Am I getting old?

A catchy title that very much has a place in the conversation about the triple threat. My first year teaching was 1996, so, you do the math. I am not a “young” faculty member anymore. Nor am I a new parent or parent of young children. I have raised a family, completed multiple graduate degrees, coached more teams and sports than I can even account for, lived in dorms, houses, and off campus, and taught everything from Life Science to AP European history. In short, I am a dinosaur. In this sense, I am finding myself at a point where being a triple threat educator is unique. More of the young faculty are specilized in their subjects, have less playing/coaching experience, and are not boarding school grads, thus finding the 24/7 life at a boarding school extremly intense. The model has changed signifcantly since 1996 and in many ways, for the better. “In my day” you coached what you were told to coach regardless of your expertise. You taught the classes assigned to you with little more than a “here is the textbook and key to your room".” You lived in a dorm with students, yet had little in the way of “training” let alone a dedicated residential life curriculum. Somehow, it seemed to work, or least memories make it appear that way. I know the professional development I participated in during my first few years was minimal, if at all, since I can’t recall anything more than being given a summer reading book on education. Feedback and mentoring was informal and unreliable. Evaluations came in the form of a once a year drop in from the head of school. In short, I am farily horrified at how my early years as an educator went.

Of late, my focus has been on how the triple threat model has evolved and what needs to be done to give students the best education given the limitations all schools face in some form or another. How has the triple threat been updated? Are schools being more strategic with their use of faculty? Are schools formalizing the evaluation process? How are schools addressing the changes in the workforce that are becoming more pressing? In short, schools have evolved along with education theory, research, and policy. Many schools are “progressive” with regard to curriculum be it Project Based Learning and Student Driven Inquiry. Schools have moved past Advanced Placement and created unique educational programs relating to entrepreneurialism, AI, addititve manufacturing, specific institutes, and real-life application via apprenticeships. However, the model for boarding school teachers remains relatively unchanged since I started in 1996. The “Rule of Seven” still dominates teaching contracts, where we teach four sections, coach two seasons, and serve one night per week in a residential capacity. If we are pushing students away from the industrial model of education, why do we continue to utilize faculty in a manner inconsistent with what we are putting in place for the young people we work with?

Recent studies on generational attitudes about work and staffing from Deloitte (link below) point out a significant disconnect between how boarding schools frame the “job” and what Generation Y and Z workers are looking for. Couple this with the increased rate of retirement among educators born prior to 1965 and schools are facing a significant challenge to the way they attract, hire, and retain teachers. Can boarding schools adapt the triple threat model to meet the expectations and demands of younger workers? The short answer is, they must. The more challanging issues rest in how this will be done. What are younger workers looking for and how does that line up with the triple threat model? To be blunt, the data suggest that it doesn’t. Generation Y and Z workers have very different views from the Boomer and Genration X cohorts in everything from how they define compensation, to their desire for a diverse workplace, to their need for constant meaningful feedback, to their geographic preferences for living and desire for flexibity that defines work/life balance. Added to these not so subtle issues is the reality that these younger workers grew up under very different circumstances from the people hiring them, thus holding different beliefs about the nature of a job and the relationship between employer and employee. School must actively seek out ways to align with the emerging workforce if they are to hire the best candidates with which to meet the mission of their respective school. Otherwise, schools will face dwindling hiring pools and high faculty attrition rates that will signficantly impact school culture and the ability to deliver a premium priced education. It is time for the tough conversations!