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Charlotte Pullins on Teacher Retention

Grow Schools

December 13, 2023

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Charlotte Pullins On Teacher Retention

Dr. Charlotte Pullins researches teacher turnover and is the co-founder of a non-profit organization that helps educate underserved children. She is also the founder and lead consultant of ELC Training and Consulting LLC and a certified DEI specialist.

In this video, Dr. Pullins Pullins speaks about professional development, creating a supportive school culture, and mental health initiatives for teachers.

Additional Resource from Dr. Pullins on Teacher Retention

Teacher Retention Guide

Teacher Retention For Charter Schools

This guide covers best practices from Dr. Pullins. Download free for her insightful tips on building lasting relationships with your teachers, leading to a flourishing school culture, higher job satisfaction, and better outcomes for the kids you serve. 

Read Full Transcript :

Michael Barber:

Hi everybody and welcome back to Tuesday Tips. My name’s Michael Barber and I’m joined today on a conversation on all things teacher attention by Dr. Charlotte Pullins. Dr. Pullins, it’s good to see your face again here.

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

Nice to see you too, Michael.

Michael Barber:

Good to spend a few minutes with you. As mentioned, we are going to spend 10 minutes on our Tuesday tips today talking all things teacher retention and wellness, and we brought back a guest, you all should know if you’ve been watching our Tuesday Tips, and that’s Dr. Charlotte Poland. She’s joined us a couple of times to talk about this topic, so we’re happy to have her back. We’re going to kick it right off with some questions that we think are going to be really impactful for the conversation. But if you’re joining us live, please feel free to hop into the live chat and we are more than happy to answer questions that are coming from you live as well. So Dr. Pullins, let’s start at the top of the hour with how can we create a positive and supportive school culture that encourages teachers to stay with us for the long term? Any thoughts there?

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

Well, and there’s a theory that was produced by Bandura called Social Cognitive Theory, and it really framed teacher self-efficacy based on social context and interactions and the environments that teachers have at school. So one way, I think, using that research relationships really matter. School districts need to first form great relationships with their teachers, giving teachers an autonomy and trust, creating a shared vision, teacher recognition and appreciation. That could be just going into the teacher classroom, leaving sticky notes. Remember, for every negative, a teacher needs six positives. Also, communication, feedback are all great ways in order to increase that teacher’s self-efficacy and also wellness programs. Remember just creating a positive and supporting culture. Keep it ongoing. Collaborations between teachers, parents and the community, to help teachers really will grow your teachers professionally and create an environment that they feel that the school is committed to helping them continue to teach and continue to teach as long as they can.

Michael Barber:

Such good insights there. I think it’s particularly important, this conversation we’re having this morning. I know you and I saw this poll from the National Alliance that was conducted by the Harris Poll. It found that something in the neighborhood of 97% of all public school teachers say they wish people understood how demanding it is to be a teacher. I think for those of us in the field that are around school leaders and teachers, we understand those demands probably more acutely than everyone. And I think it’s important, especially for teachers these days under the amount of pressure, that they’re given a post COVID experience in school learning loss, pressure from voices that we never expected to have. A question that comes up often is, so how do we help teachers continue to grow? How do they continue to get that professional development and hopefully get the support that they need? Is there any specific professional development opportunities that have shown to enhance teacher satisfaction and retention?

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

Well, it’s crazy because about $18,000 is spent per teacher for professional development. But out of that professional development, only about 30% of teachers get something from it. So what can we do? Well, we can improve the way we are giving professional development, make it more interactive. If your school district doesn’t have access to great professional development, online courses like Coursea or edX are great platforms where you can use and not create the professional development yourself. Also, professional development on cultural competencies and inclusion. Those kind of workshops help teachers work with other teachers, help teachers work with students better, and also I think it’s really important that you personalize learning. Give the teacher the power to pick and choose what they need to know and who knows best what they need. The teachers themselves. Also, I love to see teachers have professional development, that’s cross disciplinary. So that’s one teacher that teaches something different with someone else because they learn from each other.

They learn strategies that they might not have known or thought of. Those are great ways to improve your teacher professional development. Also, remember, the effectiveness of your professional development is going to be based on the specific needs of the teacher. The teachers know what they need, and that’s really important. So it’s essential to offer a variety of professional development so that teachers can hone in into the things that they need and increase their teacher self-efficacy. So just be innovative. Find approaches, different approaches from everywhere, but most importantly, you want to have a positive impact on teacher retention with professional development, and that’s by finding the correct one for the teacher.

Michael Barber:

I think the interesting one thread between both of your answers around how we can create this positive and supportive environment and how we can create specific professional development opportunities for teachers is you’re really helping teachers be seen, right? So you’re helping, when you talk about just simple post-it notes, it’s reflecting even the smallest things to the biggest impacts that they have. In your school when you’re talking about professional development and helping them, guide their path because they know where they need that learning and that help. It’s again, allowing them to be seen in that process and specifically on conversations about belonging. You’re again reflecting that need to be seen as an individual that’s contributing in that school experience. I think that’s such an important thread you’ve created there.

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

Great. Thank you.

Michael Barber:

For sure. I want to talk really quickly about a big topic of conversation right now amongst districts and even across all the different types of spectrums of schools, whether it’s charter or otherwise, are compensation and benefits. Is there anything that you’ve seen where you are in Arizona or you’ve seen nationally that are innovative approaches that either districts or charters are utilizing to positively impact teacher retention without breaking the budget?

