Madeleine Clays has been a public school teacher in the U.S. for twenty years. She is passionate about education.
We've all heard about the increasing number of public school teachers quitting their jobs across the U.S.
This article is intended to provide administrators with significant yet simple ways to support teachers before they even step into the school building in the fall, so that when they do arrive, they feel fully equipped for a successful school year.
I have been teaching for many years, so I know the tremendous difference these strategies make.
I guarantee that if you follow these 5 suggestions, you'll have some very happy teachers who may never want to leave your school!
These 5 actions involve:
- Essential Information
- Faculty Restrooms
- Teacher Workroom
What happens when teachers have what they need at the beginning of the school year?
- Their stress level decreases.
- They feel empowered, valued and respected.
- They have peace of mind.
- They're not coming to you or the office trying to get what they need.
- They can funnel their energy into their students and their lessons.
- Students have happy teachers.
- Teacher retention rates increase.
- Teacher turnover rates decrease.
Beginning of the School Year
Most teachers start the school year excited about setting up their classroom, preparing lesson plans, and meeting their new students.
Sadly, their enthusiasm is soon dampened by the chaos that often awaits them at school before their students have even arrived.
Rather than focus on their classroom and lesson plans, they end up running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to get their essentials in place in time for the first day of school.
Sometimes they don’t even know who to direct their questions to when they need something, such as printer ink or basic supplies for their classroom. The principal? The office secretary? Their department chairperson?
They often go to the wrong person, who in turn directs them to somebody else, who sometimes even sends them to a third party, thereby compounding their to-do list and stress level.
Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.
I teach in a school that serves students of a mid-high socioeconomic population. My school is ranked "among the best" in my state.
Yet upon returning to school last fall to prepare my classroom, I discovered my computer chair had disappeared from my desk, the clock on my wall was missing, my computer-printer connection was disabled, and my smart board remote had dead batteries.
When I tried to hunt down batteries from the front office, I was redirected to several other people, none of whom were available.
In addition, there were no paper towels in the staff restroom (no air dryer either), which was better than the day prior, when there was no toilet paper in the same staff bathroom.
I had not been given any agendas or important beginning-of-the-year paperwork to send home with any of my students (even though most of my colleagues had). In fact, the office did not appear to know I even had a homeroom class.
Meanwhile, I was being bombarded with emails about new guidelines for grading, several meetings I had to attend the next day, and paperwork I needed to complete.
By the time my students showed up the first day of school, I was already exhausted.
I have taught in various school districts in several states across the U.S. and could share many more stories with you of the disarray that has awaited my colleagues and I when we returned to our schools in the fall.
1. Have Classrooms Ready
Ensure that every classroom teacher has:
- her own classroom (purchase trailers if necessary; every teacher deserves her own space)
- teacher desk and comfortable office chair
- all necessary technology connections to her computer set up, such as printer, smart board and document camera
- enough textbooks for her students
- necessary resources to teach her subject matter
- basic classroom supplies to start the year (pencils, erasers, paper, etc.)
- sufficient student desks and chairs for students
- clock on wall, set to actual time
- necessary furniture: bookcase, table, etc.
- remotes with functional batteries
- trash can
- recycle bin
If you really want to go the extra mile for your teachers, provide them with the adhesive that works in your building for hanging posters on the walls. Due to humidity (or dryness) issues, as well as different wall surface textures, certain kinds of tape or glue work best in each building. There are few things more discouraging than hanging up all your posters and finding them on the floor the next morning.
Every fall, teachers waste so much valuable time running around trying to get basic things for their classrooms that should already be in place. This impacts not only the teachers themselves but students, who inevitably sense their teachers’ stress levels. If you want to support your students, support your teachers! The pay-off will be enormous.
2. Binders with Essential Information
Downloading and printing everything you send us electronically takes a lot of time. Running around trying to gather this information takes even more time.
Teachers need this time to prepare for their students' arrival.
Do them a HUGE favor, and compile all of this information into a 3-ring binder so they have it at their fingertips before the first day of school.
Each teacher binder should include:
- academic calendar
- school map
- staff directory (extension and room numbers for all staff in the building)
- list of who to contact for what (technology issues, additional desks and chairs for new students who come in, etc.)
