5. Plan for a better work/life balance. A team of teachers, administrators and other school staff can improve the climate and community of the school by planning activities that support wellness. No, I don’t mean more canvas bags with inspirational teaching quotes on them! Many teachers are overwhelmed with paperwork and intense job responsibilities. School leadership can help by streamlining cumbersome paperwork processes, and providing as much clerical support as possible. Make sure the schoolwide duties are shared equally by classroom teachers and other school staff, because often the burden (and most of the pressure) sits primarily with classroom and academic subject teachers. Wellness funds can be used to improve the school climate and facility, and improve the health of school staff. Weekly running and walking groups, lunch potlucks, and yoga classes can improve morale and promote a healthy work/life balance for busy teachers.
6. Create an environment that compensates master teachers who continue to grow, evolve and perform. Most of the focus on teacher compensation has been raising the entry-level salaries of new teachers. While that is a great step, schools and communities should also create an environment that compensates master teachers who continue to grow, evolve and perform. Many midcareer and master teachers are facing nominal salary increases. For example, a 30-year veteran in my area of Vermont retiring this year would earn around $60,000. Many talented teachers nationwide see how they have to fight for small pay increases in a very public manner. Teaching is one of the only professions where the level of education and responsibility is not commensurate with its salary. There is no one magic bullet for retaining teachers. But we must work to make schools comfortable, creative, refreshing and exciting learning environments if we are to keep our nation’s best teachers in the classroom, providing the highest quality education possible. This is the elephant in the room. If we keep hiring great teachers, and then forget about them for years to come, many will continue to leave for higher paying, more innovative and better respected careers. We can’t let that happen.
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