Administrators’ Note: New Teachers May Lose the “Spring” in Their Step

In celebration of the first day of spring this week, this article, appropriately titled, was submitted by a teacher who was completing her first year at a new school a few years ago.  Does it resonate with what happens at your school?

“Why do our new teachers keep leaving?”

The thought must marvel school administrators since they keep asking the question.

New teachers have really tough skin.  They make it through rigorous college and graduate level courses, several rounds of grueling interviews and even survive state test preparations, critical classroom observations and evaluations.  Their skin becomes tougher by accepting rejection, but when all the interviews and time and gasoline spent in journeying lands them just one job offer, they venture to a new location, establish residency, and begin a new chapter in their lives.  So come spring, why do your new teachers want to run screaming from the building after they’ve already made it through the most difficult parts of the school year?

As a newer teacher, I’ve discovered it’s the little, daily things that gradually tarnish all the things I’ve accomplished to become an educator.  Some of my colleagues and I have entered a new school as bright and excited teachers, full of hope and possibility, but leave as decrepit, old worms – by the following June.

If you don’t want your school to lose all the new, dedicated, technologically savvy teachers who have the energy and passion to carry out the changes happening within the education space today, here are a few considerations to improve teacher retention:

  1. Respect us.  Don’t just tell us – show us.  We’ve all made sacrifices – financial, geographical, familial, etc., to be educators at your school.  Make us want to refer to it as our school.  It goes a long way if you come to meet us once we’re hired, or learn the correct pronunciation of our names when you refer to us in staff meetings.  Give credit where it’s due and have a meeting with us once or twice a semester.  Remember what it felt like when you were a new teacher.
  1. Support us.  Require that support from your current administrative staff, too.  Recognize problems your school faces and take steps to deal with them.  Sweeping issues under the carpet is ineffective and will have a cost, whether in financial penalties or personnel attrition.  For instance, perhaps invoices go unpaid until vendors have issued several warnings – not to the finance office, but to the teacher that placed the orders. When an inquiry is made, either passive-aggressive emails ensue from the business office, or the requests are ignored, causing administration to panic at audit time.  If situations like this are not addressed, teacher attrition will continue.  Or, perhaps such behavior is by design to keep expenses in check, since a new teacher’s salary will be lower than one who’s been employed for several years.
  1. Communicate with us.  Students learn best when given constructive feedback.  Teachers perform better with constructive feedback too.  We know you’re busy with paperwork and mandated obligations, but that’s the “modus operandi” in the education space today.  We are keenly aware that many times,  your hands are tied and money is tight.  But it doesn’t cost anything to listen.  Responding to email in a timely manner could be a first step toward improving communication, and with something a little more substantial than, “Okay.”  Invite those who have concerns to propose potential solutions, and empower them with the responsibility to lead effective change.

What is the personal benefit to an administrator who implements these suggestions?  You may have fewer interviews over the summer, and can enjoy a bit of relaxation before the next school year begins.