As a school leader, you already know there’s a teacher shortage in the United States. Do you know what’s causing it? According to research by the Learning Policy Institute, the 112,000-teacher gap we’ll have in the United States in 2020 stems from a combination of falling teacher preparation program enrollment, a student enrollment increase, tightening student-teacher ratios, and high teacher attrition. (See infographic at bottom.)
You can’t do anything about rates of teacher prep or student enrollment, and while you might have some control over classroom ratios, attrition is the factor you can influence the most. The Policy Institute study reveals that teachers who feel support from their administrators are more than twice as likely to stay in a school as those who don’t. Support comes in many forms, but the study says these three strategies correlate strongly to better retention:
- providing professional learning opportunities
- allowing time for collaboration and planning
- inviting teachers to give decision-making input
So, where do you start? How about with technology? It touches every part of a teacher’s day and is a perfect conduit or context for implementing all three of these strategies.
Your teachers’ tech abilities probably vary from beginner to “could teach the computer class.” But technology changes often enough that everyone always has something to learn. Partner with a tech integration professional to design ongoing professional learning sessions that not only enhance teachers’ IT skills and their comfort with devices and programs but coach them to use technology in a way that enhances student achievement.
Technology also gives you the option to offer on-demand training in non-tech subjects. Student instruction time is precious. Give teachers the option of satisfying their own learning requirements with short virtual sessions that they can complete on their own schedule
Collaboration and planning
Cloud-based tools like Google Classroom and Microsoft Education have changed the education game. They simplify grading and organizing classroom materials, and they allow teachers to monitor student progress in real time. The cloud also is a perfect place for teachers to collaborate, leveraging each other’s knowledge and experience without always having to be in the same room.
Before you make your next school-wide classroom technology investment, ask teachers about their teaching styles, classroom goals, and what kinds of technology might help them meet their objectives. If you plan to buy devices, pilot a few with a core group of teachers first to determine which ones check the most boxes. You may not be able to satisfy everyone and every need, but if you include your people in the process and take their feedback seriously, they will be much more likely to support the final decision.
Whether you and your leadership team are considered supportive is ultimately in the eyes of your beholders—still, there are concrete steps you can take to ensure your teachers feel like you have their backs.