A healthy system of education is reliant on many things, but chief among them is hiring and retaining great educators. Right now, however, the system and the educators working within it are overwhelmed.
Demands on teachers — along with burnout and low morale — are at an all-time high, and they’ve only been made worse by the teacher shortage and other hardships fueled by the pandemic. The stress is so significant that nearly half (48%) of teachers surveyed by TpT reported they’ve considered a job-related change. With evidence showing a strong link between burnout and attrition, the question for school leaders is: What can be done today to reduce burnout and teacher turnover?
When it comes to talking about the support educators need — especially around how to increase teacher retention — there’s no one better to ask than teachers themselves. In the State of Education Report, TpT surveyed thousands of educators to understand their top concerns and what the best strategies to address them. Here are a few recommendations from the report that school leaders can use to act quickly and strategically.
4 Ways School Leaders Can Improve Teacher Retention Right Now
Messages of self-care are insufficient without also providing more resources, better tools, and more prep time to address burnout. Check out these actionable takeaways from TpT’s State of Education Report that school leaders can implement right now.
1. Lighten the demands on teachers, wherever possible.
Schools are struggling to hire and retain staff, which has meant that teachers have had to take on additional responsibilities. Teachers are canceling their own medical appointments, teaching larger combined classes, and giving up planning periods and lunch times to cover for colleagues. All of this has naturally led to some frustration. Survey participants indicated that reducing demands on teachers is a key strategy to retain teachers.
So, what does that look like in practice? According to teachers, school and district leaders can:
- Reduce required meetings (and/or move meetings online)
- Provide a budget to purchase materials
- Schedule planning and collaboration time
- Set reasonable expectations for student achievement
- Deprioritize some required tasks
As a school leader, ask yourself, “Where can I reduce the workload for the extra roles my staff are taking on?” Ultimately, finding opportunities for flexibility in a traditionally inflexible school schedule can also go a long way to reduce workloads.
DOWNLOAD NOW: The State of Education Report by TpT
2. Create spaces for teachers to voice their concerns.
Creating safe spaces to meaningfully listen to educators’ concerns can help build a school culture where teachers feel valued and heard. When surveyed, just 52% of teachers agreed they felt valued as professionals. Of those teachers who reported feeling valued, they were much less likely to consider making a job-related change.
Low morale often builds up in places where there is no outlet for teachers to voice their frustrations and proposed solutions directly to leaders (without fear of reprisal). If you can provide opportunities for teachers to share their concerns — and then, follow-up with meaningful action — it’ll go a long way toward increasing teacher satisfaction.
3. Support work-life balance.
To help make a sustainable work environment, leaders can actively encourage their teachers to disconnect after working hours. Emphasize the value of teachers’ time by clearly communicating norms around availability. For example, encourage teachers to answer any emails or questions that come in after 6pm the next business day. Then, respect and enforce those norms, and manage expectations about communication with students and their families.
FURTHER READING: Strategies for Teachers on Work-Life Balance
4. Increase teachers’ sense of safety.
Over the course of the pandemic, teachers have a range of perspectives and concerns about teaching in-person. The first step in increasing a sense of safety among teachers is for administrators to build relationships with the teachers they serve. Knowing each teacher’s circumstances will allow school and district leaders to provide meaningful support.
With complex and ever-changing guidance from federal and state agencies, administrators have a challenging task to create a sense of safety for teachers. This sense of safety ultimately derives from strong relationships, clear communication, and consistent enforcement of guidelines.
While teacher retention is a challenge, especially today, there are steps school leaders can take to mitigate the stress on educators and foster a culture where teachers feel inherently valued. For more actionable takeaways around supporting teacher retention — and other top concerns — download the full State of Education Report by TpT.
Wondering how you can provide your teachers immediate relief? Learn why 85% of teachers say having TpT School Access® makes them feel more supported by their school leaders.