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Advice for Schools Struggling With Teacher Retention

AP Whitney Green shares some insight on how to combat teacher turnover. Keep reading for practical tips on how to boost teacher retention and create a better culture for your school community!

Since the pandemic has hit, teacher turnover is the highest it has ever been! According to Zamarro et al., as of March 2021, research states that over 40% of teachers are considering early retirement or leaving the profession entirely (2021). Within this percent, they also state this is due to the stress and expectations during the 2020 school year. 

These past few years have stretched everyone in some way, with education being one of the most challenging professions to work in as virtual learning did not go well for everyone. I am not used to so much turnover at the elementary level, but now being an administrator at the high school level, it seems teacher turnover is the norm at the school I am working at. I had multiple teachers come up to me and tell me on my first day on the job, they will quit if we go back to hybrid. 

My jaw probably dropped, but since we had masks on, they could not see my reaction. This was the first time I had ever faced this type of challenge, retaining teachers. Teachers were and are tired. They have always felt underpaid and not valued, but the extra challenges they faced almost sent many of them over the edge. Many have left the teaching profession entirely and have actually changed careers since the pandemic has started. 

So how do we stop this from happening? This is a great question that I think can be answered from many different perspectives, as well as what is controllable by administration, as raising salaries is not one of those variables. 

Below are some of the key ideas I have utilized while in leadership to lessen teacher turnover. I think we all know that just because you have low teacher turnover rates, does not always mean you have high quality instruction or that students are performing at a high achievement level. Sometimes teacher turnover is well needed as new leadership can create this change. But, if you are not wanting teacher turnover, these ideas are tried and true and just a few I thought would be helpful to any leader. 

Identifying + Providing the Right Support 

Identify what teachers need support with, especially if you are using new platforms within technology. Utilize teachers within the building to provide PD opportunities to build capacity within the building.

Shield Them From Unnecessary Information

With all the information that is given to administrators, filter out what is most pressing or needed for teachers to know, while not overwhelming them with information that administration can. 

Provide Time Saving Resources 

With having a lot of resources thrown at teachers, especially with technology, decide which ones you want to use within your building and stick to that. Once you pick one or two that you feel would benefit both the teachers and students, provide as much support and training around these platforms. Kiddom was one that I researched and saw the value in the platform on how to continue a rigorous curriculum, through an online format. This was one resource that I took time to invest in with my teachers, providing them plenty of support and training.

Culture + Climate

Checking the pulse of your school provides valuable information on the culture and climate among the faculty and students. Teachers need to feel appreciated, even with small little gestures. Below are some ideas on kind gestures, that you can use school funds for, to do throughout the year.

Food Truck Fridays!

  • Special treats available in the teacher workrooms, or place individual treat in their mailbox with a “punny” saying. One idea our teachers absolutely loved was replacing all the teachers bathroom toilet papers with a roll of Charmin! I was shocked at how much teacher loved this small simple gesture.

Jeans Day

  • Writing a simple note that can be left in the teachers room, just saying something kind or just thanking them for being there that day.

Keep a backup plan handy

Teachers are already under a lot of stress and they need consistent and clear communication, along with not being yanked around with information. As a leadership team, be as proactive as possible, having drafted multiple plans that can easily be implemented and teachers are given enough time to prepare.

Showcase Teachers Strengths

We have been given feedback by our faculty that they would like opportunities to present ideas during professional developments. This lends itself to building capacity within your staff. Another easy idea is to highlight teachers either on a weekly or monthly basis in your morning news or school newsletter.

Utilizing School Funds to Pay Teachers

Pay for after school planning using your school funds for collaborative planning to occur. I would also speak with your district on what PD is being offered at the district level and if they are paying for attending as well. For some teachers, they would be open to the opportunity to make some extra money leading an after school program. We have paid our teachers, on a completely voluntary basis, to work with students, previewing material. This supports both the teachers being able to extra money, while also supporting students who may have some gaps in their learning due to lack of exposure with the inconsistencies of attending school.

These are just a few ideas that I have used during a time when appreciation is well deserved and needed. One teacher one time told me, “ Just saying thank you for being here today is enough.” Teachers just want to be heard and seen as everyone is working together to ensure that students’ needs are still being met. I think as leaders we needed to go the extra mile and just acknowledge all the good that is going on within your schools. Employees showing up to work on time is a positive because at this point, as many are getting sick and quarantined, each day is a struggle to fill these spots as substitutes are becoming a rare find. Asking people to do something outside of their typical job requirements on a daily basis, is asking a lot from these individuals.

I think we also need to remember to bring the joy back into our buildings. Any type of normalcy for both students and teachers is critical. Find spontaneous moments to bring back some of the fun that used to fill hallways and classrooms! I know with safety restrictions, this is not always possible, but if you ever find the chance, take it! Again, I know every administrator themselves is worn out and can’t even think past the present. Remember to take time for yourself, as the job will always be there. I would recommend not feeling as though you have to do this alone, but get a team of people together to support these ideas and be able to implement them. This is not something that can be put off any longer, I would act on it now. For as tired as I have been the past two years, I struggled to find the energy or motivation to add anything else to my plate, but this is something that pays great dividends in the end. Like my grandma always used to say, “ This too shall pass.” 

#BetterTogether

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