What Can Families Do?
Mentoring programs are a signal that a district is taking care of its teachers, and therefore its students — but they are not always visible to parents. It’s worth asking administrators if these kinds of supports exist, and it’s important to keep in mind how valuable it is to fund them, even if the money doesn’t appear to go directly into the classroom.
Families should ask administrators and fellow parents about other ways their school is preventing turnover. You can inquire about supports such as SEL programs and school counselors. And look for warning signs among the staff, like teachers who are exasperated, negative, or isolated in their classrooms.
And what to do if there is a wave of turnover at your child’s school?
Create as much continuity as you can. Children, especially young ones, thrive on familiarity, so see if you can keep their schedules and routines consistent. If your child’s favorite teacher leaves, help him find other staff he connects with, like the music teacher or guidance counselor. Talk to the new teacher or principal about what will change in the classroom (routine, instructional approach, discipline style) and discuss it with your child in advance. And remember that children take their cues from us; keep things positive and your child is more likely to maintain an open and optimistic attitude, too, making him better able to adjust than if he feels anxious or critical.
There will always be political and economic factors driving turnover. Although parents can’t control those factors directly, we can help by staying informed and involved in the systems that influence our children’s school experiences, from voting for local school councils to being aware of national education policy. Beyond inflammatory rhetoric about teacher unions, pay-for-performance, and other hot-button school policies, we need to be thoughtful about how our decisions affect teachers — and, ultimately, our children.