Recruitment & Retention Opinion

10 Ways School Leaders Can Keep the Best Teachers

By Lillie Marshall — December 18, 2012 2 min read
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Lillie Marshall

I’ve been a teacher in the Boston Public Schools since 2003, but I almost quit teaching several times. What helped me stay, over and over, were the positive actions of my principals. Here are ten of those actions that school leaders can use to keep effective teachers.

1. Macro-manage. Give teachers the end goals, but don’t micromanage how we get there. The wrong way to do this was demonstrated by a friend’s headmaster who would frequently enter teachers’ classrooms and force them to rearrange their furniture.

2. Connect teachers with each other. Structure your school and your advice to turn teachers towards each other first for support, planning, and action, rather than having everyone turning towards you. Working in a teacher team has given a stupendous boost to my job satisfaction and effectiveness.

3. Be a thought partner and a coach. Provide us with teaching ideas by sharing articles, discussing best practices, and offering quality professional development. In turn, know us as intelligent professionals, and invite us to share ideas with you, too. Together, our knowledge can better student learning.

4. Have high expectations, backed up by evaluations with teeth. Take the time to evaluate out ineffective or poisonous teachers and administrators. This leadership shows you have high expectations that we should all work towards, and gives us pride in being part of a team of top-notch educators.

5. Know our teaching. Pop by our classroom unannounced several times through the year, even if you are not our formal evaluator, and look at the work our students are producing. Also be familiar with the testing and GPA data of our pupils. This will give you essential specifics to use when praising and coaching us.

6. Ask questions. Always be asking teachers, students, and administrators both general and specific questions to get as full a picture of the school as possible. Questions also give us the space to share ideas, frustrations, and triumphs.

7. Provide vital support and resources. Ensure we have the most essential teaching elements, including disciplinary backup, a sane schedule (four preps is crazy!), paper and copying supplies, kindness, and technology when possible. Delegate much of this to competent administrators.

8. Encourage self-care and having a life. Make sure we don’t stay at school ridiculously late too often. Remind us to sleep, eat, exercise, travel, and spend time with loved ones. Find a teacher to lead a “fun committee” with regular staff potluck breakfasts or after-school outings. These little touches make a HUGE difference.

9. Work hard and show intellect, but also be human. Demonstrate your professionalism, competence, work ethic, and effectiveness, but please crack some jokes and share some humanizing tidbits from your life, too!

10. Cultivate our growth. Know our strengths and interests well enough to connect us with leadership opportunities inside and outside of the school, and celebrate our successes. See possibility in us that we may not even see, yet!

Reader, which of these ways to keep top teachers most resonate with YOU? what would you add to or revise on this list?

Lillie Marshall has taught in Boston since 2003. Connect with her on Twitter at @WorldLillie and on her Around the World “L” and Teaching Traveling global education websites.

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