The Great Resignation: How School Leaders Can Respond to Labor Shortages
March 10th, 2022
“The popular phrase refers to the roughly 33 million Americans who have quit their jobs since the spring of 2021” (Rosalsky, 2022). Its impact has reached nearly every industry, especially education and there are no signs of letting up any time soon. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing nearly 3 million educators, recently released a survey of members’ opinions on key issues facing public education during the pandemic. The results are alarming showing “55% of educators now indicate that they are ready to leave the profession they love earlier than planned” (Jotkoff, 2022).
But why? There are a myriad of reasons stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, which some may say have been some of the most difficult and challenging years to be an educator. Teachers have had to adhere to new COVID-19 protocols, learn new technology, teach remotely, deal with sickness, and cope with other impacts of the pandemic, which have caused a lot of stress. And now, schools across the U.S. are understaffed. Shortages have forced teachers to fill-in where needed and take on additional work obligations. Many educators are feeling “exhausted and increasingly burned out” (Rainey, 2022). In addition to these factors, an article from Fast Company explains, “…data elsewhere suggests that interest in the teaching profession has been waning for a decade, for a variety of reasons—the low pay, difficult working conditions, and little to no room for career advancement” (Rainey, 2022).
As a leader in your district, you are left to address staffing shortages in your schools. While it may be overwhelming, there are some things you can do to help turn the tides, keep the best and brightest on board, and fill these vacancies. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Create a Culture of Support
“The level of stress is exponentially higher. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before,” said one high school teacher in an article published last April (Cardoza, 2021). Lisa Sanetti, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, said, “Chronically stressed teachers are just less effective in the classroom” (Cardoza, 2021).
The mental health of teachers should be a priority for school districts. Especially since the mental health of our teachers directly impacts the well-being of our students. It is important to create an environment where teachers feel safe and supported.
Some schools are offering teacher support in the form of counseling services, support groups, free yoga and exercise classes, walking and running clubs, craft clubs, art therapy classes, self-care webinars, and other outlets to help them cope with stress.
Show Teachers That You Care
Teachers often feel unappreciated. A 2018 study by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE) found that nearly two-thirds of American teachers feel undervalued (Kominiak, 2018). This lack of appreciation can damage your staff’s morale. School leaders, especially school principals, can help in the following ways:
- Take the time to get to know your teachers and other staff members individually and on a more human/personal level.
- Recognize and celebrate growth and achievement internally within your school and externally with your community.
- Communicate openly and honestly, even if you don’t have all of the answers. Leaving your staff hanging and questioning provokes anxiety and mistrust.
- Hold fun team building events.
- Write handwritten thank you notes.
- Make sure your staff knows where they are headed. Nobody wants to be in a position where there is no opportunity for growth. Show them the way.
Offer Career Development Opportunities
Educators want the opportunity to grow, learn, and advance. Over the past couple of years, the education landscape has changed. In addition to keeping up with curriculum and course content, there is an increased need for teachers to learn how to use technology in the classroom, how to spot mental health issues in young people, and get adequate social emotional learning training in order to set students up for success. Providing teachers with development opportunities that help them adjust to these changes can be beneficial as it will make them more effective teachers while also fine-tuning their skills.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Support new teachers and veteran teachers by creating professional teams that include people with varying levels of experience and expertise, not just by grade level. This will help to promote retention “because the teachers feel they are members of something larger than themselves—working to support all students collectively” (Meyer, 2021). It also creates opportunities for teachers to come forward as leaders. Another benefit of this is that it provides students with a team that cares and monitors their development instead of one person carrying that weight on their shoulders.
Involve Teachers in Leading Change and Innovation
“The many barriers in the teaching profession need to be replaced with open doors through which teachers share their ideas, support each other, and lead in innovative ways” (Meyer, 2021). As a school leader, you have the power to create a culture where teachers’ voices, frustrations, and challenges can be heard. Develop committees to engage teachers on issues facing your school and students. Teachers have firsthand knowledge and experience and can help school leaders solve problems effectively.
Think Outside the Box to Fill Vacancies
Consider other pools of people that can help fill seats for the time being. For example, tap into parents, guardians, and grandparents of your students. Some of them may consider volunteering a few hours a week to help out. Williamsville North High School in Western New York staff’s its Snack Shack solely of volunteers from the community. Retired people in your community might also be looking for a small job or something to fill the time during the week. Create job sharing opportunities where teachers can team up to help one another and take breaks when needed. You might also want to put some extra effort into finding more substitute teachers. For more ideas, check out our article: Addressing the Substitute Teacher Shortage.
The Changing World of Teaching
Being a school district that has a reputation for treating its staff well is a good way to attract new teachers and retain your top educators. To address the challenges that come with the Great Resignation, your district may need to evaluate its recruiting and retention efforts to identify what’s working, what isn’t, and how it can be improved.
At SuperEval, we can help you attract and retain the best and brightest by helping you create a goal-aligned district. SuperEval is much more than an online evaluation tool. It can help leaders like you plan and work toward your goals. Schedule a quick demonstration and we’ll show you how.
Cardoza, K. (2021, April 19). ‘we need to be nurtured, too’: Many teachers say they’re reaching a breaking point. NPR. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2021/04/19/988211478/we-need-to-be-nurtured-too-many-teachers-say-theyre-reaching-a-breaking-point
Jotkoff, E. (2022, February 1). NEA survey: Massive staff shortages in schools leading to educator burnout; alarming number of educators indicating they plan to leave profession. NEA. Retrieved March 3, 2022, from https://www.nea.org/about-nea/media-center/press-releases/nea-survey-massive-staff-shortages-schools-leading-educator
Meyer, D. (2021, December 20). Teacher retention: How to keep the best from leaving. Elmhurst University. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://www.elmhurst.edu/blog/teacher-retention/
Rainey, C. (2022, February 1). Public schools are facing an existential great resignation of teachers. Fast Company. Retrieved March 3, 2022, from https://www.fastcompany.com/90717876/great-resignation-education-teachers-quitting
Rosalsky, G. (2022, January 25). The great resignation? more like the great renegotiation. NPR. Retrieved March 3, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2022/01/25/1075115539/the-great-resignation-more-like-the-great-renegotiation