How to Survive the Teacher Retention Apocalypse

by | Feb 11, 2019

The teacher retention apocalypse is nearly upon us.

Here are three facts that we can not deny.

  1. Less college students are choosing to enter the teacher profession.
  2. Education (as a field) is only becoming more complicated- with increased roles of educators
  3. Not enough schools/districts are focused on retaining good teachers.

So, are we nearing the tipping point where soon there will be less teachers than we need?

We can’t see into the future – but we can start paying attention to the signs all around us.

When we are encouraged by the district to not take sick days without regard to our well-being, due to the fact that there are not enough substitutes. Or, how about when we look at the job boards mid-year and they are filled with positions available ASAP and we wonder, who is covering those classrooms? And even, when we begin to question our own position, passion, or purpose and there are no supports, no encouragement, and no training to help us build the resilience we need to remain in this rewarding and yet, very demanding profession.

A report published recently stated that education majors have decreased from 22% to less than 5% of college all majors. This trend is even worsened by the increased roles and positions within education. Just when we need MORE teachers to meet the needs of diverse learners – we are faced with less.

There are signs all around us that something must be done to increase teacher retention and #SaveTheTeachers. Click To Tweet


What is at the root of this impending apocalypse?

The issues are many and complex -but for the sake of a quick, hyperbole-filled look at the issue we can boil it down to two major factors.

1. Teaching has become less attractive

Pre-service teachers are still looking at their future professions as their chance to change the world, make an impact, and do good, but these altruistic desires have a lot to compete with these days. Access to other opportunities is more open and alluring than ever. This coupled with the negative press surrounding education (see budget cuts, violence, lawsuits, testing pressures…) can dissuade potential educators from looking positively upon the field of education. 

2. Less and less is keeping teachers in the classroom

Retirement plans are being slashed, pensions are being threatened, unions are being dissolved, and the fight for funding and livable wages rages on. The negative press surrounding teaching is hard to ignore. Let’s say that teaching, as a career could use a PR revamp.

In reality the added pressures and decreased number of supports is a perfect recipe for teacher stress and burnout and there are not measures in place to prevent burnout or build resilience within most schools.

How to Survive the Apocalypse

Okay admittedly we are letting loose with the hyperbole here – but when the writing is on the wall and there is an impending negative outcome that we can see coming, maybe a little exaggeration for effect is needed, no?

We can find the answer of how to survive the teacher retention crisis by looking at the root of the problem.

Put as simply as possible:

We can solve the teacher retention crisis by making teaching a more attractive career choice and helping build resilience in current educators. Here's how... Click To Tweet

The first part is the hard part.

To make teaching a more attractive profession for upcoming educators there are many factors to look at – compensation, media portrayal, working conditions, funding, etc. – but what can begin happening today is a change in the dialogue around many of these issues. By having two-sided conversations that don’t exclude the good or bad, but offer a realistic portrayal of what it means to be an educator today pre-service teacher can begin to understand the duality teaching – that days are hard but also rewarding.

The second part of much easier

Building resilience in educators takes a commitment from the school, district, or educators themselves to take action. No fragmented initiatives or one-day PD meetings on mindfulness or organization can truly transform the face of teacher retention. It takes an understanding of the causes, a toolbox full of strategies, and a tailor-made action plan meant to help each educator fight burnout and build resilience. If you or your district (discounts available) are looking to start a resilience-focused program check out the Joy in Teaching books and all that we have to offer to help you begin your or your school’s journey toward resilience.

So, are we doomed?

Absolutely not. We have to acknowledge the problems that are causing the teacher retention crisis and begin to address them, professionally and collectively. It’s not going to be an overnight solution just as it hasn’t been an overnight problem. But, anything worth having is worth fighting for. There’s enough of us to create change and together we can be begin to swing the pendulum back in our favor. After all, we are the teachers.

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