Educators never expected to get rich teaching, but many did not expect to be battling poverty or working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Christine Marsh, 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, asked teachers what they would do with a 20% raise (Roberts, 2018). Many of the answers included finally taking care of medical procedures, paying back debt and student loans, living without their parents’ financial assistance, and replacing cars, bald tires, or air conditioning units that are no longer reliable, with a few instances of wanting to be able to go out to dinner or get coffee occasionally without feeling guilty.
The question was reminiscent of the book I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids by teacher, Kyle Schwartz, inspired by the answers of her students living in poverty. She used the sentence stem, “I wish my teacher knew ____” and gained great insight from the answers of her students.
When we as educational leaders advocate for our staff in the areas of culture and total rewards (climate, engagement, pay, benefits, rewards, recognition), do we know what our individual staff members want? The research suggests that the educational retention problem is not all about pay. Teachers want support and a positive climate. However, we know that half of teachers leave within their first 5 years. What is it that would keep these teachers in the profession and what makes it not worth continuing?
What could be gained if your staff were to answer the following?
- I wish my principal knew ____
- I wish my budget committee knew ____
- I wish my HR department knew ____
- I wish my legislators knew ____
If you knew the pinch points, how might your school or district be able to tailor your culture and total rewards to increase retention?