Teachers Leaving Teaching

Nov 4, 2017 by

Why do teachers quit?

A School Administrator’s Guide to helping teachers stay in their profession.

Since time immemorial, teaching has been and continues to be one of the most respected professions and one that is vitally important for our society. Teachers play a very important role in shaping the younger generation and make a great contribution to America. However, despite these many contributions teachers make, teachers are leaving their roles, they either move to another school or they leave the profession entirely. It has been estimated that on average that some 15% of all teachers either quit the profession or change their job every year.

This is a situation that is very bad for the education of students. It means that every year experienced teachers are being lost and that there is a great deal of disruption in schools.  Perhaps most importantly of all, there are now acute teacher shortages in many areas.  A school leader needs to have a full complement of experienced and committed staff if they are to achieve their goals and to meet the needs of the students.

It is very important that a school leader is aware of the reasons why teachers quit their role.  So that they can devise strategies that allow them and their school district to retain the staff that they need.

Why do Teachers Leave?

People leave their jobs for a myriad of reasons. They do so because they are no longer satisfied by their role or they find it too stressful. Studies have shown that the prime reasons why teachers leave a position and their profession are the following.

  • Poor Pay. There is an understanding that the education sector does not reward people, who are highly qualified. Teachers hold advanced degrees and they are not paid enough to reflect their expertise and talent. Many teachers believe that they receive better financial rewards in other sectors of the economy.
  • No Appreciation. There is a belief that America, does not really appreciate its teachers. There is a sense that teachers no longer have the status that they once had. In the past teachers as a group were among the leading and most respected members of society, many now believe that this is not the case. Indeed, there is a general perception that their job is easy, and many people point to their alleged long vacations. This sense of a lack of appreciation is a contributory factor in the high turnover rate of teachers .
  • Stressful Occupation. Teaching is a high stress job. A teacher has many roles and responsibilities. Their job is a high pressure one and they are expected to meet the highest professional standards. Then maintaining discipline in a class is very challenging and this is the case among many older children. Undisciplined students can cause a lot of stress and many teachers after a given period are no longer able to cope. Many of them are physically and mentally drained by their classes and then make the decision to leave the profession or to change their role.
  • Increasing Accountability. Teaching has gotten harder for a variety of factors. Keeping up with the standards, imposed by the state and Federal government and the pressure of testing, means that teachers are often overworked. Then there are crowded schedules and classes’, and this can make teaching very trying even for a seasoned professional.

What can be done?

A school leader can help teachers to stay in their role and their professions and they should make it one of their priorities. They can make various arrangements that can help a teacher to cope. A school leader should provide teachers with the supports and the resources that they need. This can cut down their workloads and take some of the pressure away from them. Just being supportive can make a huge difference. Teachers are looking for ways to make a difference and play a significant role in the school environment, leaders can help them find their voice in the school environment. Then a school leader can seek to offer other supports such as having an ‘open door’ policy and encouraging teachers who have issues to discuss them. Not just with the school leader, but with other teachers as well. Today, it is important that a school leader is a coach, someone who can help their staff understand their problems and then take the actions needed to improve their performance.  Many younger teachers often struggle in the first years of their career and a school principal can provide a mentor. Most school districts do but with minimal guidance. The purpose of the mentor should be not only to help with teaching effectiveness, but to support the teacher get through the first year and then the next.  This can benefit young educators to better adapt to the demands of their profession and help them to deal with the many challenges that they will almost certainly encounter.

A school leaders job is to help develop faculty.  Principals can take practical steps such as helping a teacher, understand the standards and how they can achieve them. It is important that a principal intervene at an early date to support a teacher who is having difficulties in the classroom. They can engage in many walkthroughs and monitor a teacher’s behavior and their classroom management skills. If they believe that the educator is not able to cope they can provide a teaching coach or even some re-training. It is very important any leader in education establish an ‘open-culture’ where people can express their views and problems. Such an environment can help in the retention of teachers. Finally, a principal or a district superintendent should appreciate the efforts of the members of a school’s staff and even publicly recognize their contribution to education. One way to do this is by having an end of year celebration in the school building for all of the teaches to celebrate an accomplishment like raising achievement test scores. This can help to counter the sense that teachers are under appreciated by society.  However, it is impossible for a school leader to deal with important issues such as pay, but nevertheless they can greatly help in the retention of teachers.

Keywords: School leaders, teacher retention, teachers quitting, teacher stress, teaching.

Comment Below on how can your school district do more to retain teachers?


Brown, K. M., & Schainker, S. A. (2008). Doing all the right things: Teacher retention issues. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, 11(1), 10-17. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1555458908325045

Billingsley, B. S. (2004). Special education teacher retention and attrition: A critical analysis of the research literature. The Journal of Special Education, 38(1), 39-55. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/00224669040380010401

Eberhard, J., Reinhardt-Mondragon, P., & Stottlemyer, B. (2000). Strategies for New Teacher Retention: Creating a Climate of Authentic Professional Development for Teachers with Three or Less Years of Experience. ERIC. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED450116

Minarik, M., Thornton , B. & Perreault, G. (2010). Systems Thinking Can Improve Teacher Retention. Teacher Attrition, Shortage, and Strategies for Teacher Retention.  Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00098650309602010?journalCode=vtch20

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  1. Joanne Cottone

    This should be updated because the problem is worse. Teachers are being attacked by young students and on up and students are not held accountable or punished. The teachers are blamed and excuses are used as a way to dismiss the violence

  2. teacherr

    The reasons why teachers leave the profession are manifold, and therefore the numbers are worrying. With recruitment already falling in need of demand and pupil numbers growing, a crisis is simply round the corner. In fact, it’s most likely already arrived. Last year, under half of style technology initial training places were stuffed. The workshop lights may otherwise be going out soon.
    As dangerous as that might be, losing maths or physics is surely unthinkable . however recruitment lost its target by almost 1 / 4 in those key fields suggest the most recent figures.