As our journey reaches the six-month timeline, we are beginning to see recurring themes, strategies, and concerns when our districts look to recruit and retain teachers. In working with each district within the Leaders Connect (E3+) family, it has been encouraging to see how HR departments approach these challenges with hope and fortitude. While some districts continue to struggle with “tough to fill” positions, all have experienced a dramatic drop from their vacancies which were reported to us in July! One of our districts reported 50 openings in July, dropping to 17 in September, and currently down to only 5! They attribute this success to virtual instruction classes that can be monitored with paraprofessionals, social media campaigns, and teacher referral incentive programs.
It has been so encouraging to not only hear about the great things occurring in these districts, but to be able to serve as a conduit for them by sharing what works, what hasn’t and potential ideas to consider.
This brings us to our December chapter! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! A time where we give and receive. With that in mind, we are filling your stockings with some quick insights that have stood out to us in hopes that you may find a new sense of joy during the holiday season as you look to improve your district’s recruitment and retention.
What’s in the Recruitment Stocking?1. Developing a connection with a local university is a great way to open a pipeline for future teachers.
We have been very active with our districts who are looking for ways to develop a more efficient pipeline between local colleges and universities and their vacancies. It is important to be proactive in your connections and seek how you can assist the post-secondary schools so that they can experience a mutual relationship. In our journey, we are establishing dates to speak to future college graduates on topics such as:
- Interviewing skills and knowing what to ask your future employers
- How to find value in networking
- A typical day in the life of a teacher through Q and A sessions
Additionally, we are encouraging the HR departments in our Leaders Connect family to reach out to future educators in their area by highlighting the positive benefits of the teaching profession that tends to get forgotten, such as:
- A consistent working calendar with built-in vacations, personal business days, and sick time.
- Employee health benefits that oftentimes surpass other career benefits
- A truly competitive salary with additional avenues for income
- Retirement benefits
- Sense of self-worth and making a difference in the lives of students
We have found additionally that the most successful districts are bringing college students into their districts to have them experience the culture. Administrators are making an intentional effort and investment to reach out to the local colleges and universities to create a visitation day that welcomes school of education cohorts to experience a day in their buildings. This is proven to be a great opportunity for future teachers to experience the climate in a building and equally, afford a chance to meet with current teachers.2. Districts are finding unique ways to celebrate new hires to create an immediate connection and a sense of community.
Our districts have been seeking strategies that serve as the best approach to marketing in a very competitive educational climate. Through collaborative and investigative approaches our Leaders Connect districts have utilized and shared some very innovative ways to be more attractive to this new breed of educator. While we have seen the importance of YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and other social media outlets that help promote a school district, there is still great value in the personal touch.
One of our family districts, Pike County in Zebulon, Georgia, does a bit of both!
One of their biggest successes, according to Director of Human Resources, Emily Johnson, is their “Hiring Moments” that they love to share. "In Pike County, we value relationships and putting people first. We have realized the impact and power that special moments have on individuals. One of these special moments is the "new hire offer"! We wanted our new employees to feel right at home from the get-go, so we only made in-person employment offers wherever possible. This meant that our school-based teams surprised them at their homes with welcome gifts, had students sing a hire offer song to a potential new music teacher, we even pretended to call an employee back in for a second-round interview only to offer her the Kindergarten Teaching position in her retired mother's old classroom. We included school swag, balloons, and flowers. We received fantastic feedback from our new employees, including, 'I feel like I won the Publisher's Clearinghouse!' These are moments that our new employees will never forget - these people are special to us - and they should be made to feel that way."
What’s in the Retention Stocking?1. Implement onboarding teams to prevent isolation and discouragement for new teachers.
New staff members need to feel a sense of belonging and the utilization of onboarding teams has proven to be tremendous in welcoming and retaining new teachers. So what are on-boarding teams?
- They consist of 3-5 staff members (typically non-administrative) who welcome new hires and are there to help transition new teachers as they begin.
- They provide year-long support with weekly and monthly official check-ins to see how the new teacher is feeling.
- They provide a ‘safe place' to ask questions as well as include/invite new hires to social events to help integrate them into the school community.
While most schools assign a dedicated mentor to each new hire, districts that develop and utilize on-boarding teams strengthen their schools' climate by encouraging new staff members that they immediately are a part of the family and develop immediate relationships.2. Don’t assume your veteran teachers are fine! The principal is the single most important determinant of retention or attrition and can support teachers through stay interviews, mentor selection, and coaching.
One important way that a principal can gauge the pulse of their veteran teachers is to implement stay interviews. During these sit-down chats, teachers are presented with some questions as reflective pieces on why they stay and what might be a deterrent.
- Do you feel you are being used to your full potential in your current position? Explain the “why” behind your answer.
- Do you feel you are appropriately recognized for your contributions?
- If you could, how would you change your day-to-day job to be more enjoyable?
- Can you describe a recent frustrating experience during the school day? How could the administration support you with this?
Another retention strategy is to ensure that as building leaders we are providing our veteran teachers with leadership opportunities. One avenue to take is to tap them as mentor teachers. Their vast experience and “in-the-trenches” wisdom are crucial to developing our new teachers.
Continued coaching is another key factor in retaining our veteran teachers. Guiding teachers who have years of experience takes sensitivity and a willingness to learn from them as well (Edutopia “Coaching the Veteran Teacher” by Peg Grafwallner). When working with veteran teachers, consider some of these suggestions:
- Ask to observe a class as a way to gather suggestions for new teachers.
- Never give the impression that the goal is to change the years of work they have done.
- As you reflect on the lesson together, be an active listener.
- Ask if they would be willing to share a lesson at an upcoming staff meeting.
We would like to wish each and every one of you a wonderful Holiday Season and we look forward to sharing some updates with you in the new year! Additionally, we encourage you to ask any questions or leave comments in response to our blog.
About the Author | Jana Anderson
Jana is an E3+ Recruitment and Retention Project Coach for MSD of Decatur Township. Through the E3+ grant, she will be providing support to 8 districts and 7 states around the country working with Human Resource Directors and Project Coaches. Prior to Jana’s current role, she was the principal for 10 years at the Gold Academy in MSD of Decatur Township in Indianapolis, Indiana. In her 30-plus years in education, she has served as a sixth-grade teacher and an instructional coach. Jana focuses on building relationships with students, staff, and families which creates a community-based approach to education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Indiana University and a master’s degree in administration from Indiana State University.
Follow Jana on Twitter, here.