In this week’s session, our team took a break from enrollment marketing to continue a conversation about teacher retention. Michael Barber spoke with expert Dr. Charlotte Pullins about valuing teachers, giving teachers autonomy, and giving teachers a voice.
Hi everyone, and welcome to our Thursday YouTube live. My name is Michael Barber. Back with our weekly 10-minute session on how we can help school leaders. Today we’re shifting the conversation from enrollment marketing to teacher retention, and we’ve got Dr. Charlotte Pullins with us. For those of you that were on our webinar this past week, we had Dr. Pullins talking about strategies for teacher retention. We decided to welcome her back because we had so many questions from the webinar, so we’ve got Dr. Pullins with us this morning. We’re going to get right into the thick of the conversation related to teacher retention and ask Dr. Pullins. You had a three part framework. I would love if you could just step us through that really quickly as one of your key strategies for teacher retention and just touch on each one of those.
Charlotte Pullins (01:25):
I talked about value, valuing teachers, and I talked about voice and autonomy. When I say value, I mean it’s a simple thing as making sure the teacher feels like they belong, like they’re supported and their psychological needs are being met. Autonomy is such a fickle thing because people think “if I let a teacher go rogue, they won’t teach the standards”, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s really about giving teachers power, the power to be creative. I did give three caveats for administrators of what they should do. If someone’s going to change something, you need to make sure it is researched and that it makes sense for your school.
And then I say give them a voice. One key thing that administrators can do is to allow teachers to lead professional development. Allow them to give their thoughts on the new curriculum. Let them try it out and then get their feedback. People love when you ask them for advice and ask them, “What do you think about this?” Three things I think are some of the key things that school districts or charter schools can do to help their teachers.
Michael B. (02:43):
Appreciate that call back to our conversation on Tuesday. One question, and you’re on the ground. You’re the director of Diversity, Belonging, Inclusion and Equity at Arizona Charter Academy. Tell us some really tactical advice for how you’re helping increase teacher retention at Arizona Charter Academy. Some specific examples.
Charlotte Pullins (03:07):
Well, one thing we do, we focus on social emotional learning of our teachers. We’ve started a whole program, now we have one for students, but we also did it for teachers because we found out after Covid teachers are stressed, teachers are worried, teachers need psychological safety. We started a program where teachers go through modules of learning and then we come back as a group and we discuss, we have small groups within our school and within that, teachers are allowed to express how they feel. Like one we just did on teacher trust. It was what is trust? How do you coordinate trust with students? How do you coordinate trust with colleagues?
And then we came together and we said, “Well, what kind of things do we want to do in order to build a culture of trust at our school?” So we decided we’re going to ask questions. If something goes wrong, ask the questions. We said we’re going to have emotional check-ins with people. We said we’re going to have write notes and letters to each other. Just those sorts of things. Just build a community and allow teachers to get together and talk and enjoy their culture that they work in.
Michael B. (04:27):
Is there anything we can do from a technical perspective, whether it’s tools or websites or platforms, mobile apps or plain old text messages group that schools can do? If I’m a startup school and I’m just trying to figure out this challenge all the way through a year, 5, 6, 7, 10 year school that’s really trying to put a sophisticated platform around teacher retention. I just love some things that could help from a technical perspective that can help school leaders with teacher retention.
Charlotte Pullins (04:58):
Well, when I think about that, I think about the Second Step program I mentioned before. It’s a great online platform that schools can use. I also think about another one called Open Sesame that we’re going to be trying out. That’s another platform that people can use those. It really depends on the school and the school needs. What does your school need? That’s why I suggested that first thing you need to do is get those surveys, see what’s going on, see the needs of your schools before you decide which direction you go into or what program you initiate. Because all schools are different. No school is the same. First things first is finding the need, and then from that you address, you find the programs that work well for you.
Michael B. (05:50):
Have you seen any research out there, or has your team at Arizona Charter Academy quantified what it costs to lose a teacher versus retain them? Any insights there? That was a question we got in terms of like, “is it quantifiable?” How would we go about doing that? Any thoughts there?
Charlotte Pullins (06:08):
Ooh, that’s a hard thing to quantify because it’s not just losing a teacher and the difference of a teacher salary, whoever you hire next, it’s about where does it affect the students. You have to think about when the student loses a teacher or you lose a teacher within a school district. Now you have to find someone to retrain. Now they might not be certified, and we know statistics says if they’re not traditionally certified, those are the teachers who usually leave. So then what kind of person are you filling that spot with? How much teacher experience do they have? It’s a myriad of things that you have to think about to really quantify what problems it causes in your school or what deficit it causes your school. But those are some things I would look at. Yeah, that’s where I would start.
Michael B. (07:05):
Yeah, I think this is something we should definitely try and tackle this together.
