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The Teacher Exodus: Is It Time for Schools to Rethink Their Recruitment and Retention Strategies?

Teaching is one of the noblest professions, or so it's been said. So why are teachers leaving schools in the dust? The heart of teaching hasn't changed; the goal is still to shape the minds of future generations. But many teachers aren't getting what they need to feel successful on the job. Many schools are struggling to fill vacancies and provide quality education now, and that has to change. So the question remains, why are so many teachers leaving the profession, and what can schools do specifically to retain and attract more talented educators?

The Teacher Exodus: Why Are Teachers Really Leaving?

According to a survey by the Horace Mann Educators Corporation in February 2023, reported that "Thirty percent of surveyed educators said they plan to leave the education profession within the next three years, while another 33% said they would "maybe" do the same." One of the main reasons for this dissatisfaction is the lack of support from school administrations, with many teachers feeling undervalued and overworked. Teachers also face significant stress levels and burnout due to long working hours, high student-to-teacher ratios, and a lack of resources. Many talented and experienced teachers leave to protect their own mental health, causing a talent drain that schools are struggling to fill.

Retention and Recruitment Strategies: What Can School Officials Do?

To address the teacher exodus, schools need to rethink their current retention strategies and the quality of attention given to new teachers. Here are some ways that schools can maintain good relationships with current teachers and make new teacher recruits feel more welcome.

1. Support Professional Development

One of the most effective ways to retain teachers is to provide opportunities for professional development. By investing in the professional development of teachers, schools can show that they value their teachers' contributions and are committed to their success. Professional development doesn't need to be conferences and expensive speakers. The best professional development comes from the leaders on your own campus who know the struggles everyone is facing. Invite teachers to collaborate and lead. 

Teachers have spent years honing their craft, refining their teaching methods, and developing strategies to help students succeed. Their insights can be invaluable in guiding school policies and decisions. Administrators can also build this trust by really listening to the needs of the staff and actively doing something about their concerns. Schools should create a collaborative environment where teachers share ideas, are heard, and work together.

2. Provide Adequate Resources

Teachers need resources to do their job effectively; a current curriculum, ample textbooks, appropriate supplies, and reading materials are the minimum. Today extra Chromebooks and several simple chargers, and classroom supplies like unlimited copies and pre-sharpened pencils can have huge impacts on instructor stress levels. Many schools struggle to provide these resources due to budget constraints, but there are ways around this. To retain teachers, schools should prioritize funding resources to help teachers do their job effectively. Work together to get the community involved rather than leaving teachers to fend for themselves. 

School administrations should also show consistency in their plans from year to year. An important part of having those resources is their reliability. Give teachers time to learn, adapt, and ask questions before forcing them to switch to new programs and disrupt their teaching process. 

3. Offer Contracts With Realistic Expectations that Allow for Personal Boundaries

As amazing as teachers are, they're only human. If you expect them to keep harrowing hours or burn the candle at both ends, they will end up burned out. Review your current policies, and ask your teachers what they feel needs to be changed. Encourage them to set healthy boundaries with students and parents, then back them up when those boundaries are tested. 

You should also expect that teachers may not always go above and beyond every single day. There is nothing wrong with simply meeting standards—help teachers feel comfortable understanding the minimum and maximum and give them the freedom to perform within that range. If your teachers feel like they're constantly required to exceed expectations, maybe it's time to adjust your expectations. 

4. Set Competitive Salaries and Benefits

Compensation is a significant factor in teacher retention. Teachers have to be paid a salary that reflects their qualifications and experience. In addition, schools should strive to provide better benefits, health insurance, and retirement plans. By improving teacher salaries and benefits, schools can attract new and retain current teachers who are committed and passionate about the profession. While you might need to make other adjustments to balance the change, it's a better investment in the long term. 

5. Build Strong Relationships with New Teachers

To attract and retain new teachers, schools need to build strong relationships with them from the outset. Schools can do this by providing a comprehensive orientation program with mentoring and support from experienced teachers. Constant check-ins by colleagues, mentors, and administrators will help provide the necessary communication and foster a feeling of belonging.

New teachers need to build a network of colleagues to lean on when the job is overwhelming, and it will be overwhelming, but with the proper support, new teachers will not only survive but thrive. By focusing on strong relationships, schools can help new teachers feel welcome and supported, increasing their chances of staying in the profession.

Both Experienced and New Teachers are Needed

Retaining experienced teachers and supporting new teachers is critical for the success of the education system. Experienced teachers have an extensive array of knowledge to share with new teachers as they develop into effective educators. On the other hand, new teachers bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that can invigorate the profession.

By creating a supportive environment that values both experienced and new teachers, students will receive the best possible education, and our schools will remain strong and vibrant for years to come.

Written by Deborah Andrus
Education World Contributor
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