How can we keep our teachers?

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Retaining teachers can be a challenge even in developed countries with plenty of resources. New teachers without proper training and experience are more likely to burn out faster than their more seasoned peers. Working conditions also play a part in how teachers perform and how long they stay across all countries. However, there are things educators, schools and faculty can do to help teachers succeed in today’s teaching environments.

As a teacher who has taught in the United States, Ecuador, Thailand and Cambodia with a total of 8 years’ experience and who has worked at different schools, I understand how teachers feel. I know what it is like to be the new teacher in country so different than her own, at a new school with its own ways of doing things, with various curriculum, working with teachers from around the world, and with students from all ages and backgrounds. It can be extremely stressful for a new teacher, especially teachers in their non-passport countries, to integrate into a new school.

I’ve been working at this particular language school for about a year and a half, and I still remember the teachers who smiled at me on my overwhelming first day; the ones who took the time to get to know me, and there is something to be said about that. Schools with a strong mentoring program are known to have a higher success rate of teacher retention than those who don’t. Peer assistance and review programs are important in helping all teachers feel as if they are growing professionally and working in a productive and rewarding environment.

It’s vital, however, that peer reviews are constructive and encouraging. Teachers need to feel confident when entering the classroom, particularly new ones fresh out of training. Giving teachers the tools and support they need to succeed also fosters a positive workplace. This leads into giving teachers opportunities to feel as though their voices are heard, which can be done through meetings, focus groups, school wide reviews, and professional development meetings and conferences.

Schools can also encourage teachers to stay longer through medical benefits, overtime and holiday pay, access to generous resources, and, of course, salary raises. This helps teachers become more financially stable and lets them know that their longtime commitment is valued. Schools can, in addition, create non-financial incentives with team building activities, fun staff events that take place outside of school and volunteer work for the community. Schools might also consider teaming up with a similar school so that they might exchange ideas, like a sister school program.

*I wrote this a few months ago for a 'contest' at our school. I didn't win the prize, to travel to South Korea for their TESOL conference, but writing the essay helped me realize a few things: how passionate I am about teaching and creating the best possible environment for us, and that so much can be done to help teachers, especially when schools (particularly in the US) appear to be hemorrhaging them.

You know even though I work abroad, the same problems plague schools all over the world. I hope this post reaches the right managers, teachers and principals.

What do you think? Do you work at a school that values you?  


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