Teacher Retention Trends

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Former Principal and Possip Reporting Team Lead, Amanda Richards, writes about teacher retention trends she is seeing from the 21-22′ school year pulled from our Possip Pulse Checks™.

Trends from Teacher Feedback Comments

Great teachers make great schools. Pandemic learning showed this – in how teachers made schools exist despite physical buildings, carlines, or cafeterias. Teachers are irreplaceable to almost every part of daily school functions.

At Possip, we see some trends in our staff Pulse Checks™ that set off “retention red flags” in my head as a former principal. 

The great news is that we have both the data and the means to hear from staff members through Possip. This can assist in making big improvements in teacher sustainability and retention. We wanted to share some of these “retention alarms” more broadly. We hope this can shed light on how teachers are feeling and why we believe focusing on teacher sustainability is important. 

After analyzing over 4,000 staff comments from this school year, here are some big trends:

Trend #1: Teacher Workload

Teachers are feeling stretched very thin. The number one trend mentioned was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work, requests for support to manage the workload or requests for decreasing the workload for teachers. Teachers feel they need more time to keep up with all the new requirements and duties. The keywords WORK, TIME, SUPPORT, and HELP are mentioned by teachers over 1,400 times in their comments. Here are a few staff comments:

  • “We need to prioritize reducing the workload and stress of our teachers before they all quit.”
  • I need the workloads to be distributed more evenly.”
  • “Please figure out how to reduce the workload of teachers.”
  • “Teacher aids would be really nice especially if principals keep adding to a teacher’s workload. You can’t keep adding to our overfilled backpacks. Teachers are humans with lives and families outside of the classroom.”

Trend #2: District Level Topics

Many teachers commented on district practices, expectations, and decisions. District decisions are very intimately and immediately impacting teacher’s lives and work environments like never before. Some teachers are feeling like they are not cared for, thought about, or respected at a higher level. Over 430 comments referenced the word DISTRICT. In addition, teachers feel like compensation and salary are not fair or reasonable. Over 300 comments reference PAY, BONUSES, or COMPENSATION. The way district leaders communicate to teachers and make district-wide decisions is very important for teacher retention during this time. Here are a few examples of real staff comments:

  • “COVID is not being handled well by the district, and is putting all of us at high risk, including our at-risk family members.”
  • “When will the district hire a [elective] teacher for every elementary? Larger classes of 30+ students and also adding special need classes to the same class is a lot!”
  • “When is the district going to extend some grace to their teachers?  we keep being told to take on more and more tasks daily, and weekly and are expected to do so with a smile while extending grace to others.  when will that grace be extended to us?!”
  • “I’ve dedicated 23 years of my life to [my district] and since covid began, I feel the district cares more about its political aspirations than it does its employees at the school level.”

Trend #3: Teacher Mental Health

Teachers are sharing that they feel burned out, overwhelmed, unsafe, and stressed. More teachers than ever are reaching out for mental health support, resources, and the ability to focus on their self-care more frequently. As a former teacher, I know that the role of a teacher is so much about others, that it can be hard to focus on yourself. However, teachers are calling out for that and need this mental health support more than ever. Over 100 comments from staff used the words MENTAL HEALTH or STRESS. 

  • “I am still struggling with work/life balance. The feeling overwhelmed by action items is more prevalent and I am being asked to stay in the building far later than I would want. I would prefer more alignment with joy and mental health, not just for students but for teachers. Taking care of one’s mental health requires time to invest in ourselves, beyond just eating and going to bed.”
  • “Teachers need more support with mental health. There is not enough time for teachers to get everything done that is expected of them and have a personal life. “
  • “I don’t feel like the district leadership is truly taking teacher mental health seriously. This is not a normal school year, yet we are being asked to function as though it is.”
  • “Teachers are stressed and overworked. Please consider that before adding more tasks to our plate. We love our students and want the best for them. However, I think we should consider subtracting action items or replacing them with something more sufficient. This can make room for teachers to complete all that is expected of them.”

I would like to conclude with an important note: The word STUDENT is written far more than any other keyword found in the 4,000 staff comments. STUDENT was written about 800 times by teachers and staff members, which shows their dedication, selflessness, and motivation. Students are the focus of teachers, and it’s important to keep in mind that supporting teachers is supporting students.

If you are interested in getting district or school-specific data from your staff members through staff Pulse Checks™, reach out to amanda@possip.com. This could be the first step in assisting in teacher retention! Here are some additional ways to help retain teachers!