Teachers in Education Today.
We recently sat down with expert teachers from elementary, middle, and high school, building and program administrators, and district administrators for a Florida Association of School Administrators Focus Group on Teacher Recruitment, Retention, and Absenteeism. Teachers nationwide are fed up with trying to educate the nation’s children with little support and adequate resources to succeed in the classroom. There is an increasing dissatisfaction with working conditions and feelings of lack of support.
If teachers are striking throughout the country and teacher discontent is high we have to take a look at how can we fix the problem. Compiled below is what we learned from the Teacher Recruitment, Retention, and Absenteeism Focus Group that we co-hosted with the Florida Association of School Administrators.
Focus Group Question 1: Why is there a teacher shortage and why can’t we recruit the best teachers?
Finding: Salary is the most important factor.
“Recruitment is all about dollar and cents. It all comes down to salaries. We show the benefits but they want to know the salary.”
“Approximately 10% of our staff are leaving – we can’t recruit because we are a small rural community and we cannot afford to pay decent salaries.”
Focus Group Question 2: What can we do to recruit our best teachers? Why do they leave our district?
Finding: Empowerment and support are the most important factors.
“Retention is all about a culture that supports teachers.”
“Lack of support from teachers and team members – when you feel like you are a lone soldier and fighting battles alone, you don’t want to stay [note the metaphor the teacher used]. When you lose a good admin, it makes a difference.”
“Teachers do not leave because of pay or salary. They complain about pay AFTER they experience an extended lack of support but with good admin team who support you and who you can trust, pay is not the issue. When you are treated like a professional pay stub is not all that important.”
“At some point, without trust, we will eventually have that breaking moment.”
“There are some places and some bosses that no amount of money will keep you there.”
“We have had two schools in the same district and the achievement in one improved because of MORALE.”
Focus Group Question 3: Why is teacher absenteeism increasing?
Finding: Teachers no longer view the profession as a long-term career choice, and therefore have a different worth ethic.
“They don’t see it as a long-term career.”
“Teachers are not leaving days on the table because for most teaching is no longer a permanent career.”
“Younger teachers do not understand that this is not your typical job – good leadership needs to help them understand that a day out is a day of lost instruction; the younger teachers just want some more time for themselves. We older ones did not think that way.”
“During one of our PD days, a brand new teacher spent the whole time on his phone and when the admin called him on it, he told her “I can learn everything here from my phone.” It was disrespectful but may have been true. This is a general attitude for millennials and we need to learn how to deal with it and engage them.”
Focus Group Question 4: What are your reflections on the taxes/dividends and what are some specific actions that leaders take to create trust.
Finding: Flexibility, autonomy, and listening are at the top of the list.
“Listening to us to get our perspective on problems and solutions.”
“Treat us respectfully and as professionals.”
“LISTENING! We are a small school district so we can build trust and retention by working with district admins who want to work with us and FOR us.”
“The best superintendents make it very clear what the mission and what the “why” is. Put people in positions that are open to change and listen. Give flexibility to folks that are doing the work. Walk the talk.”
“Trusting leaders build capacity.”
The focus group supported that schools must foster trust and collaboration to reverse the trend of teacher churn and positively affect the current climate in our schools. Here at ClassWallet, we are working to empower teachers providing them with more autonomy and trust with their own classroom budgets to get the resources they need to be successful in their classrooms.
If you want to see how this works in practice, set up a time that works for you to see it in action: https://calendly.com/mpage