Widening the Net
Experience as a campus principal made me a fervent believer that there were no good hires to be had in July. In those days the local July job fair felt like an open casting call for a new zombie movie. I had no desire to take a chance on the woman whose spearmint gum failed to entirely mask the smell of alcohol or the man in desperate need of a pedicure wearing open-toed sandals. This was the turn of the millennium before alternative certification opened the door to thousands of more applicants and changed teacher recruitment. If I had a vacancy in late July it was time to call in a long-term substitute and give up until December college graduates started applying.
When ACP programs became readily available, however, I was able to steer my favorite subs towards them so that I could hire them as teachers. I found second career people, first-generation college graduates who couldn’t afford to dedicate a semester to student teaching, even private school teachers who wanted to transition to public school salaries and benefits – in June, July, and even (gulp!) August.
EQUITY AND REPRESENTATION IN EDUCATION
Now that we find ourselves with a deepening teacher shortage, we are searching to find new ways to recruit good teachers at any time of the year. Most districts recognize the need to pivot in their marketing strategies, but to whom – exactly – are they marketing? Data-driven hiring goals usually go beyond the simple subject area needs to seek diversity in race, ethnicity, and gender. These are critical goals. A 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Education found that 82% of teachers are white. Other studies have found that students perform better academically when they see teachers who look like they do. One found that low-income black male students were 39 percent less likely to drop out by high school if they were assigned to a black teacher in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade (Gershenson et al., 2017) Failure to recruit historically underrepresented populations reinforces the status quo. You have undoubtedly recruited at HBCUs, but how else have you marketed to this population? Spanish language radio stations? Ads on BET? What about canvassing your alumni to find teacher candidates? Even if they aren’t interested in teaching, chances are good that they know someone who is. Institutional partnerships with alternative teacher preparation programs, such as Teachers of Tomorrow, also yield more diverse candidates, as they are more likely to serve non-traditional students than typical institutions of higher education.
Generation Z recruits, the youngest generation of teachers, have a strong commitment to social justice and a desire to make their world a better place. They may not immediately recognize that teaching is a direct path to these goals, but it most certainly is. There is no better way to impact the future of the country than educating its youth. Help them connect the dots between their passion and their career path with targeted marketing.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
The Great Resignation has hurt teacher recruitment, but there are signs that it may end up helping fill the resulting vacancies. COVID prompted many people to reevaluate priorities and work schedules. Many are seeking a second career, one that will provide more fulfillment. The pandemic has been a visceral reminder that life is too short to waste in a job you hate. While stories of the challenges of distance learning have undoubtedly scared potential teacher applicants away the past two school years, the dissemination of the vaccine and the development of more effective treatments are enabling schools to return to something resembling normalcy. Now is the time to target those who are seeking a change, and to convince them that teaching is the change they seek.
It is a missed opportunity to assume that people in other occupations have no interest in teaching. They may just not have realized that teaching is a viable alternative for them. In a 2018 ASCD article, “Rethinking Teacher Recruitment,” the author notes “People tend not to understand or appreciate the complexity, creativity, and challenge that is inherent in teaching, the joy it can bring, or the impact they can have while in the role. That is to say, most people don’t really understand what it means to be a teacher.” These are the passive candidates – people who need their eyes opened to a more nuanced picture of teaching. Creative and carefully crafted marketing can provide this.
I hired an ex-engineer, an ordained Lutheran minister, an environmental specialist, and scores of others who sought a change of career or were tired of ignoring the internal call to teaching they had felt for years. With training and coaching they made excellent teachers. Second career educators come from all walks of life, including the military. Their past experiences have often imparted the soft skills that successful educators need in addition to pedagogy and subject matter expertise. It is much easier to teach someone how to teach than how to communicate effectively.
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS A SCIENCE TEACHER?
While it is true that many teachers end up working a short distance from where they themselves went to school, that too is changing. Millennials and Generation Z teachers are more willing and more likely to relocate for a job. One survey found that 85% were willing to move to a new city for work. This opens up a literal world of candidates. The ability to alternatively certify enabled me to find excellent teachers from California, Georgia, even Spain. One native Texan, longing for home, interviewed and conducted a sample teaching session in physics from his apartment in Shanghai. Sites such as SchoolSpring and Teaching Jobs boost this long-distance recruitment effort. If your district isn’t using education-specific third-party sites to list school openings, why not? How else will potential physics teachers living overseas or across the country find out about your openings?
To help seal the deal, host webinars at convenient times (evenings, weekends) to introduce potential candidates to the district and highlight your culture. You can advertise these through social media, any third-party sites you are using to post vacancies, and calculated SOE tactics. A good first impression with these webinars will go a long way to positively showcase your district and open teaching positions, making the transition to the clunky application process a bit more palatable and helping you take participants from passive candidate to active recruit.
Buttner, A. (2020, January 14). Teacher Recruitment Strategies: Tried-and-True Ways to Build Your Applicant Pool. Frontline Education. https://www.frontlineeducation.com/blog/teacher-recruitment-strategies/
Gershenson, S., et.al. (2017, March 26). The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers. IZA Institute of Labor Economics. Discussion Paper Series. https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=559124089121125008068091101103094124031062077093054032068051103057069062053123004068065001102024022062002075001070072082068127114109084091069126064080123070076093106083087120125096&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE
Herrmann, Z. (2018, May 1) Rethinking Teacher Recruitment. ASCD. https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/rethinking-teacher-recruitment
Motamedi, J.G. (n.d.). 9 strategies for recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse teachers. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/northwest/pdf/teacher-attrition.pdf
About the Author: Laura Henry
The former Executive Director of Chinquapin Preparatory School – a college prep boarding school for low-income students who are able and motivated – Dr. Laura Henry has worked in both public and private education for 30 years as a school leader, college professor, and alternative certification coach and trainer. Laura also serves as the Chair of the North American Boarding Forum for the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA), and mentors underserved youth. Laura’s doctoral and master’s degrees are both from the University of Houston’s education department and her B.A. in History was earned at Rice University.
About Teachers of Tomorrow (www.teachersoftomorrow.org)
Teachers of Tomorrow is the largest, fastest-growing Teacher Certification Program in the nation, delivering online and in-person training to individuals pursuing a career in teaching. Teachers of Tomorrow is also the #2 most diverse certification program in the country with 46% non-white enrollment; and 70% of their teachers remain in the profession after five years, versus the national average of only 50%. Over the last 12 years, Teachers of Tomorrow has certified more than 45,000 new teachers, and in 2016 the Company trained and certified an estimated 7,000 teachers. Teachers of Tomorrow is an approved teacher certification provider in Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and South Carolina.