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

And that’s a good question because a lot of school districts will say, well, “We don’t have the money. There’s no money.” So if you think about it, in year 2000, 2021, the average teacher salary was only $41,770. That’s not a lot of money. So what can we do to help teachers without districts or charters breaking their banks? Have someone who specializes in student loan forgiveness, that’s a person can help the teachers navigate finding the money that they can not pay to the government anymore. That’s public service loan forgiveness. There’s the teacher loan forgiveness. Also, something I utilized was the Perkins Loan forgiveness, and that was based on teaching in a school that was predominantly low income. Another thing is flexible work arrangements. A lot of school districts are going to four-day work weeks. That’s a great way to help teachers and keep them engaged at your school.

The Teacher Next Door program helps teachers get housing. A lot of places, especially in California, they have a big proponent for stipends for teachers in their housing. So one district, Daily District in California is one that has implemented that where the teachers get a stipend for living. And then there’s also childcare stipends. You just have to be creative. The school district has to be creative and responsive to the needs of the teachers and prioritize those in little ways. Those small initiatives or programs helps focus on teacher wellbeing, their health and just increases their retention.

Michael Barber:

Such good insights there. I was actually listening to a conversation with a school leader, out of Rochester New York, a few weeks ago who was touching on something you mentioned, and that’s housing allowances and making housing allowances more affordable for teachers. Even careers that pay enormous of multiples more, people are struggling to find housing in big metro markets right now, big urban, densely populated markets. And for teachers, it’s no different, and we can’t get to this place where our teachers are having to live an hour, two hour commute outside of the communities that they’re in.

They’re not going to understand the needs of that community. They’re not going to be able to hear the voices, to feel the beats and the feelings of that urban community. So we’ve got to be thinking at a federal state, and local level of how we can create housing affordability opportunities for teachers given their salaries. So such good insights there. You touched on this really briefly in your last answer, and this is going to be our last question. So if you’re live with us right now, please feel free to pop them in, but we’re hitting that 10 minute mark and we’d like to respect your time. But you touched on teacher wellbeing and mental health. Are there any specific initiatives or programs that could contribute to higher retention rates when we talk about wellbeing and mental health for teachers?

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

Yes, you have to remember that teacher wellbeing is very important, especially in the times of COVID isolation. People’s self-confidence has decreased, or teacher self-efficacy has decreased. So we want to increase those level of wellbeing. And higher wellbeing correlates to higher engagement, higher productivity for teacher, more teacher presentism, teachers are present more. So when we increase that what’s called psychological capital, we increase teacher satisfaction, we increase their commitment to teaching, and we increase their performance. So that decreases their stress, that decreases their anxiety, that decreases all those things. So what can you do as a school district? Well, there’s mental health awareness things that you can do. There’s one book. First thing I would say is, for administrators to get a book called Onward. It’s about teacher resiliency, and the author is Elaine Aguilera, and what she does is she tackles teacher stress and pinpoints how you can, as a district, help that.

There’s also an online component to her book, but things mindfulness, get your teachers into that. There’s an app called Headspace for employees that helps. Also, professional development on mental health, there’s a great program called Second Step Adult that goes through teacher resilience and burnout and stress. Remember the flexible work week. You can have mental health days at your school, things that don’t cost money. You tell teachers you have to leave on time. There’s no homework, there’s no parent-teacher conferences this week. Give that to your teachers, support groups. What you need to do is just prioritize their wellbeing. Create programs that can help and support them in creating a caring environment. That’s what’s going to increase your retention rates, and that’s what’s going to equip your teachers to better manage the stressfulness of the profession.

Michael Barber:

Such good insights there. And I’ll add one more to what Dr. Pullins shared. In two weeks, we’re bringing Caroline Poland, who is a trauma-informed mental health practitioner to our webinar series. So feel free to hop onto our website, charterschoolcapital.com and register for that webinar. We’re doing teacher mental health this month. And next month, we’re following it up with student mental health. Two huge topics right now for school leaders. Well, we’re 12 ish minutes after the hour. We like to respect our Tuesday Tips, 10 minute limit to the amount of time we can take from our listeners every single week. So we’re going to call it a day. But Dr. Pullins, we appreciate you being here again with us on YouTube live for Tuesday Tips.

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

Thanks for having me.

Michael Barber:

Of course. It’s our pleasure. We’ll have to have you back in a few months and chat more about what’s happening in the space related to teacher retention. This is a big challenge for school leaders, continues to be. Every time we ask school leaders at conferences, what’s your biggest challenge? Teacher retention is always in the top three, so we’ll of course be bringing you back. I do want to say a big thank you to you. You helped us build a guide that’s available on our website around teacher retention. Just an incredible guide. You all are welcome to go check that out. And we really appreciate you adding your voice to not only our guides, but also YouTube live. So thanks again for joining us.

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

Thank you for having me.

Michael Barber:

Of course. So I’ll wrap it up there. Again, say thank you to Dr. Pullins. We are here every Tuesday for 10 minutes, talking all things challenges for school leaders, and we hope to see you back here next Tuesday. Have a good week, you all. Take care.

Dr. Charlotte Pullins:

Bye.

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