Think higher salaries are the only road to retention? Think again.

October 9, 2023

School Wellbeing Solutions creates anxiety-free K12 workforces through climate analysis, training, coaching, research, and systemic interventions that improve the wellbeing and retention of leaders, educators & staff. 

We believe that happy, healthy and engaged staff has the highest capacity to support students and create the type of climate that forms the foundation of an effective school or district. 

Schools that prioritize the wellbeing of their staff are rewarded with increased retention, decreased behavioral and mental health concerns, increased collaboration, improved work environment, and the opportunity to make work an engine of wellbeing instead of a detractor from wellbeing. 

It has never been more difficult to be an educator. This is in large part due to the ever-increasing demands on the time of teachers and staff. Teachers have to manage worsening student behavior and mental health. They have to spend more and more time recording data on computers, and teaching to standardized tests. They have little autonomy over their time, and often have to take work home with them in order to get it done. All of this without a proportional increase in compensation. It’s no wonder that multiple studies show symptoms of burnout are higher in K12 than in any other industry (RAND, NEA). 

This can feel overwhelming because these are systemic issues that might seem daunting to change. It often takes years of education policy lobbying in order to get systemic factors to change and for demands to decrease or salaries to increase. 

In a sense it’s easier to wait for the policies to change in order to get to a solution to the issue of teacher burnout and shortages and turnover. 

“If only we just got paid more. Then we wouldn’t have a retention issue.”

The truth is that retention and recruitment of high quality teachers is only one piece of the puzzle. 

If we say it’s a systemic issue, then we can throw our hands up and say, that’s just the nature of the job right now, and it’s a shame that it won’t change for a long time. It cleans our hands of any type of responsibility or action to alleviate the issue, and we are left being victims of circumstance instead of agents of change. It’s the easy, but miserable path.

What if improving teacher conditions has nothing to do with decreasing demand and increasing salary. Sure, those things would be great, but what if teacher wellbeing, retention was about something else entirely?

People work in schools for one or more of the following reasons (typically all of them). 

  • Meaning
  • Impact
  • Having a connection to something greater than oneself
  • Having opportunities to work on teams
  • Having a sense of belonging with a group
  • Feeling appreciated
  • Having a sense of mattering
  • Feeling needed
  • Giving value

When these needs aren’t met, it doesn’t matter how many demands you take away and how many resources you give, staff often still report high levels of stress and burnout. 

Don’t get me wrong. Competitive salaries definitely help keep top talent. However, if this is the only strategy, the top talent eventually leaves in search of more meaningful work.

This is because a significant amount of workplace suffering is caused by a lack high quality resilience skills and more importantly an awareness of the ways in which we perpetuate our own suffering and that of others, and our ability to be vulnerable with others.

Worse, leaders who are stressed often are unable to design and create the types of environments that meet the real, unspoken reasons people work. 

However, we see over and over again that teams who take the time to meaningfully and intentionally develop core relationship skills and team dynamics, personal and professional resilience, are in positions to create teams that are strong enough to withstand any type of challenge the world throws at K12, included misguided policies, increasing social pressures, parent concerns, and student behavior and mental health. 

If you’ve reached out to partner with us, congratulations, you are on the road to achieving an anxiety-free, happy, and engaged workforce and creating environments that are supportive of teacher, educator, and leadership wellbeing. 

And if you’ve not taken that step yet, that’s ok. We’ll be here when you’re ready.

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