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Want to Improve Teacher Retention? Create a Pipeline of Growth Opportunities

Want to Improve Teacher Retention? Create a Pipeline of Growth Opportunities

Innovative Leadership  |  Teacher Retention

In a 2018 study conducted by TINYPulse, a company specializing in employee engagement, it was reported that the top 5 reasons employees choose to leave their jobs are: poor performance management, lack of recognition, feeling overworked, company culture isn’t a priority, and lack of growth opportunities. 

As you read the top 5 reasons and consider possible ways to address these, some may seem easier to tackle than others. Staff not feeling recognized? Start giving regular shout-outs and highlight a teacher of the week. Poor performance management? Focus on leadership development for managers and improve the clarity and transparency of evaluation systems. Lack of growth opportunities? This is where we find many leaders get stuck, and naturally think, “If there are 40 teachers in my building and only 4 non-teaching leadership roles, it’s just not possible for all teachers to see growth opportunities.”

This thinking isn’t incorrect, but it is limiting. Rather than thinking about teacher growth opportunities like a math problem that doesn’t add up, what if we approached this like an art project? When leaders get creative, we can redefine what career growth looks like for educators and ensure that leadership roles aren’t exclusive to the chosen few.

Without leaving the role of a classroom teacher, there are many growth opportunities that can be expanded or created for teachers to develop expertise and serve as leaders. As you explore some examples below, we invite you to envision what these experiences and roles could look like within the classroom setting, the school setting, and the broader community setting.

Leadership opportunities within the classroom

  • Bridge to brain science - an expert in learning theory and child development who designs classroom learning experiences with this top of mind
  • Bring back knowledge - seeks learning experiences (i.e. webinars, conferences) and tries new ideas in their own classroom
  • Content connector - makes cross-curricular connections and real-life applications an instructional priority
  • Pilot - pilots new initiatives, programs, etc., and provides feedback to inform broader decision making

Leadership opportunities within the school

  • Grade level leader, Content Leader, Department chair - may lead meetings, make instructional decisions, or represent a cohort of teachers within a broader school leadership team
  • Part-time coach - has modified teaching schedule or uses planning periods to provide feedback and support to other teachers
  • Peer observation coordinator - organizes and communicates logistics of peers observing one another
  • Content expert - the go-to person for support building content knowledge, scaffolding instruction vertically
  • Data wiz - the go-to person for establishing systems, structures, and protocols for analyzing and gathering data to inform instruction
  • Good vibes guru - brings joy to staff through personal and/or professional celebrations and experiences big or small

Related Resource: Learn more about recruiting and retaining teachers in the blog post, Attract and Retain Teachers with Effective Methods Using Data to Define Needs

Leadership opportunities within the broader community

  • PTA liaison - serves as teacher representative to collaborate with and learn about the perspectives and needs of parents and families
  • Community partner - manages existing community partnerships and/or secures additional community partnerships to launch or support school initiatives (i.e. coordinating volunteers, bringing in guest speakers)
  • District rep - serves as a teacher leader on district committee or task force, attends board meetings, builds relationships with key district stakeholders
  • Presenter - presents at district-led professional development opportunities or external state or national conferences

There are many roles teachers can take on to stretch themselves professionally. The question to consider isn’t whether you can create these opportunities, but how you can make sure you are providing the right opportunities to meaningfully benefit your educators and retain top talent. To do this, ask yourself: what challenges or problems am I trying to solve with the creation of these leadership roles? How will these roles be determined, communicated, and designated? What does success in each look like? When will there be opportunities for others to hold these or additional roles at other points in time? 

With thoughtful planning and a dash of creativity, leaders can successfully create opportunities for professional growth that support the needs of teachers, and therefore, support the long-term success of their career as leaders of their classrooms.

If you're invested in recruiting top talent, retaining excellent teachers, and creating an environment for teachers to thrive and succeed - you should attend the Teacher Retention Leadership Institute. The two-day, targeted institute will give you the opportunity to learn from experts and collaborate with other innovative education leaders from across the country. Sign up today to save spots for you and your team!

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