Teaching is often considered a noble but thankless job. With reductions in resources and bigger class sizes, being a teacher has become even more challenging in recent years. According to a report from The Guardian, more than a quarter of all newly qualified teachers leave the profession within the first three years. Things get even more complicated when you realise that the number of people completing training programmes is not meeting demand. In fact, the Department of Education is expecting serious shortfalls in years to come.
Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers was quoted by The Guardian saying:
“[Education ministers] need to face the fact that schools have become more difficult and less rewarding places in which to work. Intense workload and the demands of high-stakes testing create an environment where job satisfaction is becoming rare.”
Indeed, some of the reasons for leaving the profession included excessive workload, a demoralising assessment system, and the constant pace of change in education. No matter the industry, it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to stick around when resources don’t match the demand, and where purpose gets lost in bureaucratic processes.
When employees are demoralised, they become easily disengaged from their work, which makes retention nearly impossible. And when a profession has a reputation for burning people out within the first five years, recruiting can be difficult. Ultimately, students suffer the most in this kind of environment where teachers are disheartened and detached from their work.
These are all culture issues that can be addressed in a number of ways.
- Ask for feedback. When people are under pressure, they often find it difficult to be open and up-front about what’s not working for them. If retention is low and something seems amiss, consider conducting an anonymous survey to collect feedback from teachers and staff, to find out what they consider their biggest challenges. But don’t just settle for what’s not working, invite them to offer suggestions for how to make things better as well.
- Do a culture reset. Armed with the feedback from your team, you should have plenty of information about what and how to improve the conditions at your school. While resources might be limited in some instances, see where you can use some those suggestions to create an empowering environment where teachers feel supported by administrators. Doing away with a toxic culture may be harder than you think, and will take some change and management know-how.
- Recognise and reward culture alignment. In addition to the assessments and performance appraisals, reinforce the culture shifts by recognising teachers and staff who work well within the new framework. Be sure to identify the specific behaviour that aligns with the new culture standards. This kind of reward and recognition will help solidify the culture and encourage any hold outs to follow suit.