Teachers vacate positions and the teaching profession for many different reasons. In our region, teachers are hard to come by and positions are often difficult to fill. As a result, all schools should consider the best ways to not only recruit great teachers, but to also retain the ones that we already have.
As we start to think about how we could better retain teachers, we usually think first about our pay scale. Teacher contracts and pay scales are, for the most part, not very flexible. In larger urban areas, the market demand for teachers is much higher than the supply. Pay differences aren’t big enough to persuade teachers to come or to stay, so there must be other intangibles they can be used in order to recruit and retain the best of the best.
Here are some ideas for unique ways to not only help to retain teachers, but also to help create a positive culture and environment for everyone. The ideas are sorted into two different categories: ones that are essentially free but might require some time and work, and ones that aren’t a pay increase but might take some resources to pull off.
Incentives that aren’t monetary:
- Culture: For most teachers, this is the critical factor for staying in a position. The culture of the school building, a positive atmosphere, and teachers feeling as though they can have success with students all help teacher retention a great deal. Schools can help to create this culture by modeling positive attitudes, always leading with respect, and connecting with students and parents.
- Support: This goes hand in hand with culture, but teachers who feel supported by administration are much more likely to stay. When it comes to discipline, teachers need to feel that principals are on their side. Teachers must feel as though they have the right tools and skills to do their job. School leaders must work at this in order to retain teachers. Communication is key and the willingness to step up and support teachers has to be present.
- Connection: One of the questions from the famous Gallup survey about employee engagement asks employees, “Do you have a best friend at work?” This can seem like an unusual question, but it gets to the heart of how all of us think and feel about our job. Many work weeks, we spend more time with our work “family” than we do our actual family. As a result, the connection that teachers have with one another and other staff members is very important to retaining great teachers. Schools and administrators can support this through more than just team building activities—they also need to provide time for teachers to connect and get to know one another outside of the school day.
Incentives that aren’t directly monetary, but do cost money:
- Technology: Teachers with new, functional technology in their classrooms are more willing to remain in their position. Technology costs money, but most teachers wouldn’t see it as a pay raise. It is, in fact, an investment in them as a professional. For teachers who have been to districts lacking new technology, they really love our investment in it as a district. Our new interactive board purchase coming this year will, in part, be a recruitment tool as we tour classrooms. We hope it makes our teachers’ lives easier and their teaching more engaging—both of which will help teachers to feel as though they are really making a difference.
- Planning time: Again, this isn’t a direct way that teachers will feel they are getting a raise, but it is a way for teachers to feel supported. Time is just as valuable as money for many people. By giving teachers adequate time to plan on their own and collaborate with others, teachers will be much more likely to stay. (Team planning also helps to improve the connections with staff that were mentioned above!)
School leaders who want to be more strategic about retaining great teachers need to make sure they are listening to their teachers. Because each person and teacher is different, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to the issue of retaining great teachers. There are many, many more ideas that we can add to schools to help to retain teachers. Some of the most critical are to focus on culture, to help teachers feel supported, and to provide technology and planning time as best we can.
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