#Edchat Recap: Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Great Educators

This week’s afternoon #edchat on Twitter tackled the question, “How can we recruit and retain good teachers?” A vast array of opinions were represented in the discussion, but the message was clear – good teaching cannot be calculated with a formula; good teaching is an art form. This is not to say that great teachers are born. Indeed, with adequate training, support, resources, and mentors, great teachers can be made.

Unfortunately, high stakes testing is changing the foundation of education. Ineffective policy, inadequate pay, and increasing class sizes are leading to rapid teacher burnout. #Edchatters all over the globe discussed and debated the issue this Tuesday. Below are my big takeaways, in no particular order.

Reshape society’s view of teachers.

If we truly value education as a society, then we must place more value on teachers. Teaching itself should become a more prestigious job. Yes, the heart of teaching should be about inspiring life long learners, BUT in order to recruit and retain the brightest, most talented individuals to the teaching profession, teachers must be paid (with respect and salary) what their work is worth.

One edchatter, @olafelch, compared it to the chicken and the egg situation. Without prestige and adequate pay, the teaching profession attracts mediocre applicants; with prestige and adequate pay, the best and the brightest will move into the teaching profession. Another edchatter, @cybraryman1, agrees that “Signing bonuses, housing allowance, [and] combat pay are some ways to attract potentially great educators.”

Incorporate better teacher training and support.

Teachers need to be able to choose their professional development opportunities. We differentiate for our students needs, why are we not differentiating for our teachers? Furthermore, why are we expecting beginning teachers to be performing as well as veteran teachers? Just as we scaffold learning for our students, we must do the same for our new teachers as well.

Create a culture of collaboration among teachers NOT competition between teachers.

Teaching is not a business and students are not products. Teachers shouldn’t have to spend so much time recreating the wheel. Encourage teachers to take advantage of professional learning networks globally such as The Educator’s PLN and professional learning communities locally. Teaching resources should be shared and made readily available to all teachers. BetterLesson is currently beta-testing an online resource exchange and collaboration tool for teachers to share curriculum resources.

Administrators and policy makers should appreciate and trust the professional judgment of teachers.

Teachers know their students best. Increasing teacher appreciation and freedom in the classroom will enhance creativity and possibly revive the love of learning not only from the students’ point of view, but from the educators’ point of view. With more freedom, teachers must also be willing to be more open and transparent in their practices.

Reward good teachers. Do not fire struggling teachers; instead provide them with more training and support, as we do our struggling students.  

Firing teachers or threatening to fire teachers that do not make adequate yearly progress is not the answer. This lack of trust and appreciation of teachers does more harm than good. It scares away new teachers, causes young teachers to flee, and veteran teachers to retire. Poor policy and political agendas are turning great, passionate teachers into poor, apathetic teachers. They must be revived, shown their value and supported in their role in 21st century learning. Merit pay is a place to start for rewarding good teachers, but we must first define merit. We cannot base it solely on standardized test scores.

Increase purposeful planning time for teachers.

For many teachers, the truth is, so much time is wasted in faculty meetings discussing negatives and completing busywork masquerading as professional development. Planning time for teachers should be purposeful and collaborative. Teachers should walk away from prep time with concrete ideas and resources for their classrooms. In order to be successful, teachers need time every day to analyze data and plan purposefully for their students’ success.

Continue to reshape our educational system.

Learn from successful education systems in other countries. How are they recruiting and retraining teachers? How do they approach education? One edchatter, @joe_bower, highlighted 3 paradoxes from Finland’s educational system that we can learn from. “1. Teach Less, Learn More. 2. Test Less, Learn Better. 3. The better a high school graduate is, the more likely she will become a teacher.”

Invest in education.

Enough said.

Engage parents and the local community.

The evening #edchat discussion centered around the question, “What methods or techniques do we use to increase parent communication?” Gaining parent trust, sharing concerns and accomplishments with parents regularly and in a variety of ways – including taking advantage of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as a school-home connection tool were just a few of the suggestions. For a more thorough recap of the evening discussion, click here

Questions for Discussion: Please share your comments!

  1. How does the historical gender wage gap play a role in teacher salary today?
  2. When and how did teaching become a profession that is often looked down upon in society?
  3. How can we get more teacher insight into the minds of policy makers?
  4. What will it take to revive once passionate, now apathetic teachers?
  5. What other countries can we learn from?

Photo from Roger Blackwell

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