Closing the Teacher Satisfaction Gap

by | October 4, 2018

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, October 4, 2018

What can schools learn from Google? A lot, says Talia Milgrom-Elcott, who leads 100Kin10, a network to which we belong that is devoted to addressing the nation’s STEM teacher shortage. Don’t miss her great piece in eSchoolNews,  What Schools Can Learn from Google (Spoiler: It’s Not What You’d Expect) on the importance of leadership, empowered teachers, and time for collaboration and support.

“At Google, a hallmark of the company culture is the level of collaboration,” say Milgrom-Elcott and co-author Mo-Yun Lei Fong of Google.

The authors write:

“100Kin10’s analysis of the biggest reasons people leave teaching, or don’t choose to teach in the first place, found that time for collaboration and professional growth during the work day are among the most critical issues. Indeed, teachers confirm that they lack time for their own professional development and do not have sufficient opportunities to collaborate with other teachers.

“Making time for collaboration and professional growth isn’t something reserved just for Fortune 50 companies like Google. Schools in Japan and Sweden build time for teacher collaboration into the school day and put budgets and time behind teachers’ professional growth. Public Impact® has created a model they call Opportunity Culture® that helps any school create teacher leadership and growth within existing budgets. Creating a collaborative environment has even been shown to help lower teachers’ elevated stress levels. The models are there, and our schools and school systems can choose to make this a priority and allocate the necessary resources to make it happen.

We couldn’t agree more—educators routinely identify the support they get in an Opportunity Culture® as one of the best parts about their jobs. And research backs up the positive impact of that support from multi-classroom leaders on student learning.

The authors also write about the importance of leadership: “There is already strong evidence that support from principals is one of the most important factors in predicting whether teachers stay, and it’s especially important for minority teachers. Laszlo Bock, former SVP of Google’s People Operations, details the eight essential attributes of what makes a good manager in his book Work Rules!, including the ability to be a good coach and empower teams. School leaders who co-create the school environment and culture alongside their teachers will have the highest chance of achieving a successful outcome.”

We agree, and see as well the power of an entire instructional leadership team, in which the principal both provides support and receives it from a team of multi-classroom leaders, who in turn support their teaching teams.

Other organizations’ work is also an important piece of solving the satisfaction gap—such as those the authors cite, New Leaders, USHCA, and Achievement Network, to name a few.

We know schools don’t appreciate being told they should run like a business. But the authors’ emphasis on prioritizing employee satisfaction—how fulfilled, supported teachers lead to better student learning—is a lesson worth taking from Google.


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