Charlotte Pullins (07:09):
Michael B. (07:09):
Is this question, right? Because yes, we had this conversation yesterday of just what is the cost of objective cost of losing a teacher, but there’s also all of those subjective costs that you just touched on, and then it’s, “Hey, the connections to the kids, that impacts student retention, the connection to the community.” There are so many downline impacts that I think we should be figuring out what’s the right measurement for. Maybe that’s something we take away and we work on and we come back to our school leaders.
Charlotte Pullins (07:39):
Yes, I agree.
Michael B. (07:40):
it feels like we need to answer that question. Yes. I just want to pause really quickly and just welcome everyone in to our Thursday chats on all things for school leaders. We typically do these every Thursday for enrollment marketing topics. We’re taking a pause because we had Dr. Charlotte Pullins and Professor Nolen on our Tuesday webinar this past week. Over 400 of you attended and we talked all things teacher retention. We’re coming back to a couple of the questions. We’ve got two or three minutes left. Would love, if you’ve got any questions, you can drop them right here into the chat. I’m going to ask one more and I hope a couple of our viewers, we have a comment here, Dr. Pullins, that said, “would love to have Dr. Pullins at every school.” So you’re getting some shout outs from our viewers on YouTube.
Charlotte Pullins (08:27):
Michael B. (08:28):
My next question gets at sort of a thorny topic, if you will, and would love just some initial thoughts. Definitely one of the things that’s driving teacher retention is the political environment that we live in and all of the things that politics is I impacting from an educational perspective. Can you touch on that for us and just where you’re seeing that impact teacher retention efforts at Arizona Charter Academy or with school leaders you’re talking to?
Charlotte Pullins (09:01):
I talked about the social crisis at the National Charter School conference, and it does make a difference. The political, the social atmosphere really does matter to what is being taught in the school. It varies by state of course, and whatever your superintendent of schools, their agenda is, that is something that really matters and it is affecting and it can affect how teachers teach and how schools are governed. So it’s a thorny situation.
Michael B. (09:37):
Thorny question, and we got to ask it when we’re having these tough conversations, right? For sure.
Charlotte Pullins (09:43):
Michael B. (09:43):
Yeah. One question that came in yesterday that we didn’t get to that I would love your thoughts on is somebody asked on your autonomy, the mention of autonomy is how do you go about, do you measure that as a school leader? Do you go out to your schoolers and say, “How autonomous do you feel?” Is it a one through 10 scale? Is it sort of that net promoter score? What is the thing? How do you measure that?
Charlotte Pullins (10:12):
You know what I like? You can make it as hard or as simple as you want really. You can survey teachers. There’s Survey Monkey, see what they say. I mean, create your own. You don’t have to. You’re still going to see the data. I always am a proponent of using two quant and qual. Go out there, have someone like me go and ask the questions, “How do you feel? Really feel about autonomy?” But I’m telling you, Michael, I get from exit surveys. I actually do the exit surveys and then send them to HR because people are usually coming to talk to me a little bit more and they often give me their information. But I’m finding that autonomy is really big. They feel like schools are so stringent that they can’t deviate with within anything. I will say go out, talk, survey and see what you got at your school. It won’t hurt. Knowledge is power.
Michael B. (11:08):
It is for sure. And we’ll give you a little shout out should you want to learn more about how Dr. Pullins serves school leaders. She is the founder and lead consultant at ELC training and consulting llc. Just look that up online and you’ll find more information or connect with her on LinkedIn. We are right at our 10 minute mark and I want to respect our school leader’s time and wrap it up. If you have any questions for us related to this topic, more than happy to put it in the chat. We will funnel it over to Dr. Pullins to get an answer. But we appreciate you all being here. We also appreciate Dr. Pullins being here. Again, we’re here every Thursday, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern talking all things for school leaders. And next week we’ll be back on enrollment marketing and we are bringing graphic designers into the conversation to talk all things school brand. We hope to see you back here next Thursday. Again, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern here on our YouTube channel. Thanks to everyone who joined us today.
Charlotte Pullins (12:05):
Michael B. (12:31):
All right, we’re out.
Charlotte Pullins (12:32):
Michael B. (12:34):
Thanks Dr. Pullins. Much appreciated. I’m going to jet because I got to hop back into these meetings. But again, we appreciate you so much and based on the sort of, I think popularity and just the traction to the conversation yesterday, I hope we’ll find some more time to work with you and Tawan over the coming months. And I hope I see you maybe in Austin for the national conference next year.
Charlotte Pullins (13:00):
Yes, definitely. We have to meet. Thank you, Michael, for everything.
Michael B. (13:04):
Sounds good, take care. Bye.
Charlotte Pullins (13:05):
All right, bye-bye.
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