This blog post is what I needed to read 5 years ago when I was struggling in my teaching career. I hope it’s useful for teachers who are currently thinking about quitting the profession. It’s important to know that you’re not alone in this decision, and there are many teachers who have quit before you and teachers that will quit after you. This list below includes 10 reasons why teachers leave the classroom behind for good:
- they don’t feel valued by society
- their jobs become too stressful
- they don’t receive adequate training or support from their school or Trust
- teaching at a school that doesn’t embrace their creativity
- they can’t find work-life balance
- teaching becomes more difficult as students’ needs increase but resources remain limited
- they feel like their expertise is going unused or under utilised
- teachers feel like they’re not in control of their classrooms
- Workplace politics
- teachers feel like they can’t make a difference
The teachers that leave the profession are often those who have been struggling with these issues for some time and felt as though something has to give. It’s important to note, however, that teachers are not quitting in droves; teachers continue teaching every day because it is their passion and calling. However, feeling stuck in a rut can be incredibly damaging to your wellbeing and recognising that this is happening early can actually save your teaching career. When I left teaching after over a decade, I was burnt out and my mental health was in the gutter; I am hopeful you can avoid this by reading on!
Why don’t teachers feel valued by society?
Teachers in this country are often underpaid and overworked. They’re responsible for educating, disciplining, and caring for their students; they bear witness to some of society’s most challenging problems every day. So why do teachers feel like they aren’t valued by society? Well, there is a cultural perception that teachers are underpaid and teachers feel like they’re not valued because society doesn’t give teachers the respect, appreciation or resources that would make it more likely for teachers to stay in the profession. During the height of the pandemic, many teachers faced backlash over social media when some parents felt that their children’s’ teachers were not doing enough to help. Typically, when teaching unions are mentioned in the press there are critical responses, usually talking about “long summer holidays”! It’s easy to become disillusioned by public perception.
In many teachers’ minds, teachers just don’t feel like they’re valued in society. Teachers are dedicating their lives to teaching and have dedicated themselves day-in and day-out to serving the needs of others for years, but nobody seems to notice or care about what teachers do until we need them when something goes wrong.
What leads to teachers feeling stressed out?
Stress in the workplace is common, but the juggling of hats that all teachers are required to do can lead to burnout at any stage of the career. Teachers need to be teachers, but also caregivers, disciplinarians and therapists. It’s normal to feel stressed when they’re not given the tools or resources to succeed in their jobs; even excellent educators are left feeling that no matter how hard they try they can’t do enough for their students because there is never any money available for supplies or hiring support staff.
Stressed teachers also feel overwhelmed and sad because they have to face problems that no one else does on a daily basis. At the end of a long, tiring day, teachers often wonder if it was worth it because all their work didn’t seem to make any difference at the kids’ school. Facing challenging safeguarding issues, being bombarded with SLT scrutiny and being difficult parents takes its toll.
How does a teachers’ school or Trust affect their decision to leave?
Unfortunately, teachers often feel like they don’t have a voice in the decisions that are made about how schools should be structured, what resources teachers need and when teachers get support. Teachers might also find themselves teaching at a school where there is no culture of collaboration between school colleagues, meaning that they never have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from one another.
Teachers are increasingly feeling that teaching is just a job, not their calling. The teachers who do choose to leave the profession often make this decision because they feel like there’s no point in staying when teachers don’t have a voice or autonomy over their own classrooms; teachers should be proud of what they do and teachers should feel like educators are valued by society.
Teachers quit when they don’t have the opportunity be creative
Educators are some of the most creative individuals you will meet today. They not only have to constantly balance the challenge of delivery but need to be subject or phase experts. Most teachers are genuine in their love for their subject and one of the most rewarding aspects of the role can be writing exciting curricula for the children. One of my favourite parts of the job was planning schemes of work and designing resources. Increasingly schools are moving to a departmental resource model. This drastically reduces the planning time for many teachers but does lead to homogenised lessons with little opportunity for individual teachers to make their mark.
