Teacher Retention Strategies: Ideas to Keep Great Educators
The teacher shortage isn’t anything new — and neither are the day-to-day challenges that come alongside it. This widespread issue has become even more glaring in recent years. School districts are experiencing high turnover rates — which can lead to a massive interruption of student learning.
Because these struggles are so rampant and far-reaching, it’s essential to take steps, big or small, toward improving staff retention. You may be asking yourself, “But how do we get our staff to stay?” If that question makes your head spin, you can breathe easier, because we have a list of ideas. Answering the “how” will not only improve instruction and impact student achievement, but it will also help your staff feel continuously supported and heard. After all, when teachers feel respected, taken care of, and have the support of leadership, they are far more likely stay.
Take our instant poll: Which of the following is your district doing to incentivize teachers to stay?
You likely already implement parts or all of the following strategies to increase teacher retention. Below are some additional ideas and resources to supplement your efforts.
Support Teacher Wellness
Throughout the pandemic, the notion of “normalcy” didn’t really exist. Although the dust has begun to settle and more normalized routines have returned to classrooms, the weighted impact of the last few years still lingers. With a rise in anxiety and depression, it’s critical to support and promote mental health in your district. Prioritizing your staff’s mental health will ultimately help them avoid burnout.
“Teacher burnout, it’s like a slow leak. You see it happening, but how do you support these teachers to make sure they get rejuvenated, and that every summer it’s not, ‘Am I going to retire this year? Am I going to leave this year?'”
— from “Beating Teacher Burnout” on the Field Trip Podcast. Listen now
Support teacher mental health by offering wellness opportunities, some of which are at no cost:
- Meditation breaks
- Mental health days
- Dedicated time for physical activity
- Exercise challenges
- Mental well-being sessions (either virtually or in-person)
It’s also important to note that while the teacher shortage is widespread, so is the school counselor shortage. The recommended student:counselor ratio is 250:1, but a report from the American School Counselor Association shows the national average is 444:1. The lack of school counselors may lead to some teachers feeling pressure to adopt a counseling role for which they are neither prepared or trained to take on. In your district, you may also consider offering professional development targeted toward social-emotional learning.
Promote growth opportunities
While there are many ways in which you can promote teacher growth, if it’s not ongoing and continuous your teachers may not feel fully supported.
Create personalized growth plans
Collaborate directly with your teachers to create a plan for their future. When you work with your educators to hear their unique needs and goals, you are not only establishing an open dialogue, you’re also building a relationship.
Give teachers voice and choice
One of the simplest ways to both establish an atmosphere of supportive trust and implement effective professional development is to involve teachers in choosing their own PD. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, consider whether professional learning opportunities are meeting each teacher’s individual needs, providing learning that evolves over the course of a teacher’s career.
“Because every one of us likes to be listened to and to feel like, “I am a part of something bigger than myself.”
— from “Keeping Great Teachers” on the Field Trip Podcast. Listen now
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Cultivate a positive school culture
Establishing a school culture where teachers feel they have a voice and are being listened to creates a better environment for student growth and achievement. Keep in mind this doesn’t just happen by checking off a list and saying, “Okay, we did it!” Cultivating a positive school culture is an ongoing process. Remember, teacher appreciation isn’t confined to one week — it’s important to remind your teachers they are supported year-round:
- Provide continuous and relevant feedback
- Offer a mentor program to new teachers
- Reward your teachers for their hard work
- Give acts of kindness — perhaps it’s snacks, supplies, or free lunch on Monday!
- Network with your community to offer discounts or gift cards
Offer Employee Assistance Programs
Everyday stresses can impact performance and morale, especially during a pandemic. An Employee Assistance Program provides confidential health, financial, and legal services to your employees at no cost to them. Your district may already be offering this service, but if not, consider implementing one. From counseling services and child-care referrals to ride-share reimbursements, Employee Assistance Programs help support your employees and any life challenges they may face.
Teachers who feel supported are teachers who stay
Whether it’s prioritizing your staff’s mental well-being or implementing personalized professional development, combatting teacher attrition starts with supportive leadership. Districts that ensure their teachers have a voice and feel continually listened to are on track to increasing retention rates. So, take the first step in getting your employees to stay by surrounding them from all directions with consistent, year-long support.