It's impossible to find good teachers!
We're scraping the bottom of the barrel!
There just isn't anyone out there!
School leaders like to whine about the teacher shortage.
Certainly, there is some truth to these claims. Few would question we live in a time when the demand for highly qualified teachers is high and the supply of highly qualified teachers is low.
However, as the saying goes, "where there's a will there's a way." Rather than complain about their situation, some districts need to reassess their teacher recruitment strategy.
Many schools place teacher recruitment low on their priority list. Instead of strategizing how to attract highly talented employees to their classrooms, leaders prioritize test scores, student discipline, teacher development, district initiatives, and culture-building.
While all are important for school success, this previous statement poses a subtle irony. When schools recruit and hire effective staff, other priorities have a way of taking care of themselves.
Certainly, some school districts - especially those in large metropolitan areas - have their pick of the litter when it comes to hiring. As young singles prioritize living in areas where they have endless options for dining, nightlife, and social activities, these school districts have the luxury of turning away droves of outstanding candidates.
If only all school districts had this problem.
Nearly one third of school districts in the United States are located in "rural" areas with less than 2,500 residents. Lacking the built-in amenities of their large-district counterparts, small districts face an uphill battle when it comes to alluring and securing strong applicants.
While rural schools have problems attracting teachers to their district, urban schools - especially those in low-income areas - experience high degrees of teacher turnover. This constant exodus of staff opting to work in more-affluent schools across town results in similar teacher shortages for inner city schools.
Clearly, rural and urban schools have their work cut out for them when it comes to attracting candidates to their districts. So what steps can leaders take to address these issues? Here are several steps to consider:
1) Post Jobs Early: This is the most important step for attracting candidates: Do not wait until the summer months to post teacher openings. Leaders must start the hiring process as soon as possible, meaning contracts for current staff must be sent as early as possible to gauge who plans on returning. Issuing contracts is the first domino to fall during hiring season. Far too many districts take their sweet time issuing contracts and then wonder where all the quality applicants have gone.
2) Market Your Openings. Too many districts don't actively market teacher openings. Many schools believe their job is done once a position has been posted on a couple job websites. That is so 2010. In a time when teacher candidates are limited, districts must ensure their positions are being seen by large audiences. Effective schools have mastered the use of social media and other forms of digital communication to ensure applicants see openings.
3) Employee Referral Bonus. In typical school districts, HR and school leadership may reach out to a few contacts as they search for available candidates. Rather than having a few people asking around, why not have a few hundred people doing this work? In our district we offer a $250 referral bonus for staff members who recruit a newly-hired teacher to our district. This is delegation at it's finest!
4) Actively Recruit Alumni. When looking for potential teaching candidates, consider aspiring teachers who graduated from your school district. While some may have no interest in returning, the truth is that many students will display interest if properly courted. Districts would be wise to create lists of alumni entering the teaching profession, reaching out periodically to gauge interest in returning.
5) Utilize Transparency: Why are most districts are so secretive about their hiring processes? Some leaders believe they are working for the CIA as opposed to schools. It's ok to share information with teaching candidates. One tip is to openly reveal the pay range for candidates. Instead of making candidates guess on a potential salary, tell them up front. Furthermore, consider sharing "total package" numbers that include salary, benefits, and pension. There is no need to hide the fact that districts have great benefit and pension plans.
6) Provide Updates: No longer can employers sit back and refrain from reaching out to candidates for weeks at a time during the selection process. During hiring season, every day matters. Not only is poor communication rude to the applicant, there is a good chance another district will swoop in and secure the candidate when contact is not maintained.
7) Text Message: Speaking of updates, many leaders falsely believe text messages are "off limits" when recruiting candidates. Test messaging is how the younger generation communicates. Employers who make candidates feel comfortable have a greater chance of securing their services. Think text messaging could get you into legal trouble? Wrong. Lawyers agree text messages are better than phone calls when it comes to protecting against legal recourse.
8) Create a Pitch: Ok so maybe your district can't compete with the large city 60 miles away, but what can your district offer? Leaders must establish a 30-second "elevator speech" that can be delivered on demand to prospective employees. Why should a candidate consider your district? What advantages does your school offer that other schools don't? Turn on your best sales pitch and be ready to go. First impressions matter, and a great speech can make a huge difference.
In a world where highly qualified teachers are difficult to find, there are two options: Either you can complain about the teacher shortage, or you can take matters into your own hands.
We can no longer sit back and wait for candidates to find our schools. Instead, schools must go out and find candidates.
Schools that don't adjust their approach could end up with a class full of students and no teacher...