Teacher Shortage, Teachers Leaving the Profession…What Can Building Administrators Do About It?

wendyz@michiganprincipals.org's picture

For the last three years, my heart has continued to grow heavy as I see the marked decline in those interested in becoming teachers, as well as current teachers choosing to leave the profession. I still remember the excitement I felt when I opened the door to my own classroom for the first time and the great pride I felt when I told someone that I was a teacher. Even now, my favorite aspect in my current role is being in the field teaching adults – the joy of teaching, learning and connecting with people has never left me. While you may feel powerless as a building administrator to impact these declines, research shows there are definite areas where principals can, in fact, make a difference in teacher retention.

Sadly, many schools continue to have open positions at this point in the year. And even if your school doesn't have any vacancies, it’s still likely that you have experienced a dip in applicants for positions, as well as a decline in the quality of those who do apply. I recently watched a video clip of interviews after the teacher strikes in Oklahoma. The comments from teachers in the video resonated with many things I have heard from teachers in Michigan and made me want to search for a way to provide more support.

In numerous studies, researchers have conducted exit interviews with teachers leaving the classroom to seek employment in other industries. (Resource: How To Attract, Develop, and Retain Effective Teachers by Lauren Davis on schoolology.com) Outside of pay, seeking a location closer to home and standardized testing – factors a building principal really can’t impact – teachers cited the following six factors for leaving the field:

  • Lack of support for first year teachers (induction and ongoing support)
  • The need for personalized professional development that engages all teachers
  • Negative building culture (staff relationships, tone from administration)
  • No growth opportunities for teachers to lead from the classroom
  • Lack of input in decision making
  • Feeling underappreciated and a lack of recognition

Clearly, these areas are not things that building principals can impact on their own, but they are things that can be influenced and mindfully addressed. Over the next six weeks, I will be writing a series of Weblines articles about the six factors listed above and providing ideas and strategies to make an impact. I am also planning to do a breakout session on this topic at our upcoming AP Summit (January 28-29) and at EdCon (June 24-26). Nothing impacts student achievement more than the classroom teacher. We need to collectively find ways to help our current staff members so that they may continue to feel the joy of teaching that brought them into the classroom at the beginning of their careers.