The Marshall Memo

One of the first things I did when I moved from the role of building principal, and after spending 31 years in buildings, was gather resources, connections, and networks to challenge my thinking beyond all that I knew and thought I knew from that long stretch of time.

One of the resources I found was the Marshall Memo. I’ve signed up for Kim Marshall’s weekly memo. He culls through a ton of resources, identifies articles of wide interest, provides a brief summary, and sends it along. Every week. And every week I find something of value. On occasion I’ll share part of what I’ve learned that week.

This week is no exception. This morning I learned about ‘Stay Interviews’.

“Stay Interviews” – A Proactive Strategy on Teacher Attrition

            In this article in The Learning Professional, consultant/coach Kathy Perret says exit interviews give leaders insights on why people are leaving their jobs, leading to improved working conditions. But “stay interviews” are a better idea, she says: asking staff members how they are feeling about their jobs and what they need to happily remain in the school. “Such reflective, one-on-one conversations between teachers and school leaders,” says Perret, “are critical for nurturing a healthy school culture, and stay interviews can show staff that you are invested in them for the long term.” 

            Perret recommends making the interviews voluntary, choosing questions appropriate to the school, and stressing that the chats are confidential and aimed at making things better for staff and students. Some possible questions:

–   What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?

–   If you were to consider leaving this position, why would that be?

–   Describe your ideal school.

A middle-school principal in Texas was surprised when a number of teachers immediately signed up after she floated the idea of stay interviews. The conversations were “amazing for my soul,” she said, providing valuable insights on changes that needed to be made. Teachers said they were grateful for the opportunity to share their perspective. 

            Perret recommends working with an instructional coach or another member of the leadership team to organize teachers’ suggestions (anonymously) by topic, analyzing them looking for trends and Aha moments, discussing the findings with the staff, and deciding on a few immediate changes (quick wins) and longer-range initiatives. “After these steps,” she says, “leaders and coaches should monitor the changes over time and collect artifacts to share with staff about progress and areas in continuing need of improvement.” 

“Want to Retain Teachers? Ask Them What They Need” by Kathy Perret in The Learning Professional, February 2023 (Vol. 44, #1, pp. 10-11); Perret can be reached at

As we continue to unknot the challenges from the pandemic, and there are many challenges, and they are real, it is part of everyone’s role to attend to the needs of the people who carry the weight of our work. Teachers. And seeking out teachers’ input on what is right and good in buildings to build upon makes so much sense. It’s easy to find the difficult and challenging, but do we ever ask what is good, helpful, and possible?

Here’s an opportunity to do just that. Stay Interviews.

Author: Jnelson

Jeff Nelson Fife School District Assistant Superintendent:Teaching-Learning-Innovation 39 years as an educator. 16 years teacher 3 years assistant principal 12 years principal 8 years Assistant Superintendent BA, Washington State University MAEd, Washington State University Previous member of AWSP Legislative Committee Previous member of UW Tacoma PEAB, Administrative Certification Established and maintained Fife’s first website for 7 years Present work includes establishing the first Teaching/Learning/Innovation department in the Fife School District. Examples of responsibilities include: teacher/administrator professional development, assessment, TPEP, curriculum/materials review, 24 credit requirement, technology levy leadership, teacher/administrator bargaining. Initiatives underway in Fife, as a result of new TLI Department: AVID, OER, Curriculum and Materials reviews, Student Perception Pilot with CSTP, Google Expedition Cofounder of Educational Internet Communications, LLC. Marketed and sold one of the first online grade checking programs in the US. Consulted with Seattle Educational Internet Company for 2 years.

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