[Education Leadership] What Administrators Can Do to Retain Great Teachers

Friday, March 10, 2017 -- Scott Sterling

Every educator—administrator or teacher—is familiar with the shocking statistics surrounding teacher retention. According to the National Education Association, approximately 50 percent of new teachers will no longer be in the classroom after five years. In some areas, that timeline is closer to three years. This puts an enormous strain not only on the administrators scrambling to hold on to their staffs, but also on the teachers dealing with large class sizes and frequent turnover in their teams.

Keeping well trained, skilled teachers in the classroom is key to providing students with an outstanding education. Here are four things administrators can do to turn the tide in their schools.

Invite candor

Above all else, teachers want to feel as if they have input in their workplace. If they don’t, they are more likely to be concerned only with what happens in their classrooms, which is a recipe for loneliness. And, if administration is disconnected from the challenges teachers are facing in the classroom, neither the workplace culture of the school or student outcomes will improve.

It’s one thing to have an “open door policy”, but it’s another to actually invite truthful feedback. Administrators must be dedicated to treating everyone on their staff fairly, honestly, and as professionals, and be receptive to both positive and negative comments. Those are the signals that summon candor among the staff.

Assign teachers for success

Too often, teachers are assigned their schedules based on need rather than strengths. It’s true that some classes are harder to staff than others, but if the teacher feels as though they were considered for their position as a professional rather than just another cog in the machine, they are more likely to feel valued. If a teacher requests changes, work collaboratively to find a solution or suggest ways that they can make themselves better qualified for the schedule they want.

Limit the responsibilities of rookies

The first year of teaching is hard enough without having to worry about chaperoning dances or other out-of-classroom duties. Some of these duties are unavoidable. But wherever possible, limit your rookie teachers’ exposure to tasks that take their focus away from what really matters: becoming the best classroom teacher they can be.

Mentors aren’t just for first-year teachers

Mentoring is a valuable practice among first-year teachers, and has been shown to improve the chances of a teacher continuing past their first year. But, what about after that? The assumption that a second-year teacher has everything figured out is false. If you notice a teacher withdrawing from the community or not participating in collaborative opportunities, they may need a mentor. Have another teacher reach out to them in a non-confrontational, casual way. If all else fails, become a de facto mentor yourself. It could make or break that teacher’s career. 

Looking for more tips to keep your school a positive working environment? Check out these four easy ideas to boost teacher morale!

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