When you start a garden, you can’t expect a harvest in days or even weeks. The wait can be months or years long, depending on what you’ve planted—and while enduring that wait takes an immense amount of patience and care, the payoff is bliss.
The field of education is similar: you nurture your students and watch them grow until they’re ready to share what they’ve learned with the world. It’s a privilege to bring them through that growth and development, and it certainly can’t be rushed. This is where teachers and school staff excel, helping to create an environment where children can grow and thrive.
But who is nurturing those teachers? Who is building an environment where they can grow and thrive over time, too? K-12 administrators, this is where you come in. From a long-term talent acquisition strategy to ways to develop teachers and help them continue their education, you need to make sure your teachers feel supported by their school.
There is a genuine teacher shortage impacting schools across the country today, and experts predict it will continue—and even worsen—in the coming years. Many educators are approaching retirement age, with not enough new graduates ready to replace them. More acutely, educators of all ages are feeling burnt out after years of high pressure and stressful circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted many to leave the profession altogether.
This means keeping pace with turnover in schools isn’t just a matter of reaching the right candidates or offering the right benefits. The reality is that there may not be enough candidates to fill open roles.
It’s a frightening prospect because students in all communities deserve access to the attentive education they need to become healthy, happy, well-rounded adults. It’s also why administrators and schools need to focus on building policies and benefits programs that will help support the teachers they already have, as well as those that will help develop and attract the next generation of educators.
Let’s dig into some ideas in the latter category.
A classroom can feel like an island for many teachers, whether they’re new to the job or have years of experience. While the autonomy to run their classes as they wish is empowering, the lack of visible, nearby support can take a toll.
Additionally, education students might be looking at the upheaval of the K-12 world and wondering what it means for their future careers. “Will I feel that burnt out in a few years, too?” they ask themselves. “Will I want to quit?”
Fostering community among experienced, new, and emerging teachers can help address all of these challenges. In mentorship circles—more flexible and communal than traditional one-on-one mentoring relationships—small groups of educators and students can come together to discuss the issues that matter to them. Their shared perspectives inspire the creative thinking that will help tackle day-to-day conundrums, offer a sense of camaraderie that they can take with them into their schools each day, and keep that flame of passion for their careers burning.
For aspiring teachers, these relationships can also provide an important glimpse into what daily life as a teacher is like—and help establish networks and connections that will make them feel supported as they embark on their careers after graduation.
Administrators who host these groups for their teachers and students from nearby universities make a clear statement: “no teacher is an island in our school!” This reassurance, in addition to the connections they’ll forge within your district or school board, will encourage aspiring teachers to look to you for employment once they’re ready.
Hosting student teachers and interns can be an excellent way to nurture future teachers for your school. In-the-field experience before graduation has been found to improve effectiveness for new teachers, which means student teaching is an important step in an educator’s career development.
Additionally, while research shows that new teachers tend to seek jobs close to home, proximity to their student teaching placements is another compelling factor in where they’ll settle down after graduation. This means that nurturing student teachers can improve their outcomes in the classroom, encourage them to join your pool of permanent candidates in the long term, and give you a head start with onboarding new teachers to meet the needs of your district or school board and student population.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts and school boards with teacher education programs have also been less dependent on emergency substitute hiring to fill talent gaps. So not only does hosting student teachers help fill your pipeline for future hires—it can also mean more stability in your students’ education and your attendance sheets.
If you’re in a rural school district or school board, where student teaching placements tend to be fewer, look into opening up to this opportunity. And if you’re already hosting these placements, make sure they’re involved in your mentorship circles and are invited to participate in a full breadth of opportunities to see everything your school has to offer. It might help encourage them to stick around upon graduation.
Admittedly, this one is a very long play—but the teacher shortage is a long-term problem, and it needs long-term solutions. A 2019 study found that just 3.6% of high school students aspired to be teachers. Watching the pandemic wreak havoc on schools and contribute to teacher burnout may have taken a chunk out of what little interest there already was, as many universities’ education programs have seen a drop in enrollment.
Taking good care of your teachers will have a trickle-down effect on students, making them more likely to see education as a viable and beneficial career option in the future. Notably, students report that their teachers inspire them to pursue teaching as a career more than their peers or parents. So: happier teachers mean happier students, and more students who will go on to become teachers.
In addition to addressing compensation and benefits concerns, schools can inspire students to pursue teaching with “grow-your-own” programs. These programs allow participants to pursue mentoring opportunities, training, and even financial aid to gain exposure to what it’s like to be a teacher and encourage career development along that path.
Plus, grow-your-own programs are not just for students. Many schools also invite support staff and other members of their communities to participate in these programs to help enable career changes into teaching.
While many K-12 administrators have been busy trying to keep up with short-term turnover crises, hiring substitutes, and stemming the tide of burnout among their current roster of teachers, it’s been easy to ignore the longer-term initiatives that will help secure their future roster. If this sounds familiar, make sure you’re dialing back into those big-picture initiatives right now—and start the coming school year off with a firm plan in place for how to help develop the next generation of educators.
If you need an immediate influx of teachers for your school – why not try using video interviews & interview scheduling to gain some ground in the teacher shortage? We believe that using video interviews to screen teachers and scheduling to schedule interviews contributes to a healthy long-term talent acquisition strategy and allows you to reach 30% more candidates. If you’d like to talk about your K12 hiring strategy – let us know!
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Caroline Chessia is the Marketing Operations Specialist at interviewstream. She loves color-coordinated graphs, hiking in the mountains, and every dog she meets—especially the Golden Retrievers.