When conducting research on an educational topic, it is of extreme importance to consult field experts to search for ideas and acquire in-depth knowledge of a matter. In order to gain insight into the reasons for teacher turnover, I decided to interview the instructional coach and new teacher mentor in my school. She was my mentor when I was an acting fourth-grade teacher, and she proved to be a high-level professional in the field. She often interviews new teachers that apply for jobs in our institution and has a chance to see how these teachers develop. She has first-hand experience in implementing recruitment and retention strategies. Moreover, she often talks with new teachers about their wants and needs. All this knowledge was found valuable for my research, and I scheduled the interview for Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The interview was conducted and 3:30 PM in the instructional coach office in the school building.
Before becoming an instructional coach and mentor, what was your position? How does your previous experience help with your current duties?
Before getting my current position, I was a general education teacher for ten years at various grade levels. After that, I was a Literacy Specialist for my 8th year. The knowledge and skills I acquired while working at these positions are of extreme importance to me at the moment. First, I got first-hand experience in teaching and applying the principles of Scriptures to practice. Second, I understood what problems teachers face and how they can be approached. Finally, I have mastered my literacy teaching skills, and now I can share my knowledge with new teachers.
What are your duties as an instruction coach/mentor?
As an instructional coach, I focus on the improvement of a new teacher’s instructional performance. As a mentor, I focus on helping a new teacher adjust to the instructional and social aspects of the professional role.
During the interviews, what characteristics are you looking for in the candidates? What are your selection principles?
When interviewing teachers, I search for humbleness, passion for teaching, and love of children. Even though professionalism and discipline are highly valued in our institution, they are difficult to measure during the interview. However, it is often rather simple to determine if an educator views teaching as his or her calling and implements all knowledge as a tribute to God. Even though such teachers are rare, I always look for them, as I believe that educators who view teaching as God’s gift are disciplined and have a passion for teaching.
How do those individuals who remain in teaching compare with those who leave?
Individuals that leave teaching are completely different from those who stay. However, these differences are difficult to spot during the interview. In general, teachers that are more concerned with compensation, schedules, benefits, and certain school policies often leave our school within two years. Everyone knows that compensation levels among schoolteachers are modest, and people seeking financial prosperity may leave for other professions. Moreover, educators thinking that they can forget about their duties when they leave the school building are also likely to have turnover intentions. The thing is that whenever a person decides to become a teacher, he or she is on duty 24/7. Educators that understand this are more likely to stay.
What are the characteristics of schools and districts most likely to be successful in recruiting and retaining teachers?
I would have to say training and mentoring are extremely important for retaining teachers. This especially concerns retaining new young teachers, as they are often overwhelmed with all the duties they need to carry out. Moreover, good workplace culture and adequate leadership are also valuable for retaining teachers, as new educators often need emotional support. As for recruiting, schools that have a good reputation and offer higher compensation are more likely to be successful in recruiting new educators.
What impact do the working conditions in schools have on their ability to recruit and retain teachers?
Working conditions play a major role. Making sure that teachers feel valued and their voices are heard is crucial. Lack of support, encouragement, growth opportunities, respect, and empathy often leads to an inability to recruit new teachers. Lack of work-life balance, overloading with too many courses, and insufficient time to plan can also add to the problem. Discipline issues are a major reason teachers leave the classroom. That’s why I believe that a strong positive behavior support system is a must. Behavior curriculum is just as important as content curriculum.
What impact does compensation have on the recruitment and retention of teachers?
Compensation is very important, especially for male teachers. I lived to learn that men in the teaching profession are rare because of the low level of compensation. However, compensation is not as important as working conditions and mentoring. In our school, teachers are often passionate about the profession and became teachers just because they always wanted to. Adequate compensation is a must, but paying too much money is not likely to attract teachers that will stay for a long time. Teaching is not an easy way to earn money. It is a lifelong commitment.
What impact do various strategies related to teacher preparation have on teacher recruitment and retention?
Teacher preparation is vital. A not long time ago, I often met new teachers fresh from the university who were overly romantic about teaching. They had absolutely no idea how much time and effort they need to invest to become more-or-less successful. In recent years, young teachers became more adequate of their expectations. This is due to comprehensive teacher preparation programs that give students at educational schools opportunities to know what teaching really is.
What impact do induction and mentoring programs have on teacher retention?
As I mentioned before, mentoring is vital. You probably felt that yourself when you were a fourth-grade teacher. Mentors ensure that young teachers receive high-quality support just in time. Mentors are usually proactive and try to address the problems before they appear. Mentors also ensure that young teachers receive needed emotional support.
Do you think workplace spirituality is a viable retention strategy?
Yes, surely. Spiritual teachers have a more in-depth understanding of the teaching profession and are less likely to burn out. The thing is those spiritual teachers are more satisfied with their jobs as they get a chance to share their love for God with students. Giving teachers a chance to be spiritual at their workplace means giving them a chance to be more sincere with their colleagues.
The activity helped me practice my interview skills. I learned to pose adequate questions and guide the process in the direction I need to go. The interview provided insightful information for my future research. It confirmed some of the ideas that I found during the literature review. In particular, I knew that working conditions, compensation, mentoring programs, and teacher training had a significant impact on recruitment and retention. At the same time, the interview helped to confirm that promotion of workplace spirituality is a viable retention strategy. I also learned which personal characteristics support retention intentions among teachers. However, even though the interviewee was a credible source of information, it is vital to understand that everything said during the interview is an expert opinion and may differ from reality.