Why Do Teachers Quit? How Can We Prevent It?

A teacher survey was recently taken in Wales by the teacher’s union NUT Cymru, only to discover that nearly half of their faculty plans to quit within the next two years.

Wow. Almost half of the school workforce.

Responding to the question about their future plans, 46 percent of the 28,000 teachers responded that they don’t want to stay in the educational profession. What’s more, 85 percent said they felt overall morale had declined over the last five years. Several faculty even raised concern surrounding their mental health as the reason for exploring different professions.

Let’s face it—teaching kids today is emotionally expensive.

One teacher, Gafyn Sion Styff—who was head of physical education at a South Wales school—quit due to stress after five years. He said he actually got to his lowest point when he broke down in front of his department head. Interestingly, he now owns a cleaning business, where he employs fifty people and enjoys a healthy work/life balance. Sadly, Gafyn was an effective teacher—but felt it wasn’t worth the price.



How About at Home?

So I searched for current stats in the U.S., and it turns out that just over a month ago, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on the subject. Journalist Kristina Rizga found that within the first five years of their careers, nearly one in five young teachers leave their position for something else. Rizga writes, “Teacher attrition is especially high in poor, urban schools, where on average about a fifth of the entire faculty leaves annually — that’s roughly 50% higher than the rate in more affluent schools.”

If this isn’t bad enough, Rizga says, “Meanwhile, fewer graduates are lining up to replace them. In 2001, 77,700 graduates were enrolled in teaching programs in California. By 2012, that number had dropped to 19,933.”

So What’s Happening in Schools?

The Wales survey reported the following realities in their K-12 schools:

  • 65% drop in teaching support staff
  • 56% decline in curriculum resources
  • 54% less fellow teachers on staff to share the work load
  • 41% drop in activities such as school field trips

What Can We Do to Help Them?

Administrators Must Be Equippers, Not Mere Managers.

We talk much today about “classroom management” and “school management,” but no one wants to be managed—they want to be led, and led well. When principals take charge of a school, we must see ourselves as people developers, offering on-going equipping opportunities; innovative tools; resources for growth; and ideas for job success. Don’t merely visit or critique the classroom—equip the person in charge of that class.

Teachers Must Have Greater Autonomy in the Classroom.

In optimal situations, the principal should be the CEO of the school, and the teacher should be CEO of the classroom. According to Gallup Poll’s 2014 State of America’s Schools Report,“K-12 teachers scored dead last among 12 occupational groups in agreeing with the statement that their opinions count at work.” We’ve got to find a way to provide more autonomy for teachers to use their gifts and creativity. We all do better when we feel we’re trusted and free to get the job done our way.

We Must Provide Resourceful Leadership on Campus.

Surveys reveal cuts have been made on support staff and supplies for faculty. When resources are low, resourcefulness becomes a key skill. Principals must find ways to train and model resourcefulness, creativity and positive attitudes. It’s easy to hide behind the excuse of “no money.” Good leaders find a way to resource their people.

Everyone Must Become Stellar Encouragers of Teachers.

It’s been said, “Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.” No one does well without consistent encouragement and hope coming from onlookers. Administrators, staff and parents ought to be the greatest encouragers of their teachers. What you lack in budget, make up for in encouragement. Recognize the little extras faculty offer and write them notes, give them gift cards—let them know you notice.

Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” Are we depending on faculty to continue teaching without hope?

Why Do Teachers Quit? How Can We Prevent It?