As an administrator, great teachers are your most important asset. They have a firm rationale behind everything they do. They regularly go the extra mile making sure that their students feel seen, cared for, and encouraged. But we all know teachers are notoriously undercompensated and underappreciated. While the work is incredibly rewarding, it can also require more than a 40-hour workweek, and great teachers sometimes transfer those same skills and qualities in professions that pay more and demand less. In fact, tech-savvy educators are routinely swept up by tech companies because of their qualifications. As a result of this attrition, schools have to work hard at replacing, attracting, and retaining excellent educators. Here are five concrete ways to make your school the kind of place that great teachers want to stick around:
1. Treat teachers as the professionals they are.
Your leadership style could make a monumental difference in how teachers see their future at your school. A genuine partnership between teachers and their direct supervisors is essential to ensuring a teacher’s longevity at a school, especially for millennial teachers.
Micromanagement, holding unrealistic expectations, and lack of support take a serious toll on teacher morale. The strongest school leaders are solution oriented and have a human-centered approach to their management. You need to understand what motivates the teachers you work with and think of them as partners, not charges. Take teacher concerns and suggestions seriously and make sure to always follow up on what is important to them. Any leader in the school, whether an administrator or department chair, should lead in this way. Consider offering professional development for anyone who manages colleagues in your building.
2. Find a way to give teachers flexible schedules.
Most schools are far behind the curve when it comes allowing teachers to be flexible with their scheduling. According to Meg Benner and Lisette Partelow from the Center for American Progress, reconsidering what a teacher’s workday looks like can be a game changer. Redesigning the school day can increase student gains and potentially avoid teacher burnout. Better aligning of grade-team schedules, creating opportunities for more personalized learning, and even extending the school day makes a real difference. According to Benner and Partelow, “The squeeze for time to plan lessons and complete other administrative tasks shapes a school’s professional environment and, ultimately, affects the quality of instruction.”
Guilmette Elementary in Lawrence, Massachusetts, is an example of this kind of redesign in action. This school extended their school day in exchange for more in-school collaboration time for teachers. On Friday afternoons, students participate in enrichment programming, like yoga classes or cooking instruction, offered by community partners. While students are busy learning these new skills, teachers use that time to collaborate, plan, and meet with parents.
3. Give teachers the supplies their students need.
The New York Times reports that approximately 94 percent of teachers spend their own money on school supplies. While some teachers are adept at finding funding online for projects, locating money for the everyday maintenance of classrooms shouldn’t be the responsibility of teachers.
Project Teacher, a nonprofit in Wichita, Kansas, took a nontraditional approach to this issue by opening a free supply store for teachers. They partner with local organizations to collect office supplies, furniture, and other materials for classroom teachers. A teacher can make an appointment at the store and then load up on the supplies they need to keep their classroom stocked. Adopt A Classroom allows teachers to create a wishlist for their classroom, which then can be funded by individual donors. If you want to create a solution tailored to your school, you can design your own school-supply drive with the help of your PTA/PTO. Finally, if you are able, petition your district directly for more money for supplies. It never hurts to ask. The more vocal you are about the needs of your faculty, the more likely you are to be heard.
4. Show teachers your appreciation for the work they do.
Your gratitude and appreciation for your teachers will go a long way in building staff culture and retaining your best staff. From personal thank-you notes to providing donuts before a staff meeting, letting your staff know their value is vital. You can also enlist your PTA/PTO to show appreciation. Consider collaborating with them to plan teacher appreciation throughout the year. While these tokens are small, they can make a big difference in helping a teacher feel cared for and appreciated.
5. Check in with teachers early and often.
Life in a school gets busy, especially for administrators. During the chaos of the year, it’s easy to assume that as long as there are no riots, the teachers are fine. It’s precisely these moments when it is crucial to check in, especially with teachers that might be newer to the profession. Check-ins do not have to be exhaustive, and they should not be evaluative. Rather, they are times for real conversation. It’s this person-to-person connection that makes a difference. These moments are relationship builders, and they remind people that you recognize them and offer your support.
Making your school community a place where adults feel supported and cared for is the first step in retaining teachers. The longevity of teachers matters. Their wealth of experience, institutional knowledge, and love of the school make all the difference in the world to students and the community.
Plus check out this article on why teachers burn out.