Posted on June 21st, 2016

Teacher Recruitment and Retention in the Supplementary School

For me, the summer months always bring opportunity for renewal and realignment. I don’t know about you, but it is also a time when I do a lot of thinking about recruiting and retaining teachers. What follows are some thoughts and suggestions meant to help Jewish Educational Supervisors formulate an ongoing plan for what I see as the three most important areas of faculty work:

• RECRUITMENT, including teacher recruitment strategies and incentives.
• RETENTION, strategies and programs to keep new teachers in the classroom and retain experienced teachers.
• RENEWAL, a focus on teacher professional development and assessment of teacher quality and student outcomes.

In my experience, the first step is to frame your own concept of what constitutes the components of a strong school faculty. Consider:
• What constitutes good teaching?
• How can one judge whether or not a teacher is sufficiently good?
• What percentage of teachers are “good enough” and what percentage are truly “excellent”?
• How do we raise the level of teaching in our current teacher population?
• How do we recruit new teachers that will meet our criteria?

The first area, recruitment, requires the educational supervisor to know what he or she desires! Consider:
• Do I want to recruit and/or hire members, parents, nonmembers?
• Do I want to recruit and/or hire teachers who are members of a particular movement?
• All other things being equal, when a candidate is not available with a background in both education and Judaism, which shall be given priority?
• Should priority be given to someone with a great deal of experience who may be “set in their ways” or someone who has far less experience and is “trainable”
• What about age/grade level, curriculum, personality of the class, other concerns?

It is also essential to consider where to look for great teachers! In this season of elections, the best advice is to vote early and often and it is also important to recruit early and often and to consider engaging teachers who are “good connectors” – in other words, they can connect you to other good teachers! Consider the following:
• Advertising/Job Postings & the Internet
• Local Schools of Education
• Local BJE/Federation
• Local Papers or the Temple Bulletin (Yes, people still do read newspapers!)

It is vital to have a process for interviewing and engaging teachers. Consider:
• A Resume Review (A good cover letter, relevant teaching experience, experience as an RA, camp counselor or coach)
• Phone Screen
• Personal Interview
• Reference Check – The most important step and the one we usually overlook!!!
• If possible, have the teacher teach a sample lesson or serve as a substitute teacher.

During the interview it is important to ask, among others, the following questions:
• How do you reach children at varying levels?
• How do you keep your students engaged and ensure they are learning?
• What types of creative teaching strategies have you used in the past?

And here is what to look for in the answers:
• Specific examples of instructional strategies or teamwork
• A positive attitude
• A professional demeanor
• Knowledge of and enthusiasm for learning in general

Finally, once a teacher is involved and working with children, continue to ask the question; “How do I keep them engaged and happy?”
• Consistent observations & clear feedback
• Roster reviews (Moving star teachers into positions of leadership and ensuring proper support system is in place for teachers who may need the extra help)
• Issuing Employment Agreements Early
• Good Communication
• Lots of Madrichim to lend a hand in the classroom!

In addition, utilize faculty morale boosters:
• Get Together with Coffee and Snacks – End of First Day
• “Hats off to you award” – Design a fun hat and faculty member wears it for the day.
• Invite staff members to Educator’s office for positive conversation (snacks and soft drinks)
• Call staff regularly at home with kudos
• Brag and Breakfast Session – Cook Breakfast for the Teachers
• Drawings and Door Prizes at Meetings
• Staff Night Out for Dinner and a Movie
• Treats and Apples in staff Mailboxes and Desks with a thank you note
• “What would make your job easier” form
• Go to local businesses for free coupons for staff
• Faculty Appreciation Shabbat
• Increase communication through weekly newsletters
• “You lit some fires” award for teacher who motivates student. Scented Candle as a gift

Finally, teachers crave opportunities for constant renewal and refreshment – teachers need:
• Opportunities to examine critically their taken-for-granted beliefs about teaching and learning
• To develop conceptual understanding of Jewish content while experiencing great teaching
• Regular opportunities to study teaching and Judaism

Some ideas for professional development:
• Jewish Calendar, Siddur and Lifecycle
• Jewish Theology
• Parashat Hashavuah
• Bible Study or Jewish History
• Comparative Judaism
• How to Talk to and Work with Parents
• Classroom Management
• Evaluation
• Dealing with Difficult Issues
• Utilizing Madrichim

At the end of every school year I give my students a homework assignment. I tell them to read a new book, think a new thought and make a new friend. I hope this article inspires you to do all three as we continue our often overwhelming task of educating the current and the next generation of involved, committed and positive Jews. Have a wonderful summer!

Rabbi Joe Eiduson, RJE, has served as the Rabbi-Educator at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, Massachusetts, since 2007.