By now, stakeholders in education are aware of the alarming statistic that resulted from a survey by the National Education Association. More than half of teachers are planning to leave the profession sooner than they expected. Solidifying the need for concern is the fact that more teachers than ever have resigned mid-year. As the end of the 2021-2022 school year approaches, K-12 districts are left wondering what they can do to increase teacher retention. Many have increased salaries, which is an excellent start, but a living wage is a necessity, not a luxury. Pay raises are nice, but many teachers need much more than that to stay in the profession they love.
One way to increase teacher retention is to find and then implement pockets of flexibility. Teachers have a difficult time keeping up with everyday responsibilities like doctor’s appointments, car repairs, etc. They often have to use their vacation days just to run errands, leaving them with little to no days for much-needed rest. Historically, teaching is not a job where flexibility is often possible, but some ideas include:
-The option to work from home on professional development/teacher planning days.
-Class coverage to leave campus and run a quick errand.
-An emphasis on scheduled vacation days during the school year.
These may seem like small things, but they really add up in terms of giving teachers greater autonomy.
Disciplinary issues in schools have been on the rise for over a decade, but the effects of the last two years have been more than experts in the education industry could have predicted. Before students can learn and retain the information presented by their teachers, they first need to have their physical and emotional safety needs met. While staff and teachers play a role in managing behavior, the ability to address it effectively begins with leadership. Behavior issues are a top stressor for teachers. Leaders need to ensure that teachers and staff across the campus have the support they need to both understand and manage students’ behavioral challenges. This will require constant communication between teachers and administrators to create an environment of trust in which teachers feel supported.
If you want to know what it will take to retain a talented teacher, start by asking them. Then, turn that insight into action. Stress is the number one reason for teacher attrition. Take teachers’ ideas for improved working conditions and bring them to life. Many schools request feedback from faculty and staff, but rarely implement it, which can be very discouraging. Teachers care about their vocation and want to see their students and colleagues succeed. Even if an idea doesn’t succeed, the effort to make it happen will ultimately show teachers that their input is valued.
Professional growth opportunities are essential in any organization, including education. Teachers who love the profession are dedicated to be the best at what they do. Allow flexibility in selecting professional development courses, give teachers the option to try out new grade levels or take on leadership roles. For those that demonstrate a desire to learn and do more, nurture that spirit and help them evolve. When you invest in your people, they are more likely to stay.
All of the previously mentioned strategies are ways to show teachers that they are valued. However, administrators can also go the extra mile to recognize the hard work teachers do day in and day out. Offer praise through recognition in a staff meeting, hand-written notes that say “you’re doing great!” or even treating them to their favorite coffee. These small acts of kindness and affirmation go a long way in showing that you care.
Ultimately, not all teachers who have intentions to leave the profession will actually follow through. Surveys only capture one moment in time, and a teacher could have responded on a particularly tough day. However, the fact that more teachers have left mid-year than ever before is a warning. Doing things like implementing teacher feedback, offering greater flexibility, and supporting the social-emotional needs of students are just some of the ways to help increase retention of talented teachers who are dedicated to this profession they love.
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