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3 Strategies to Increase Teacher Retention

Olivia Jones
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2021 has brought many changes for the better in the United States. Widespread vaccine accessibility has improved health incomes and slowed the spread of COVID-19. Despite the rise of the Delta variant, there are plenty of signs that things are changing for the better. Still, hopes that teachers could return to ‘old times’ have somewhat faded with new challenges like making up for missed learning time. We still face many barriers to normalcy in our education system as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19 and work to help students come back from last year’s educational volatility.

And at this moment when we’re asking a lot of our teachers and education system, teachers are struggling. Almost half of public school teachers who have left education since March 2020 cited the pandemic as their main reason for leaving. Research found that teachers were nearly twice as likely to say that they left due to stress than due to inadequate pay. 30% of teachers surveyed said they were likely to leave the profession in the next five years. 

Other Challenges Teachers are Facing

  1. Addressing learning deficits. Virtual learning due to the pandemic left many students behind. The average student is between three and 12 percentage points behind national standards. Students from schools with high poverty rates, younger students, and students of color have been among the most impacted by this new learning deficit.
  2. Substitute teacher shortage. Substitute teachers are always necessary, but as schools restart in-person instruction and cope with COVID exposures and mandatory quarantines, they become even more important. Unfortunately, many school districts across the country are experiencing a severe substitute teacher shortage. One district in Nevada may have to return to hybrid instruction because their substitute teacher pool has shrunk too drastically to handle teacher absences from COVID.
  3. Balancing live and virtual instruction. Even in districts that have opted to return to entirely in-person education, teachers are coping with quarantine policies that often have them managing students learning synchronously  while others learn asynchronously at home. Students sent home due to COVID contact tracing measures may not get the same standard of education they do when in-person at school, further exacerbating the learning deficits of the last year.

Many teachers are ready to quit in favor of jobs that offer better pay, less stress, and less risk of COVID exposure. But it’s crucial that schools retain their teachers, especially as they work to get students back on track after a difficult school year. Teacher quality is one of the most important factors of student achievement, and replacing teachers is difficult and expensive.

3 Strategies to Boost Teacher Retention

Jumpstart Joy for Teachers and Students

Last school year was difficult and emotionally exhausting for teachers and students. Improve teacher retention by bringing the fun back into education! By incorporating play-based learning and fun educational technology into the classroom, the learning process can be more enjoyable for everyone involved. Using a student-led learning style, in which students guide their own learning through exploration, creativity, and investigation, can also make education more fun. By encouraging students to be curious and take agency in their own education, teachers aren’t under as much pressure to make one learning style work for every single student.

Literacy teacher Maureen Armour from Nova Scotia brings joy into the classroom by participating in coding competitions that are offered by Unruly Studios throughout the year. During the back-to-school coding competition called Go Bananas!, Maureen tracked her classroom's daily progress on the whiteboard. She sees opportunities to embrace student-led learning with the Splats, as she encourages her second graders to suggest code modifications that could help boost their score in the competition.

Maureen's Go Bananas! scoreboard
Maureen's Go Bananas! scoreboard
A post on the Unruly Splats forum by Maureen Armour
A post on the Unruly Splats forum by Maureen Armour

Boost Teacher Confidence

When teachers are confident and satisfied in the classroom, they are able to give their best to their students. Help teachers be their best by giving them tools that make their job easier, and thereby improve their confidence. The Unruly Studios forum offers educators a space to share coding tips, find new favorite activities, and brainstorm new games. It’s a community for educators to take comfort in when they need extra support.

A post on the Unruly Splats forum from members of the community
A post on the Unruly Splats forum from members of the community

Celebrate Wins

Recognition for a job well done is important for job satisfaction no matter one’s career field! You can improve teacher retention by recognizing your teachers for their hard work. There’s lots of ways you can celebrate wins at your school, no matter how small.

South Euless Elementary School celebrates its educators by sending out a weekly newsletter acknowledging individual teachers’ hard work as well as community successes. They recently recognized librarian Angela Brown for leading her students to victory in the Go Bananas! coding competition!

HEB ISD newsletter featuring Angela Brown and her success with Unruly Splats
HEB ISD newsletter featuring Angela Brown and her success with Unruly Splats

During this difficult time, teachers need support from administrators, staff, and parents. Improve retention rates and teacher satisfaction by using these strategies to make work fun. When teachers are happier, students benefit. It’s a win-win!

For more strategies on how to bring joy to your educators and school, check out this article on how to incorporate play-based learning into the day

Unruly Studios makers of Unruly Splats, programmable, stompable floor tiles that help kids learn fundamental coding skills through recess-style play. Best for elementary and middle school students from PE to science or coding class, a great addition to the classroom for active STEM coding and play!

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