Like most parents, independent school mothers and fathers desire above all else that their child be known and loved. They want a safe environment where their child is valued and recognized. So, it is also worth noting that the individuals in your school that have the greatest influence on whether a child is known and loved, valued and recognized, are the teachers and other staff. As a result, these individuals also have a great influence on whether students remain students at your school. For this reason, teachers and staff should receive specialized training on the essentials of student retention.
A parent’s decision to reenroll a student in a school often mirrors the original decision to enroll (see blog on the Value Proposition), though a few additional variables come in to play. When reenrolling, experience has informed a family’s perception of the school’s value, including encounters with each member of the school community. (For a refresher on what is valued by families when they are choosing a school for their child, see my blog on Perception of Independent School Value). At the reenrollment point, a family is not only projecting with their expectations as they determine value, but they also are factoring in their actual experiences and it is for this reason that retention is every staff member’s responsibility.
In training teachers to be attentive to the needs of students and families, it is also important to emphasize that this does not mean compromising the school’s expectations or values. I am not suggesting that teachers lessen expectations of students. What I am suggesting, however, is that all staff must express empathy and caring toward all students. Carl Rogers, the father of Person Centered psychotherapy, believed that three things are necessary for a person to be well-adjusted; congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. According to Rogers, these conditions allow patients to find solutions to their own problems.
In a school environment, this approach reminds us that we need to help families feel positive about and to value the school. If all staff approaches students with congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard, an ideal environment will exist for students to succeed; an environment where students feel known and loved. Congruence (genuineness) dictates that a teacher is honest with the student in expectations and student outcomes; empathy reflects a level of genuine caring about the student’s situation; unconditional positive regard exhibits a love for the students that does not take personally certain behaviors or lack thereof. A school with teachers trained in these three important characteristics will be positioned to provide the ideal environment for students to achieve their maximum potential. It will also create the perfect environment for the retention of students.
Checklist of retention ideas: