Want to Stop Teachers from Quitting? Start With These 7 Things

Want to Stop Teachers from Quitting? Start With These 7 Things

Teachers are quitting the profession in record numbers. Teaching is a field that is classically underpaid and overworked. Teachers are used to sourcing supplies from thin air and even thinner bank accounts. We work all day and then work into the evenings, grading papers on our couches. We handle challenging behavior- from both students and parents- with kindness and calm.

Retaining teachers in 2020 is extra challenging.

It’s definitely not a profession for everyone, and 2020 has brought unique challenges that have pushed some educators over the edge. Some of those say distance learning is the final straw, while others feel unsafe being in a physical classroom. In Illinois alone, 35% of teachers say they are considering quitting because of the pandemic. With all of the added stress placed on our shoulders, now is the time for admins to step up and support us. Administrators, we’re counting on you.

Here are 7 things admins can do to stop teachers from quitting.

1. Communicate clearly, honestly, and frequently.

We’re all highly educated people. We know when we’re not getting the whole truth, or when we’re being brushed off. Please be transparent. We’re all on the same team. We know that everything is up in the air this year, but we need all the information as it comes. Be direct, clear, and concise.

2. Notice our efforts and provide genuine praise for what we do well.

Teachers are quitting because we feel unappreciated. Most of us do not do this job for the accolades or the paycheck. We are content with our impact on student success- those “lightbulb moments” keep us going! That said, it is a lot more pleasant to work for someone that recognizes our efforts. The best leaders notice and acknowledge the effort put forth by their teachers with authenticity. Much the same way that we praise student effort- feedback is best when it is specific and genuine. It’s also very helpful if you acknowledge our hard work before asking us to take on even more responsibility.

3. Trust teachers as professionals.

We are highly educated and many of us have spent years honing our craft. We’re in the classroom daily and have experiences and great ideas to share. We also have our fingers on the pulse and know what our students need. When administrators value our input and allow our voices to be heard, it goes a long way.

4. Stop micromanaging us.

This goes along with the last one, but it deserves its own place in the spotlight. Please don’t micromanage us. Constant critique, interference, and a million reminders make for a toxic environment. Teachers’ to-do lists are miles long, and there are not enough hours in the day. We need to feel like we have some modicum of control over our workday, especially as we learn to navigate pandemic teaching. Like you, we want what’s best for kids. Trust us to do our jobs in our way and time whenever possible.

5. Support our goals.

Great administrators want to see their teachers succeed. With the right support and resources, we can do amazing things for our students. Don’t just expect your teachers to reach their professional goals. Ask them how you can support them, and then follow through! We might not ask for help very often, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t need it. When an administrator offers support, it’s so refreshing!

6. Don’t be a politician.

The world has plenty of people who say what you want to hear. Teachers crave authenticity and honesty from their principals. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. When a principal says one thing to parents, and something different to teachers, eventually it comes to light, and it’s never good for morale. We may not always like what you have to say, but we will respect you so much more if you’re straightforward with us.

7. Show that you have our backs.

While parent feedback and communication are very important, teachers also need to know that the boss has our back when Jimmy’s mom doesn’t like our methods. We don’t think you should have to choose sides- we’re all in this together. If you have to take a stance, let parents know that you believe in your teachers, and you have their back. Your confidence in us will inspire confidence in our students’ families as well.

Administrators- creating a positive work environment is key if you want to retain teachers. And that starts with you.

When our administrators are supportive leaders, the result is hard-working teachers that value their careers. It prevents teachers from quitting.


Want to Stop Teachers from Quitting? Start With These 7 Things

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Kristen Nance

Senior Member

Kristen Nance is an elementary school teacher in Oregon. She is passionate about children's literature, has an affinity for black cats, and is obsessed with ravens. She reads every mystery novel she can get her hands on, and feels happiest when she is near the ocean.

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