Stress. Burnout. Exhaustion. Too little respect. The pandemic has taken a steep toll on teachers, but many say those negative experiences existed for them before COVID-19.
When even one or a small handful of teachers quit, the consequences can be huge for a school. So what can be done to help stave off teacher attrition? For starters, principals and school district leaders need to understand what’s really driving teachers to leave.
Pay matters, but is often not the main point of dissatisfaction.
“Money is not the main reason teachers are leaving at an alarming rate,” commented Kansas City educator, Yvette James on LinkedIn about an Education Week article discussing the need for higher teacher salaries.
Here are 5 common problems teachers say make them want to quit.
“Unreal expectations and poor management of the school can be two problems.”
“Poor management! Toxic school environment, no support for behavior issues, when teachers don’t feel safe. Teacher burnout is real. I could go on and on. 🙁"
Professional Input Not Taken Seriously
“Of course, compensation is an important factor, but what drove me and many of my colleagues away from our local district and the jobs we loved was the common disregard for our professional input. Our school board and district administration continue to exclude us from critical decisions while being completely oblivious to the conditions they created and the consequences of their actions.”
“Schools are short staffed and teachers are running on empty. The demands are high and not enough staff to meet the requirements.”
Lack of Respect
“It’s the micromanaging and lack of professional respect for me. I’m an educated professional and I want to be treated (and compensated) as such.”
“Compensation would absolutely help... but I have always said I do this for the kids. But sadly, this year, the kids have been a huge part of the reason I consider leaving daily. I love them, and I know they have been through a lot, but I am so disheartened this year with the behavior issues and constant disruptions. I feel so lost.”
Teacher stress has been at record highs, with 59 percent of teachers stating that it is a lot more tense teaching now versus pre-pandemic, according to an April EdWeek Research Center survey. And, as data from the February 2021 RAND Corporation survey revealed, stress beat out low pay for the main reason teachers were leaving the classroom with a striking 55 percent quitting in the two school years leading up to the pandemic.
This is not new, and Education Week has written extensively about the top reasons teachers are quitting, and other contributing factors like the substitute shortage, rise in school shootings, calls to ban books by Black authors amid critical race theory debates, and the list goes on.
But all hope is not lost. In an EdWeek Research Center survey conducted in July 2021, only 2 percent of teachers said there was nothing their school or district could do to help relieve their stress. There are ways for schools to take stock of the challenges facing teachers today and work towards solutions.
Here are some tactics to consider:
- Providing mental health days.
- Starting a teacher mentorship program.
- Incorporating teacher input into new initiatives.
Some of these low-cost changes could prove priceless to teachers looking for a reason to stay in the profession.
For deeper reading on teacher well-being and retention, visit these articles: