“Susan just quit.”
The news is delivered to me swiftly, and immediately a hot ball of stress forms in my stomach. This is going to be a pain to deal with. We have to replace her and we can’t just replace her with anyone, we have to replace her with someone who meets our expectations for education and professional experience and who meets all of the state’s requirements as well.
I’m going to have to carve out time to conduct interviews, background checks, and a new employee orientation. The children in the classroom will be emotionally disrupted by the teacher turnover and an extra burden of stress will be placed on the existing staff in the classroom. There will likely be a parent or two upset with the transition and they will need some meetings, phone calls, or emails to help keep them calm.
There’s no two ways about it: when a teacher quits it is time consuming, expensive, and stressful.
Yet it persists as one of the biggest problems for the schools I work with, especially those schools who specialize in early childhood. Turnover is rampant at the early childhood level and it is a persistent issue for many schools, both public and private, at all levels. I have spent enough time working with leaders from many different schools to see some patterns in employee turnover.
Here is the one thing you can do to reduce teacher turnover in your school:
Build a Culture of Trust in School Leadership
This is probably the biggest reason I see people leave their positions at schools. It is really hard to show up every day and work for someone you don’t trust or fully respect, even if you like the person.
If you are seeing a lot of turnover in your school, the first thing you need to do is look at yourself and your behaviors and practices as a leader. How can you improve your reputation and standing with your team? Consider how to consistently employ the following teacher retention tactics.
Your staff will see you as trustworthy if:
- You announce decisions by providing context and building consensus.
- You refrain from having friendships with certain teachers but not others.
- You tell the truth and avoid telling “white lies.”
- When you share the truth, you include the uncomfortable facts people need to know.
- When it is important, you speak to them directly and avoid hiding behind email.
Your staff will see you as professional if:
- You celebrate joyfully with your staff without going out drinking with them.
- You never gossip or share confidential information with people who don’t need to know it.
- You follow school policies and protocols to the letter with consistency.
- You don’t allow problems to slowly build until you or the issue explodes.
- You speak to people with kindness and respect.
- You dress in a way that aligns with expectations for a school leader.
Your staff will see you as committed if:
- You expect and require everyone to work toward the school’s mission while also complying with all state, federal, and organizational expectations.
- You regularly observe them throughout the school year.
- You regularly meet with them and offer them personalized support and guidance.
- You rarely come in late, take long lunches, leave early often, and/or take frequent vacations.
- You start projects or implement policies and consistently follow through on them.
- You lend an extra hand during challenging situations in classrooms.
- You help out the classrooms regularly and offer support during hallway transitions.
Your staff will see you as generous if:
- You frequently offer your gratitude to people for the work they do.
- You publicly acknowledge staff for their years of service or celebrate their major life milestones like birthdays, marriage, children, and graduations.
- You ask provocative questions then do a lot of listening in staff meetings.
- You support them when parents are treating them poorly.
- You notice the signs of teacher burnout and step in to support them.
Your staff wants to work for someone they see as trustworthy, professional, committed and generous. The choices you make in how you show up in your relationship with your teachers each day will determine their perception of you. Just like with the children, you can start anew each day.
With the nation wide teacher shortage, keeping the teachers you have is key to your school’s success. Building a culture of trust in you as a leader is your best strategy. The success of a school always starts with leadership.
This article by RB Fast first appeared on beelineconsulting.net