As the director, administrator, owner/operator, or whatever your title may be as a leader, you’re probably all too familiar with the feeling of being pulled in seventeen directions all at once. You serve in so many different roles, work hard to meet so many varying expectations, and put out so many fires every day. As if you’re not busy enough with all that, you also have to worry about one of the most prominent struggles in the early childhood education field: teacher turnover.
High turnover can put our schools into a tailspin. Without your teachers, you don’t have a school! You know the story. You’re short one, maybe two teachers, and are actively recruiting and interviewing. You do your best to hire a great fit who has the right experience. But maybe you have some no shows, or the one you wanted declines the position because they accepted somewhere else.
And after a few weeks of being short-staffed, your most loyal teachers who always go the extra mile start to get weary from carrying the extra load and covering the classes needed. Shifting teachers around into new classrooms causes some drama and negativity, and now the culture in your school starts to take a hit. Maybe another teacher resigns, and then you’re left in an even tougher spot. How will you cover the ratio? What will you tell the parents? You heard through the grapevine that another teacher may be leaving. And now, you don’t know what to do.
Ending the Turnover Stress Cycle
Did you know that the preschool workforce has approximate turnover rates of 30-50% per year? From your experience, you can totally see that. These numbers make for a highly unstable industry. So why are teachers — especially good teachers — leaving in droves? A few reasons:
- Inadequate compensation
- Lack of benefits
Knowing this, what can you actually do to prevent the dreaded “Can we talk?” that ultimately leads to your best teachers walking out the door? While you may not be able to give them the highest pay, best (if any) benefits, or fully eliminate their stress, there are plenty of things that you can do to make your preschool teachers happy.
What You Can Do
It’s your school, which really means it’s your responsibility — all of it. A lot of pressure, we know. But your teachers are the heart and soul of your school, so it’s important to make them a priority, especially if you want to keep them! If you’re just not sure what to do, here are some ideas to get you pointed in the right direction.
Build real relationships. This can be hard, but do everything you can to be other-person focused, not focused on yourself. Praise successes, but talk about failures too, and remember that they’re people, not just employees, so make an effort to get to know them as individuals.
Request and accept feedback. Another tough one, but it can transform your school. Be intentional in your conversations, ask for open, honest feedback (without repercussions), and then make a concerted effort to do something about it.
Create a supportive work environment. When your teachers do well, your students do well, your parents are happy, and your school thrives. That’s why it’s so important to build a place where your teachers feel supported. Beyond listening to their needs and fulfilling them whenever you possibly can, be generous with rewards and recognition.
Respect work/home life balance. Encourage your teachers to keep that balance in check, and for them to do the same for you. Make it an intentional effort, and be a good role model! If you don’t acknowledge the need for balance between work and home, you will find yourself spread incredibly thin, particularly when good teachers leave.
Do the extra work with finances. Every year, do an audit. See how your rates compare to your competitors’, and consider a small increase if due. Similarly, check into all of your vendors and expenses. How much are you paying for toilet paper, pest control, and everything else? You don’t have to cut corners, but you can certainly shop around and get new quotes; eventually, you may land on something that saves you money.
Communicate, and over-communicate. Always prioritize staff meetings, celebrations, and staff get-togethers. It may mean allotting payroll funds for the overtime needed to pay the extra hour or so you’ll keep them, but whatever it takes, make sure these remain a top priority. These times give you space to communicate clearly and connect regularly with your teachers, which can make a huge difference for your school.
Running a successful school doesn’t happen overnight. It’s time, effort, and money over an extended period of time. Try implementing some of the above suggestions and see how they work. It’s okay to start small and work your way up!
Ready to Build a Happy School Staff?
As a leader, it’s part of your job to ensure the teachers at your school are happy. Happy teachers lead to happy students and parents, which in turn help your school thrive! So start at the top with those who matter most and do everything in your power to make (and keep) your staff happy. We know it’s a lot of work, but the results can be transformative and fully worth the effort.
At Impact Early Education, we know your work is never done. That’s why we provide valuable professional development courses for preschool teachers, directors, and owners in a way that works for you. To learn more, explore our courses or contact us today!