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As school leaders look ahead to the school year, they hope the support they give teachers will lead to increased retention.  Throughout the United States, many schools are still desperately seeking teachers.  Filling those openings at the beginning of the school year causes stress for everyone.   While some attrition is to be expected, schools with significant vacancies undoubtedly have a problem with teacher retention.  While filling those roles is an important task, supporting and keeping the current educators is just as important.

A superintendent in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dr. Deborah Gist, along with 30 administrators, stepped in as classroom teachers this fall. They wanted to support and relieve some of the stress these shortages cause.  This is a great example of how administrators can make a big impact on teachers and morale when it’s needed.

What else can be done for states like Oklahoma, where there are an estimated 500 open teaching positions?  While Leaderally believes that fair pay is a significant factor affecting teacher recruitment and retention, we also believe there’s more to it than simply the issue of salary. Many teachers around the country make modest salaries, yet feel excited and happy to go to work each day.

Three big ways to keep teachers happy and employed

  1. Empowerment is Key
    • Employees need to feel trusted and empowered, in every industry. A Harvard Business Review article, High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It, by Laura Delizonna, describes the employee’s need to have “psychological safety” in order to be a high performer. Additionally, Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google, describes this as the “belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.” Psychological Safety is developed when employees are encouraged to have a voice in decision-making, take moderate risks, and for being creative. Successful school leaders foster psychological safety.
    • Promote psychological safety by encouraging collaboration (even during conflict), active listening, and replacing blame with curiosity.
  2. Invest in Your Faculty
    • Educators need continuing education to keep up with the current trends in the field. Schools and districts must invest time and money in supporting teachers. Support must include mentoring, coaching, and professional development. Investing early on in an educator’s tenure will make professional development more meaningful. As a result, teachers feel supported from day one. It’s critical to invest in your faculty, but make sure it is a meaningful investment.
    • This 2017 study on Effective Teacher Professional Development, reviews 35 studies that showed a positive link between teacher professional development, teaching practices, and student outcomes. The study outlines features of programs that are critical to successful adoption and implementation.  Using adult learning methodology and engaging teachers over time are important components.
  3. Celebrate Successes
    • Just as we celebrate student success with ceremonies and awards, we need to celebrate teacher success. Find opportunities to publically recognize teachers for all their varied contributions and accomplishments.
    • 2012 American Psychological Association survey, 93 percent of those surveyed, who reported feeling valued, said that they are motivated to do their best at work. This compares to 33 percent of those who said they do not feel valued. Celebrating successes at work contributes to a psychologically healthy workplace. This is a great way of encouraging teachers to stay in their profession longer.

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