Exceptional young teachers are powerful educators. They are ripe with genuine enthusiasm and primed to be innovative. As leaders, we need to retain them. An unrecognized, and seemingly obvious, factor that causes teachers to leave is their psychological well-being. They feel unsuccessful.
The Pragmatic TV Teacher described Shawn Achor's views on happiness and its relation to success: happiness first, success second. To keep young teachers, we need to focus on their happiness so they feel successful. How do we make them (or anyone) happy?
Again we turn to the Happiness Advantage for help.
1. Encourage and Recognize
"I already do that!" you just yelled at the screen "Each month at our faculty meeting I tell the group that they are doing a GREAT job!"
Encourage young teachers personally. Specifically address one of their concerns. Deliberately recognize them for something and be sincere with your body language. Being recognized is an under-utilized motivational tactic. A quick comment of recognition makes your subordinate happy.
2. Focus on their physical well-being
"Most of my young teachers are coaches! They MUST be in shape!" Wrong again.
Exercise provides an immediate mental boost. Many administrators receive health club memberships, why not new teachers... or even all employees? Fitness programs make people fit. Being fit makes people happy. Being happy makes people productive and feel successful.
Try the following to build movement into the day:
Need to talk to a teacher? Take a quick five minute walk with them outside.
Do your new teachers receive mentors? Try letting the pair leave 20 minutes early and encourage them to walk around the school's campus as they share ideas.
Do you offer teachers classes on yoga, mediation, or aerobics? Maybe you should!
Allocate a time where the school's fitness area is open exclusively for teachers. (would you want to exercise in front of students?)
3. Promote tangible products
"I left teaching because I was tired of working 12 hours a day without a tangible product at the end. I would sit in union meetings and listen to negativity. I would sit in faculty meetings and listen to demands and more negativity. I felt unproductive. There was nothing to SHOW for all of my hard work and patience"
This is a legitimate claim. Teaching to help kids is heartwarming, but the warmth can quickly fade. People intrinsically want to master their craft. Mastering a craft requires incremental feedback to monitor process. Teachers lack incremental, tangible products. You can't "show" someone how well you taught one day. The mundane tasks throughout the teaching day slowly erodes a teachers will.
Help your young teacher feel productive during their routine, mundane tasks by changing their mindset. Rather then "sit through a faculty meeting", encourage your instructor to to see it as an opportunity to LEARN something. Be specific. Before they leave they need to learn three things about public speaking... or... (insert topic here).
Small learning goals will serve as tangible products: during the faculty meeting, I learned by observing the principles that a good speaker 1)talks slowly, 2)uses examples, and 3)carefully listens to feedback.
4. Help them find the positive
Exceptional young teachers are also exceptional at self-criticism. Their lessons are flawless: interactive, engaging, funny, and powerful. But an exceptional young teachers doesn't see that. They focus on the ONE student whose eyes noticeably drifted into outer space during the lesson.
Young teachers are often perfectionists. Perfectionists focus on negatives. Always focusing on the three students that missed the homework or one student who snapped their gum is a painful process. If only negativity enters the brain, then the brain only has negativity to work with; unhappiness results.
"The good news is that we can train our brains to scan for the positive"- Achor
Tell your new instructors to perform one IMPORTANT exercise before leaving each day. In a journal, write three things they are grateful for and three GOOD things that happened throughout the day. It may look like this:
I am grateful for Mrs. G, my teaching assistant: she has a way of helping student X that I am unable to do. I am grateful for student Y, he ALWAYS work hard in practice. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach in this school!
Of my 92 students, only seven forgot their homework today. I had a great conversation with a special education teacher today regarding a shared student. I was able to clear my mind with a quick walk outside.
This activity will help them scan their environment for POSITIVES which will eventually out-weigh the negatives. Recognizing positives is a key ingredient for happiness.
"we tend to miss what we are not looking for" -Achor
5. Promote social connections
Encourage your young teachers to connect with others. Healthy, social relationships make people happy. Young teachers feel the need to be productive CONSTANTLY and time spent simply chatting with a colleague is time wasted. Imagine the look in their eyes if you (their principal) were to walk by and see them sharing a joke with their classroom neighbor. The last thing young teachers want is to be perceived as nonchalant and stagnant.
Encourage interaction between young and veteran teachers by scheduling collective time together. Mentor young teachers long after the required one year. Stop and talk to them in their classroom --NOT about school.
Promoting LASTING social connections for your young teachers will make them happy.
When young teachers are happy, they feel successful. When they feel successful, they continue teaching.
Thanks for reading.