Insights from Inside the Classroom

Schools are adapting to keep up with students' needs, which means teachers' work is changing rapidly. As teachers navigate updates to curriculum, staffing changes, and new policies in their schools, they need support to continue being successful. Every school’s situation is unique, but teacher retention, time management, and job-related stress are all common concerns for school employees.

To get some insight from inside the classroom, the Discovery Education team interviewed Peter Panico, a North Carolina teacher and member of the DEN Leadership Council. Read on to learn Peter's advice for school leaders about retaining their current teaching staff, providing adequate time for teachers’ tasks, and helping teachers manage their stress levels.

Picture of Peter Panico

Peter Panico

North Carolina Teacher and DEN Leadership Council Member

Teacher Retention - What are some ways school leaders can help retain their teachers?

“In my opinion, there are three types of teachers. The first type are the ones that lead by example, following all their administrators’ expectations and instruct the curriculum with fidelity to the best of their abilities. Then there are the teachers who know and teach the curriculum with their own creative flair. Lastly, there are the educators like me who know and teach the standards with fidelity, but with unique and innovative methods to push the boundaries of student learning. It is imperative that administrators support and encourage all three types of teachers.

Provide support, structure, and explicit directions for some, encourage creativity for others, and celebrate all teachers who are making a difference. Knowing your teachers and what they need to continue their success is the key to being an effective leader. Let teachers show what they know and lead, while providing support and resources for those who ask for it.”

Learn more about retaining your best educators with DE's new eBook on teacher shortage!

Time - How can school leaders give teachers adequate time for their tasks? What support is needed to help teachers accomplish what matters?

“It seems every year more non-instructional tasks are added to a teachers’ workload. From multiple documentations, data collections, lesson plans, committees, extracurricular activities, and duties. Many are out of the school leaders’ control, however the implementation can be managed in more effective ways.

Currently, documenting lessons and weekly agendas is the most time-consuming task. Completing the mandated checklists school leaders require to view weekly to ensure teachers are performing their jobs takes away precious personal time. Effective teachers know what they are doing in the classroom, let them organize their day their way and trust that they will get it done.

During planning meetings, have the teachers lead the meetings and provide support and insight when needed. Let the teachers collaborate to come up with strong lessons to best support their students. Teachers are natural leaders, and can thrive when allowed to lead as they plan.”

Teacher Stress - How can school leaders create an environment that helps teachers manage their stress levels?

“Retaining teachers has a lot to do with self-worth and accomplishment. Educators have the innate ability to help and support others, and knowing they are accomplishing that goal is a long-lasting sense of joy. A quick compliment or small note on their classroom door can make all the difference.

Administration walkthroughs and observations are a part of the job in education, however they create anxiety and self-doubt as teachers await to hear what they have done wrong, or what they need to improve upon. Instead, make these opportunities for teachers to be acknowledged for what is being done well in the classroom. Instead of “I gotcha”, make it “I get ya, I like what you are doing here.” and provide positive, constructive feedback so they continue what they are doing well.

Provide opportunities for educators to share their success with the rest of the staff during staff meetings and professional development. Let the teachers support and encourage one another by building a community of educators that want to learn, share, and connect with each other.

What has made the biggest impact as an educator was knowing that I was not alone; I was a part of a community of like-minded individuals that supported and encouraged each other. The Discovery Educator Network (DEN) gave me that community. The DEN has been a life changing experience for me as a person and as an educator. Educators loosely use the term PLC in their schools. A true PLC is built with people you can rely on and who support and assist you. That is who the DEN is to me. School leaders who create the same sense of community for staff, students, and parents have buy-in from everyone and truly generate a place where everyone involved wants to learn.”

Not every teacher’s opinion on retention, workload, or stress are going to be the same, but one great first step to understanding these challenges can be to hear from teachers themselves. Teachers are working tirelessly to keep up with the changes in education, and support from school leaders, communities, and partners can help encourage them on the journey toward school success.