Let’s face it. Recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and training new teachers is time consuming, expensive, and exhausting. Schools with a high turnover rate struggle to maintain a healthy culture. Additionally, the inconsistency in staff leads to gaps in programming, curriculum, and common language and understanding across the building. Teacher retention should be at the top of our to-do list as educational leaders. To help you achieve this goal, we’ve put together some top tips for retaining teachers.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt. This is true for every human relationship. It is important to connect with your staff personally. Talk with them in groups, one-on-one, and as a staff. This can be done through community building activities, team building games, lunch conversations, and purposeful one-on-one meetings you build into your schedule.
Focus on the BIG Stuff
There are so many things coming at educators on a daily basis. From state standards to local curriculum, principal expectations to parent expectations, and everything in between, teachers are pulled in a lot of directions.
Help your staff prioritize what is important. Set common expectations that let them know what is important. These expectations let staff know, “This is how we do business here at our school.” Keep your list short and only include the non-negotiables.
Consider including expectations around curriculum, instruction, communication, and professionalism. Make sure the expectations are clear. Keep the list positively framed so that it is a list of things to do rather than what not to do. You may even consider creating this list with your leadership team or staff as a whole.
By having clear expectations, your teachers will know what is valued and expected and can feel secure in the fact that they are doing a good job. This will go a long way in teacher retention.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
The fastest way to break a school’s culture and drive teachers out the door is to micromanage everything they are doing. To be clear, holding teachers accountable to your clear expectations is not micromanaging. Nitpicking about things that are not non-negotiables is micromanaging.
Choose your battles wisely. When a situation arises where you need to address an issue that is not on the non-negotiable list, decide if it is a battle worth fighting. If so, it probably needs to be added to the non-negotiable list. If not, don’t fight it. Flexibility on things outside of the list will show your teachers that you care about them as people and professionals.
Call it Out
What you pay attention to gets done. Therefore, be intentional about what you talk about. If you like a teaching strategy that you see in a classroom, leave the teacher a note on their desk specifically praising that strategy. If you observe a great peer-to-peer interaction, share it during a staff meeting. You can do this anonymously so that it doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable. The key is to focus on what you want to see more of rather than what you want to see less of.
By focusing on the positive, you will see more positive outcomes. If you are unsure of how many times you focus on the negative, what you want to see less of, ask a colleague to shadow you and keep a tally for the day. This will give you a clear picture of how often you focus on the positive vs. the negative. Then set a goal for yourself.
It can be so easy to overlook small victories, however small victories lead to HUGE wins! If you want a happy staff who feel appreciated, celebrate the small things often.
Don’t wait for the end of the school year to look at gains. Instead, pay attention to progress monitoring and benchmark progress. Set goals and find unique ways to celebrate when you reach them. This doesn’t have to be a party. There are millions of free and inexpensive ways to celebrate victories.
Be sure to celebrate non-academic victories as well. Get excited when your staff reaches their attendance goal for the month. Make an announcement when a staff member obtained a new degree or received an award. Thank a grade level team for using their prep time to do a team-building activity. They all contribute to a positive school culture.
Say Thank You
A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Find ways to show appreciation and make people feel special in your building. You can do this with sticky notes on their desks, cards in their mailboxes, and simple face-to-face thank you’s. It is amazing how far a little gratitude goes.
When teachers know the expectations, feel valued and are appreciated, they thrive. By creating a positive environment, you can retain your very best teachers for years to come.