How to Recruit New People into Education

Dr. Rick Bolling
Dr. Rick Bolling
Elementary/middle school principal; Ed.D. in Leadership
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The Teacher Shortage and Its Root Causes

For divisions to successfully recruit new teachers, school leaders must research and develop a key understanding of the teacher shortage and its root causes. All over, the teacher shortage situation is very prominent.

Avoiding difficult conversations regarding this issue is a mistake, because filling critical positions worsens rather than going away. School leaders must examine the shortage and provide sound reasons for candidates to apply, select the division, and remain with the division long-term.

Two overreaching themes seem to surround the teacher shortage: appreciation and marketing. Society must understand the vital role that teachers fill, and schools must market the career as a profession to enter. All persons need to believe they are valued, supported, and that their efforts are making a difference.

School divisions need to work with community leaders and state leaders to continue growing understanding of the pivotal role educators play in society. It is vital for everyone to understand how the teaching role has expanded and how the profession is the key to the future.

Schools can market teachers as professionals who make a difference in students’ lives. In addition, salaries, benefits, and support systems need to be advertised. The job market is now a teacher’s market in which a candidate can pick a division of choice, and because of this, divisions need to advocate for their schools and share why their program is the best.

In addressing the teacher shortage, leaders need to focus on two priorities: recruitment and retention. Retention is critical because the best way to combat teacher shortages is to be proactive and invest in your greatest resource: your people.

The Importance of Recruiting New People into Teaching

Schools must embrace that the process of how to recruit people has become a competitive task. Gone are the days when openings were listed in the local paper or on the division website. With fewer students entering teacher education programs, a division needs to be a destination for prospective teachers.

Research indicates most job searches now occur online, thus leaders need to embrace online marketing. Divisions should post openings on consolidated websites that ease the job search process for candidates. While candidates outside the immediate area are not as likely to look at individual division websites frequently, these same candidates often review these consolidated sites daily.

Posting to only well-known sources is not enough. Divisions must develop a brand that attracts candidates and gives them a reason to apply. High-quality resources and links should be included that sell the division and the surrounding area as a destination.

Once candidates apply, the teacher hiring process should be thoughtful. Questions and protocols need to be standardized, yet feel welcoming, to allow candidates equal hiring opportunity while also making the prospective teachers feel inspired with the possibility to be a part of something meaningful.

Looking outside the box to include meet and greet receptions for all candidates before the interview process can help leaders gauge soft skills. While academic skills can be taught, schools need to invest in getting the right people to make students feel connected and drawn to school. This is an investment as teachers set the tone for a school; it is crucial that everyone in the process finds the right fit.

Focus on Retention

Recruiting new teachers into the field is just one factor regarding the teacher shortage. Teachers are leaving the classroom for other professions at an alarming rate. Because of this, many leaders instantly set goals related to the salary piece alone. Although salary does assist in hiring teachers, it is only one of several factors that play into retention.

In fact, most studies do not have salary as the primary indicator of retention. Workload, support, and climate are often cited as equal to or more important than having the highest salaries regarding teacher retention. Teachers leave when stress, burnout, lack of appreciation, and resentment overshadow passion, joy, and connection to students.

Alternative Pathways to Licensure

School leaders need to look at innovative ways to fill key positions and hiring teachers. Working with university partners to streamline career change programs should be considered. Support and satisfaction are still essential for retaining these professionals. Divisions can look at strategic ways to provide these individuals a working wage while they pursue initial certification as an investment in the long-term stability of the district.

School Climate and Support

New teachers need to feel welcomed by the school and the division. Faculty retreats and new teacher induction processes can be critical. A family-like atmosphere needs to protect teachers as they venture into the field. Leaders should have high expectations coupled with tremendous support to reach those high expectations.

The climate should also align with the brand and be consistent across the district. Whereas leaders need to make tough decisions regarding personnel when the person in question does not align with the school climate and expectations, questions should arise regarding leadership when turnover is significantly higher in select schools.

Micromanagement and unreasonable expectations can quickly hurt a division’s brand. Further, implementing too many new programs can lead to increased turnover. Leaders need to invest and take care of people even in times of abundant candidates. With leadership, doing the right thing pays off in the long run.

Team building, faculty retreats, and mentorship programs are essential to the retention of all teachers but are most critical to new teachers. Yet, the program must be relevant and support to succeed; otherwise, the program becomes a burden. Quality induction programs help teachers build relationships and become invested in the community.

Financial Considerations

Although studies do not consistently list salary alone as the most significant indicator of teacher retention, salary and benefits are consistently in the top three factors related to teacher retention.

Teachers typically choose the field based on admirable intentions to make a difference and give back to the community, but everyone has to make a living wage. It is hard to see others with equivalent education who work fewer hours and make significantly more money.

Strong salary scales and comprehensive benefit programs are essential. Advanced degree stipends must also be competitive to show the division’s investment in continuing education.  In addition, education needs to look at how other fields are handling shortages, and retention bonuses should be considered.

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