- directory of important contacts in the district (HR, Benefits, etc.)
- regular bell schedule
- half day bell schedule
- 2-hour delay bell schedule
- exit plan and map (fire drills, tornadoes, etc.)
- sub folder requirements
- directions on when to send and not send students to the nurse
- medical emergency directions
- disciplinary procedures
- grading policy
- any other important information your teachers need
3. Relaxing Restrooms
In the midst of a busy school day, the staff restroom is the only place within the building teachers can go to for a few minutes of peace and quiet.
Why not make it a welcoming and relaxing place?
It doesn’t have to be a spa, but I can tell you from personal experience that it makes a tremendous difference when it is a pleasant and therapeutic environment.
Every staff restroom should have:
- toilet paper and paper towels at all times
- a table for teachers to rest personal items on
- a hook on the door for teachers to hang their purse, coat or other items
- framed pictures that display peaceful and relaxing themes
- faux flowers or potpourri to add a nice touch (these can be found at the Dollar Store)
- a pleasant aroma (plug-ins are wonderful)
Please don't post flyers about conferences and teacher workshops in the staff restrooms. Save those for the teacher lounge.
Also, please don't use faculty bathrooms as supply closets. Stash school materials in the office or elsewhere.
The point is for teachers to relax for a few minutes. Trust me, it's really hard to do this when you're surrounded by posters of technology trainings and high stacks of printer paper.
One great problem in many schools is the lack of sufficient faculty restrooms to accommodate all staff.
Why not make it a priority to add several more faculty restrooms in your building? I assure you the payoff will be well worth the investment. Your teachers are worth it.
You may be wondering how school hallways can contribute to lowering teachers' stress levels and offering them support.
A lot, actually!
In my school, the clocks throughout the hallways display approximately seven different times of the day. I honestly don't know how that happened, but I assure you it's highly confusing and adds a lot of stress to my day.
I can't imagine how students feel, especially since they're on a bell schedule and are expected to be at their next class within minutes.
Maybe it's why many of our students can't tell time! Perhaps it also helps explain why they're often late to class.
Here are some ways to make hallways supportive to teachers:
- Set all clocks to the actual time (update them in the fall and spring to daylight savings time).
- Monitor the time on all clocks periodically and replace batteries as needed.
- Label all classrooms with current teachers' names.
- Label all other rooms appropriately (Book Room, Supply Room, etc.)
- Provide trash cans in strategic areas (such as where hallways intersect).
- Place large recycle boxes or bins beside each trashcan.
- Have a security officer in a highly visible location to give staff and students a sense of safety throughout the day.
5. Teacher Workroom
The teacher workroom should be kept neat, with supplies available for teachers to easily locate.
Make sure it has:
- copy machines in good working order
- extra staples
- paper cutter
- 3-hole puncher
- paper clips
- bulletin board paper
- ruler or yardstick (for measuring bulleting board paper)
- pencils and pens
Consider hiring somebody to make copies for teachers. We have a designated employee for this at my school and it's a huge timesaver! We simply leave the originals with a note indicating the number of copies we need, along with any specific directions (double sided, stapled, etc.) and we can count on them being ready for pick-up within days.
Not having to worry about making our own copies enables us to spend more of our plan time on planning and creating our lessons.
Extra Morale Boosters for Teachers:
- Donuts on Fridays are always a hit and give us something to look forward to, especially when we're feeling that mid-week slump.
- Good coffee available daily cannot be overrated. It doesn't have to be expensive. Dunkin Donuts has great and inexpensive coffee.
- Chocolate in our mailboxes is the best mood-lifter. I can’t tell you how much it means to find even one Hershey kiss in my mailbox on any day.
Although the strategies listed in this article may sound like good old common sense, sadly, it is actually unusual to find any or all of these supports in place in many public schools across the U.S.
If you have all five of these provisions in place for your teachers, I assure you they will be far less likely to want to leave your building—especially if they know they can count on you to implement these strategies every fall.
In fact, they'll probably rave about your school and the support they feel they have.
Above all, they'll be able to focus more of their energy into teaching their students, which is exactly what they want to do!
Teachers Quit More Than Most Jobs
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Madeleine Clays