better in independent schools, a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Independent School showed 15% of heads of school report more mid-year attrition than previous years. Similarly, 16% report a teacher shortage in their school and the same percentage say more teachers are retiring early.
Over the next several weeks and months, don’t be surprised, worried, or concerned if you notice a number of teaching and other positions posted. MPA is at an exciting inflection point as enrollment continues to grow and we evolve in meeting the new and emerging needs of our students. Rest assured, our commitment to small class sizes and intimate learning environments remains steadfast and space is limited. The accelerated pace at which our already complex world is changing can make one dizzy and can sometimes result in collective anxiety. However, I find this moment to be exhilarating and energizing and am both optimistic and confident in our ability to successfully navigate these uncertain and challenging times.
Our society as well as individuals and institutions, if willing to engage in meaningful reflection, will learn from the adversity we have faced and discover how we have grown. MPA trustees, administrators, faculty and staff are all reflecting on our practice and experience to refine our focus on the near term. We are also actively studying trends, and grounding ourselves in emerging research in order to seize upon the opportunities this crisis presents to make important long-term changes in how we educate our students and operate our school. I look forward to continuing to engage you in the conversation as together we chart a course forward.
Looking Around the Corner with Dr. Hudson
Tonight At 7 PM
Join Via Zoom >
Meeting ID: 932 6010 4017