-Classroom Teacher, May 2018
By the time many of you read this week's blog post, you'll probably be just starting your summer break. I must admit that I am looking forward to those mornings where I can sleep until I get ready to get out of bed and those days where I can do what I want on my own time...ahhhhhh, the freedom of summer vacation! In my anticipation for a summer break as well as the last day of school when the staff departs for the summer, I can't help but think about those staff members who are not returning in the Fall of the year. In fact this happens in many school districts across the country. In recent years I have watched classroom teachers resign from their positions because the job has taken a toll on their physical and mental health. While teachers leave their jobs for obvious reasons (i.e. relocation, returning back to school full-time, being a stay at home parent, etc.) others leave because of the culture and climate that produces a toxic work environment...this unfortunately has a major impact on student achievement. Inconsistency in staffing from one year to the next creates a lack of trust for students; the unfamiliar faces each year makes it difficult for students to build a positive relationship with teachers. Inconsistency in staffing also creates many challenges for the new teacher in the building (i.e. learning the culture, and unspoken rules in the school, new curriculum, students, etc.) Even though the reasons listed may vary from school to school, the lack of teacher input and teacher voice are two factors that contribute to teacher turnover in just about any school.
In a 2015 article titled The Revolving Door of Teachers, professor Richard Ingersoll found that teachers feel they have no say in decisions that ultimately affect their teaching. In fact, this lack of classroom autonomy is now the biggest source of frustration for math teachers nationally. Ingersoll also found that one of the main factors that contributes to teacher turnover is the issue of voice, having say, and being able to to have input into the key decisions in the building that affect a teacher's job. This is something that is a hallmark of professions. It's something that teachers usually have very little of, but it does vary across schools and it's very highly correlated with the decision whether to stay or leave.
One way that school districts have made attempts to decrease high teacher turnover each year is by implementing a new teacher induction program. This program starts before the beginning of the year and gives those who are new to the district an opportunity to attend a week long Professional Development that provides them with insight about the district. During New Teacher Induction, teachers learn about school safety policy/procedures, meet district officials, meet members of the Teacher's Union, and of course they are provided with in-depth curriculum training as it relates to the grade they will be teaching for the upcoming school year. Schools across the country have also found other ways to support new teachers; one in particular is the coaching-mentoring program. New teachers ( and veterans teachers as well) are provided with embedded PD from Instructional Coaches. We support teachers by modeling lessons, co-teaching, planning, gathering resources, etc. These opportunities give teachers the comfort of knowing that they are not alone and that there are resources available to support them should they find themselves struggling throughout the year.
Through collaboration and team building, schools can begin to remove those barriers that aide in teacher turnover. When positive alternatives are in place, turnover declines, staff consistency remains stable, the school climate progresses forward, and of course student achievement soars! Here's to a wonderful summer break...now go out there and be GREAT!
What are some innovative ways that your school or district has worked to decrease teacher turnover?