Teacher Retention: How to Keep Great Teachers

By Kristen Cole
successful teacher with many great years to come standing outside her school

How to ensure teachers make it past year one

As school leaders, you may see the turnover rate in your own building, especially since the pandemic. Rest assured, you are not the only district facing this challenge.

Before the pandemic, about ⅓ of teachers left the classroom within the first five years. This number is overwhelming in itself.

Since 2020, that number has grown. Now about 55% of teachers say they will leave teaching sooner than expected.

There are great teachers in your school. The question is: “How do you get them to stay at your school?” 

Administrators and superintendents are asking themselves this question across the country. So, what can you do to encourage teachers to not only stay in the profession but also to stay in your district?

Why is the teacher retention rate important?

With about 50% of new teachers leaving the profession within their first five years, retaining teachers has never been more important than it is now.

These are teachers who are not just switching schools. They are leaving the profession altogether.

Schools started the 2022-2023 school year with record numbers of unfilled positions. Teachers who chose to stay are faced with more work to make up for these absences.

Your schools lack teachers. Fewer teachers mean less support for your students. It means larger class sizes and less individualized attention for your students.

There must be a way to encourage new and veteran teachers alike to stick around. Let’s look at several ways to inspire teachers to stay in your district ad boost teacher retention.

What increases teacher retention?

Generate Growth Opportunities

Teacher growth is important for teacher retention. One way to provide growth opportunities is to give teachers time for collaboration

You can work to set aside 30 minutes once a week for teachers to meet with one another. The school day can start 30 minutes later to give staff the opportunity to connect with each other. 

They can meet by grade level or courses taught. Teachers can discuss their curriculum, grading policies, or student behavior. 

Collaboration is proven to reduce burnout and improve student outcomes. Teachers won’t feel alone, and discussing student performance will only increase student outcomes.

Another great way to generate growth opportunities for teacher retention is by finding out what teachers are passionate about in regard to teaching, then encouraging them to pursue it. 

Do you have a teacher who loves designing curriculum? Maybe you have a teacher who likes to create cross-curricular projects? Someone else might like to look at student success data. 

Excite teachers by providing opportunities for them to spread their wings and work with what they are passionate about in committees, training, and just sharing those passions with other staff and your students.

Support Teacher Well-being

Mental wellness is vital for teacher retention.

The pandemic took a huge toll on everyone’s mental wellness. One way to encourage teachers to stay is to spend more time on their mental health.

Teachers deserve a break, too. Providing opportunities and resources for a break is very beneficial for everyone in your district, not just teachers. 

In fact, Headspace offers free subscriptions to teaching and support staff. You can also arrange access to school counselors or local counseling services for your staff.

You can also encourage teachers to create working hours for themselves. They don’t need to take all of their work home or answer emails at all hours of the night. 

Advocate for office or working hours, and then make sure you do the same.

Another great option for supporting teacher wellness is treating them like the professionals and experts they are. 

Many teachers don’t feel supported in the decisions they make in the classroom, from the curriculum to attending to student behaviors. These teachers have gone to school to get accredited to work with their students.

As a school leader, you can support them best. Show them you care about who they are as a person and a professional to improve teacher retention.

Boost Positive School Culture

Schools are a hard place to be post-pandemic. Teachers don’t feel appreciated. In fact, 98% of teachers feel undervalued by society.

You can change how your teachers are perceived inside your buildings. 

  • Start an Employee of the Month award
  • Have students write notes of appreciation
  • Get your PTA involved in monthly activities
  • Get your community involved in your school

The overall goal is to celebrate your teachers. Don’t wait for teacher appreciation month to arrive to do it either in order to retain your teachers.

Equip New Teachers

New teachers are so impressionable, and they make up a large portion of the teacher retention statistics. That first year of teaching is already difficult without the added stresses post-pandemic.

A mentor program would help new teachers feel welcome and find their footing in the classroom. Veteran teachers make great mentors because there is less pressure to feel perfect than it would be if the mentor were an administrator.

You can pair veteran teachers with new ones so that first-year teachers have another teacher to ask questions to, to share frustrations with, to solve problems with, and just to be an overall encouragement.

Promote Communication

Lastly, find ways to promote communication. You want your teachers to feel heard and included.

Survey teachers through Google Forms or Microsoft Forms. Sit down and have conversations with them not only about their classrooms but also their lives.

Improve teacher retention by making them feel seen and heard by you. Work with them as a team to improve school and working conditions.

Teachers are also in the classroom more than administrators. They often have ideas for how to improve situations in the school. 

Listen to their ideas. Listen to what is going on in their lives. 

You have wonderful, fantastic teachers working with you in your school district. 

You can encourage them to stay. You can lessen their burden by encouraging a work/life balance.

Work with your teachers to create a more positive environment so that teachers not only want to stay but you can also attract new teachers.

You can do it.

Do you have ideas about how to improve teacher retention as well as attract new teachers? 

Share with us in the comments below to encourage other school leaders.How 

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