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May 17, 2022

5 Questions for Leaders Who Want Teachers to Succeed and Stay

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The staffing crisis requires immediate action and fresh thinking.
School Culture
5 Questions for Leaders Who Want Teachers to Succeed and Stay
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The numbers on teacher retention are in and they don't make for easy reading. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked its havoc, researchers estimated that 44 percent of teachers would leave the profession within their first five years. In January 2022, a National Education Association survey of members found that 55 percent intended to leave the profession earlier than planned. Black and Hispanic educators planned to leave at even higher rates. At the same time, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the ratio of hires to job openings in the education sector reached new lows as the 2021-2022 school year started. There were 0.59 hires for every open position, compared to 1.06 in 2016.

Taking Time to Pause and Reflect

As you prepare for a new school year this fall, here are five questions and resources to refresh your thinking in the areas of teacher induction and retention.

1. What’s the trick to building confidence among my new teachers?

We need new teachers to believe in their potential to impact student learning. There are powerful ways we can help them thrive while enhancing school culture. As leaders, we must protect them, support them, and give them the confidence to succeed. Be present for new teachers. Check in early and often as they start out. Model behaviors to help them set boundaries. Consider assigning a mentor to communicate to a new teacher that this is who we want you to be like. Help them navigate time-management for self-care and well-being. Be ready to encourage risk-taking, provide needed support, and share new approaches to build their sense of self-efficacy. These practices can foster a more cohesive school culture where teachers believe in their capabilities.

2. How can I orient new teachers so they’re ready to jump in?

Revisit your educator induction program. Collaboration, agility skill-building, well-being, and a greater emphasis on inclusion are all part of a learner-centered culture. New digital infrastructures and a demand for more differentiated instruction to meet the needs of each individual student creates a growing demand to better prepare educators. Educators need the skills to adapt quickly to new instructional models and build their practices based on evidence. It is up to school leaders to provide meaningful professional learning experiences that help make this a reality. Before this year ends, take stock of what worked—and what didn’t—for new teachers. When planning next year’s onboarding, find out what current novice educators feel was missing and what they had to learn on their own. Learn how to foster resiliency.

3. How does my leadership style support new teachers?

New teachers may benefit from a different, more empowering style of leadership—transformational leadership. This leadership method supports better team performance as it aims to motivate followers with aspirational goals and a collective sense of purpose and vison. It does this by creating a collective sense of purpose, defining collaborative goals, and encouraging risk-taking, continuous learning, and self-reflection. Those who have experienced transformational leadership styles reported greater feelings of efficacy, more social support, and less stress. Most importantly, they performed better on the tasks. Leaders who believe their actions (not external forces) control outcomes outperform teams led by those who blame extenuating circumstances for poor outcomes. We should reflect on our personal leadership philosophies and journeys and help new teachers shape their own leadership stories.

4. How can I empower teachers on their professional journeys? 

Professional development is essential to school improvement and educator growth. It can increase the likelihood of new teacher success and help retain our most valuable educators. There is always merit in helping teachers identify a goal they really want to meet, whether it comes from a place of strength or challenge. When teachers have agency to choose their professional learning goals, they’ll gain momentum. Identify the professional learning needs that will be rewarding for the individual and that will extend goals you have prioritized. The focus of professional learning is helping teachers achieve what matters deeply to them.

5. How can I enhance my school culture to help new teachers thrive? 

New teachers can foster culture shifts when they are empowered and supported. Be intentional about mentoring choices and how feedback is provided. Setting new teachers on the right track early in their careers is a game-changer. Take the pulse of the school or system to look for warning signs of a toxic culture. Provide early career teachers with networking and professional learning communities. Build trust. Ask them to share what they value most about their work and seek to understand the alignment with your organization's core values.

Change That Endures

Key practices can nurture novice teacher talent and growth and sustain longevity. Evaluate each of these commonly asked questions carefully and explore the provided resources. You’ll find that with some rekindled commitment, you can alter the culture of your organization, making it a place where teachers want to plan their tenure.

Your ASCD Professional Learning Partners

ASCD is here to help educators and leaders reach their full potential. Our partnership team can support your goals with professional learning that improves your craft of recruiting and retaining life-changing educators.

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Christopher Grethel holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education, Master of Science in Literacy Education, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from SUNY Oswego. He has more than twenty years of experience in public education serving as middle and high school teacher as well as in building and district leadership positions.

With an expertise in data analysis and assessment, Grethel has worked with educational leaders on improving academic achievement. Through an emphasis on thought partnership, he supports districts in planning and implementing customized learning plans that embed sustainable approaches to professional learning initiatives.

States supported:

  • Massachusetts

  • Maine

  • New Hampshire

  • New York

  • Vermont

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