PMP151: Hiring & Retaining High Quality Teachers, Part 2

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting Norman High School, in Norman, Oklahoma.

Dr. Scott Beck was recently named Oklahoma’s High School Principal of the Year, and I wanted to touch-base with him and tour his school. From the moment I entered the building until I left, I was impressed – not just with Scott’s leadership and connection with students, teachers, and team members, but also at the quality and professionalism of his team.

We walked hallways, observed classes, and visited with busy office staff. Office workers, counselors, librarians, teachers, teacher’s aids, and assistant principals – all of these team members were busy serving students, parents or colleagues. Parents were being treated with professionalism. Students were given ownership over their learning in classrooms. And Dr. Beck was demonstrating the same kind of excellence that I saw in his teachers and staff.

Why is hiring such an important part of your responsibility as a principal? First and foremost: because the students, teachers, and community members deserve high quality education experiences like the ones Scott’s school enjoys. And secondly: because the people in your school often reflect on your own leadership.

Although we cannot judge ourselves by the way others behave, school leaders are responsible for how others behave under their leadership, and hiring plays one of the most crucial roles in the kind of culture and environment a school provides.

Part 2 of Hiring & Retaining High Quality Teachers

This week, we dive into Part 2 of Hiring & Retaining High Quality Teachers. You can check out Part 1 here. As co-host Jen Schwanke, author and principal, and I share in this week’s podcast episode, there are several important ideas to keep in mind:

3 Tips for Hiring & Retaining Talented Educators

  1. Know the difference between talent and skill.  You can teach skill. You can’t teach talent.  Enough said (but you can listen to the podcast episode for more).
  2. Value your candidates. The way you treat candidates reflects on your leadership, and you never know when someone may be re-applying for a future position if this one isn’t offered. So remember:
  • Show respect, kindness, and professionalism (Show the same courtesy you’d want to receive.)
  • Remember others are out there talking about the experience
  • Be open to working your schedule around candidates, not vice-versa.
  • Keep in mind a number-2 candidate may later come back as a number-1. So treat everyone with dignity and respect.
  • When possible, follow-up by phone with every candidate so that even those not chosen feel honored.
  • Showcase your school’s vision, culture, and offerings. This IS a sales job for hiring the most excellent candidates.
  • When the candidate pool is shallow, be creative: visit job fairs, go online, use social media, be open to interviewing remote candidates via video-chats.

3. Once you have hired a quality educator, here are some important tips for keeping them on the team:

  • Check in often (but don’t hover!) – New hires deserve your attention but also the autonomy to learn and make mistakes.
  • Morale/culture – Fostering positivity is an important part of attracting and retaining talent.
  • Support new teachers and watch out for exhaustion, confusion, loneliness.  Give them a break when need.  
  • Remember seasons that come with life – raising children, new marriages, caring for older parents, experiencing a crisis — all these times can be tough seasons, so be supportive.  
  • Create a cadre of friends/colleagues for new hires. Then get out of the way.
  • Provide resources (many teachers leave because they had illusion of what it was like…then they find it was harder/lonely/etc.) Make sure they have the resources they need.
  • Act quickly when there are problems. Following-up shows you are paying attention and care.
  • Teach and model balance. Your teachers don’t need emails from you at 10PM. Model a good work/life balance.
  • Let them go, fly, and succeed. Everyone has a different personalities, gifts, and ideas. Encourage these unique talents.
  • Foster leadership. Allow new hires to develop skills in serving others, and look for potential future school leaders among them too.
  • Provide key responsibility areas or helpful lists of key people, resources, and information so new hires aren’t left to guess where to find help.
  • Tours: Provide a tour of your school to all new hires. Make teachers’ first experiences the foundation for a great introduction to your school and community.

Let’s Wrap This Up

When I walked Norman High School with Dr. Scott Beck’s school, it was obvious Scott loves his school — I could tell by the way he interacts with teachers and students. It is also obvious that with his many years in the building, he has built a team of others who share and promote similar values for caring for and educating students. Long after he leaves or retires, his future students will continue benefiting from his commitment as well as the dedication of his teachers and staff.

The teachers you hire become the legacy of a school. Your students deserve the best, and your work becomes more joyful as you can attract high quality teachers onto your team. You won’t do this perfectly, but the hiring process, the on-boarding process, and how you support them will significantly affect the learning and the legacy of your school.

Now It’s Your Turn

What are some other suggestions you’d add to the list for hiring and retaining high quality teachers? What is one action you can take today to remind teachers you support their work and value their input?

Dr. Scott Beck with his amazing students at Norman High School, Norman, Oklahoma.
Think someone else would benefit from this episode?
William D. Parker
William D. Parker