Professionals coming together with missing puzzle pieces

The Exodus of Educators

Last week, Inside Higher Ed published a story about college professors falling in line with the Great Resignation.

Educators, especially K-12, have been caught in the crossfire of social, cultural, and political battles about everything from testing to masks to mass shootings.

Kathryn Dill’s report in The Wall Street Journal detailed the turnover statistics since 2020:

“Approximately 300k teachers left their jobs between February 2020 and May 2022. A recent poll shows that 55% of teachers plan to leave education sooner than originally planned, up from 37% last year. And 44% of public schools reported teacher vacancies this year.”

The Great Resignation is not a sudden phenomenon for education; it’s been brewing for a while. The responsibility and accountability that fell onto educators during the pandemic was a tremendous amount of extra pressure with no extra pay in many cases.

What can be done to keep teachers in class during such a time of crisis? Marketers, especially those in education can no longer be blind to the problem. We need to open our eyes and ears to the catalysts of these resignations.

This goes beyond traditional surveys and exit interviews, with researchers like AccessU Faculty Dr. Dean Browell finding more raw, informative content online.“Teacher and employee attitudes are knowable,” says Dr. Browell. “Applying behavioral science to the incredible uptick in discussion among peers is crucial to understanding burnout, churn, and the true big-picture state of your recruitment and retention, as told by your own internal stakeholders.”

Marketers and social media managers have a role in informing leadership about how these trends are impacting your own organizations by digging into the online content and reading between the tweets.

Surveys are prompted, but social media reveals what people are saying unprompted. Online discussions like message boards and the comment sections of a local news story can all show an educator’s true feelings in a place where they’re more willing to admit them.

Not only is it important to listen to those in the profession who are leaving for other opportunities, but it’s also important to gather intel from new potential recruits. What are prospective teachers seeing and how does this impact them? What are current college students going to think when they see a multitude of social media posts from current and experienced educators discussing their woes and planning their exits?

Marketers and PR professionals should have a seat at the table with leadership in identifying and addressing these issues. And, looking at the way leadership is navigating these challenges is important as well. We know why this is happening. Knowing where the cracks are in the foundations allows you to fix them.

What do teachers need to hear to make them feel valued and have faith in the future? Do educators need more facetime and seats at the table when it comes to big decisions?

Listening will help your team prioritize where you can make some real changes for current and incoming employees.

Look at the emotional touchpoints from online comments, do teachers and professors feel they need to defend their profession? How can we make sure employees feel listened to?

Taking those thoughts and feelings seriously and watching how your team responds, and how their online community is responding to them is huge.

Although these common issues are widespread, they are not universal. Reasons for faculty departures can vary based on geography and specific situations.

“It’s worth listening to find out what the nuances of your institution are, whether it’s K-12 or higher ed,” says Dr. Browell.

Read our Social Media Centers of Excellence blog series or listen to our podcast to learn more about social media listening and best practices.


About the Author

Rachel Schneider

Rachel excels in journalism, media relations coaching, multimedia production, content creation, and crisis communications. She is a former TV reporter and anchor with more than ten years of experience in public speaking and local news, sports, and entertainment production. Interviewing a variety of people over the years, Rachel honed the...

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