I came across this article on “7 ways small business owners can attract A-list talent.” What attracted me to open this article was expecting insights into how education can retain and attract teachers. It is highly worth reading the actual article. I wanted to plagiarize most of it, but I won’t so you’ll need to read it.
At the end of the article was this quote: “People have changed. Work has changed.” I feel confident to say this is also a statement about education.
Trying to do school as business as usual is not working. Retaining and attracting teachers can not just be a free Sonic drink on teacher appreciation day. Some things have to change!
1. CULTIVATE AN ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET
Teaching has always been a creative job. Micromanaging and stripping away creativity and autonomy has predictably resulted in less job satisfaction. No teacher got into teaching to “raise standardized test scores.” We want to help kids. We want to be able to innovate and do what we need to do to help students be successful.
Ask any teacher, they can ramble off a list of mandates that they know is not good for kids.
From the article “Create an environment in which everybody experiences the benefits of entrepreneurship…The key members on my team are always a part of making the company’s big decisions.”
2. BUILD A DEEP BENCH
Teachers MUST HAVE SUPPORT. This job is too hard to be everything to every kid.
Great librarians are essential Arts & Music programs are essential. A sufficient number of counselors are essential.
Especially post covid, we are recognizing the need for a school that is more human. A school attracts high-quality teachers when it provides them with sufficient support to address the whole child.
It takes a village. Asking teachers to manage the emotional challenges of traumatized kids by themselves is too much to ask.
3. BE FLEXIBLE WHEN IT COMES TO SCHEDULES AND WORKLOAD
Does every teacher need to have the exact same schedule? The article, points out that having talent part-time is better than having no time. Having someone work nights is better than not at all. How can the traditional schedule change to allow for more people who are passionate about students to teach? Think non-traditional! Retain and attract teachers by coming up with some more creative schedules.
It is literally impossible to lesson plan, teach all day, call/communicate with parents, maintain the gradebook, and grade during school hours. A high school teacher may have up to 200 students. An elementary teacher does not have fewer papers to grade, it is just more papers per student. Let’s say a teacher spends 3 minutes on each student’s assignment. 200 x 3 = 600 minutes = TEN HOURS!!! for one assignment. How about 6 classes of only 20 students? 120 x 3 = 360 minutes = 6 hours. Still not doable within a teaching day.
Something that drives me crazy is calling a department meeting a PLC meeting. Meeting with people at your school as dictated by admin is not a PLC. A true PLC is grassroots and driven by the members. If I need to collaborate and get support from experts who are not at my school, I NEED TIME. As a teacher, I feel more energized and love my job more when I get actual time to learn from other teachers.
I sent out a survey on teacher retention. The more than 400 responses made it clear. We need more time. We need more support.
4. DEMONSTRATE AN EMPATHETIC ENVIRONMENT
Teachers have families. Many schools are actually great at coming alongside a teacher who needs to take care of their family. Keep that up!!
5. CREATE A REGULAR COMMUNICATIONS STRUCTURE
Regular communication is not a weekly staff meeting that could have been an email.
Survey the teachers. How do they REALLY feel about communication? Is it good? How can it improve? Right now many teachers do not feel they are being listened to. Try regularly surveying the staff about what can improve and be willing to change things.
6. DON’T MICROMANAGE
I’ll say it, one reason teachers are leaving is the micromanaging. Remember, teachers are creative! Let them be!
7. ESTABLISH GUARDRAILS TO MAINTAIN WORK/LIFE BALANCE
“Don’t even think about checking out 1 minute before noon.” This message was sent out the last week of school. My contract says we are not allowed to take a personal day before or after a holiday.
Seriously?! Teachers care so much about their students and classes they are putting in their own time on weekends, holidays, before and after school, and even during their lunch breaks. Not acknowledging the extra, unpaid, work that teachers put into their jobs contributes to job dissatisfaction. Find ways to give back even a fraction of this time to teachers. Let them leave 5 minutes early on the last day of school when there are not students.
Being able to have work life balance is essential. Schools MUST actively make sure this happens and not just lip service of “remember to do self care.” Putting work/life balance on the teachers does not work. Rethink a system that would ensure that teachers feel their life balance is important.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Retain and Attract Teachers
Teachers matter attracting developing and retaining effective teachers starts with creating a work environment that works!