With teacher shortages on the rise, the question still lingers, how do we fix the problem?

According to Best Selling Author and Award-Winning Educational Speaker, Sam Glenn, “The solutions are not as complicated as everyone makes it out to be. There are some very effective, yet simple actions educational leaders can do to enrich and even transform their culture into a place where teachers love to work.”

Sam Glenn delivers more than 100 impactful speeches a year at conferences and professional development day meetings, empowering educational leaders who care about cultivating a culture where great people can look forward to work, feel safe, be empowered, valued, and grow. What is interesting is not a single school Sam has spoken to in the past few years is struggling with staffing issues. So, what can be learned from this? Simply put, success leaves clues. While the list of actions and opinions can be quite extensive and overwhelming, Sam offers five proven concepts that contribute to creating a place where teachers love to work.

1: Feedback is your friend.  This means – LISTEN. You may not like everything you hear, but any information can only equip you with the opportunity to make improved changes. If you look on teacher forums, they communicate exactly what their struggles are.  Don’t make assumptions, go right to the source. If you are not getting direct feedback, the question is, “Why?” Do teachers not feel safe expressing concerns? Do they not trust who the information is being provided to? Learn to listen without judgment. Allow yourself to process new information so you can make the best choices and take the right actions. 

2: Remove distractions and limitations. Someone who loves to teach doesn’t just stop loving it one day. The requirements to teach is a true testament of someone’s passion to teach. However, when the costs outweigh the return on investment, apathy takes root. It eats away at what was once a promising purpose. The love of teaching may still be there, but the cost becomes too much to carry —mentally, physically, and financially. So, identify and take action on what limitations are melting the joy of teaching —is it low pay, workload, or leadership? Some fixes are not quick fixes, but people sure get excited when they know you are working on their behalf to make what they do better. Fix what you can and keep working for what needs fixing.

3: Edit and firm up your standards. Teachers are not paid babysitters and without standards, they are having to deal with behavioral issues at a level they are not equipped or being compensated for. There is a difference between teaching for success and attempting to teach while dealing with unnecessary distractions and disrespect. If a student body demonstrates constant disrespect towards teachers and fellow students, it means someone in a leadership role is responsible for allowing and tolerating poor behavior.  You can’t point the finger on this one. If you are in a leadership role, this is your responsibility.  What we permit is what we promote. A standard is established to serve, protect, provide, direct, teach, and guide. Way too many schools have become tolerant of poor behavior that instead of fixing the issue, they simply keep feeding it.

Since I no longer speak at student assemblies, I will share the absolute best school experience I have ever had with both students and staff —it was Columbine High School. Columbine may sound familiar because they made national news in 1999 for a very unfortunate incident which resulted in several deaths. However, they did not allow what happened to define them — their leadership stepped up big time.

I remember being so nervous before they introduced me to a gymnasium packed with students and staff. However, what completely shocked me was when anyone, a student or a teacher stepped up to the microphone to speak, the entire gym went silent and was respectful. Something like that can only happen or be possible with firm standards. In one word, it was impressive.  

4: Show you care. Don’t say you care; show them you care. What does that look like in your culture? When I speak on opening days for teachers coming back to start the new school year, the leadership always informs the teachers that my session is a moment of recognition and celebration. This is one example of showing others you care. Think about it, why would anyone want to work where they are not cared for, valued, recognized, respected, safe and celebrated?  Without those, your front door is simply a revolving door for employment. As a leader, your goal is not to invest in renters, but rather in the development of owners. This one concept alone can attract and retain the most incredible people. Think about it, nobody ever quit for being overly celebrated. Care is an action word. 

5: Keep getting better. Creating a culture where teachers love to work is not about perfection, but rather progress. You must allow yourself the grace to make mistakes, learn, and grow from them. You won’t please everyone 100% of the time, but always put your best foot forward and keep getting better. This is how excellence is achieved. Excellence is never an accident. It is proof that someone cared. Remember this, organizations only get better as much as their leaders and people get better. If you keep striving to get better, you invite better results. 

If you are planning a conference or meeting and looking for someone to recognize, inspire and celebrate your people, contact Sam Glenn’s management for booking details:  Contact@SamGlenn.com 

Photo Credit: Max Fischer