This situation is amplified in departments where the Head of Department micromanages planning decisions or leads all planning themselves. This can lead to the teaching role becoming administrative and boring.
Work Life balance is killing the teaching profession
Work-life balance is vital for everyone in today’s modern society.
The reason why teachers quit the profession is mainly because they want to have a better work-life balance. This, unfortunately, can be hard for teachers who teach at a school where discipline and behaviour are poor or more importantly the policies that underpin these are unsuitable.
Most teachers work more than 50 hours a week and teachers who do this often experience burn out. Many teachers are stressed about their jobs; constantly checking emails, even whilst at home. Switching off from a challenging day is difficult enough but when colleagues are emailing throughout the evening and weekend it becomes nearly impossible to draw a line.
Teachers often feel they are neglecting loved ones because teachers have to work in the evenings and weekends. Many teachers love what they do, but too many teachers also spend much of their day being critical about themselves or other teachers for not doing enough. The children are always at the forefront of every teachers’ mind; yet it’s teachers who are often forgotten about.
Teaching with limited resources can cause frustration
If teachers don’t get the resources they need, or if teachers experience overly ambitious SLT expectations without any support to meet these demands then this will lead teachers to quit. Teachers are expected to be teachers, subject teachers and admin staff all in one role which is often overwhelming and stressful trying to meet these roles. Work stress is common but teachers feel particularly overwhelmed when they’re not given the tools or resources to succeed in their jobs; teachers are left feeling that no matter how hard they try, they can’t do enough for their pupils.
Many teachers spend their own money on things like books and stationery for the children in their class. This is especially true of teachers who teach at schools with large population of disadvantaged pupils. Sometimes it’s difficult to see school resources squandered and misspent by SLT vanity projects. When teachers are scraping together resources needed to complete lessons, it can quickly lead to disenchantment.
When schools don’t embrace their teacher’s expertise
Teachers are highly qualified and motivated individuals. It can consequently be incredibly frustrating when teachers feel their expertise isn’t being recognised or utilised. For teachers in this position, the role can quickly become one of boredom and a lack of challenge. This can lead teachers to finding better opportunities outside teaching that are desperate for certain key skills.
This might be as simple as not teaching your subject specialism or might include being overlooked for promotions that would suit your skill set. I’ve worked with teachers who have postgraduate degrees in SEND being overlooked for SENDCO roles due to personal preference from the Principal. It’s difficult to stay motivated when you feel that your just another number; particularly when many well paid jobs exist outside the profession!
What happens when teachers lose control of the classroom?
Working in a school with poor behaviour can be incredibly stressful but is amplified when poor behaviour policies are in place or teachers do not feel supported by SLT. I have worked in schools with incredibly challenging behaviour but under a framework that supported me and my decisions. When poor pupil behaviour leads to teacher burnout it is almost always accompanied by poor school leadership. When SLT have a culture of blame, teachers can feel disempowered and eventually this leads to many educators simply giving up trying to implement behaviour policies that don’t support them.
Workplace politics in schools
Like it or not, schools are like any workplace and this means silly politics exist. At worse, this will include cliquey, bullying SLT. The constant gossip and rumour mill can be exhausting for many professionals and lead to unprofessional behaviour. I’ve worked with schools that have an outdated sense of hierarchy where certain staff only talk to certain colleagues and ‘chain of command’ is an important buzzphrase. The best schools I have worked with have felt transparent in decision making, supportive in taking action and understand that healthy, happy staff lead to healthy, happy children.
Many teachers feel like they can’t make a difference
It can be incredibly frustrating to work in an environment where teachers feel they are unable to make a difference. This might be teachers feeling like they are teaching to the test or that there is a lack of support for differentiation. This leads teachers to feel demotivated and to leave their jobs.
I’ve seen teachers who have quit the profession come back because they left feeling like there was nothing for them to do, their skills weren’t utilised and they couldn’t develop in the job. Only to stumble across another school that had a vision they could buy in to.
There are many teachers who have been pushed to resign because of the pressure of the job. This is teachers who have been through a personal trauma, or teachers who are not coping well with teaching conditions and responsibilities.
We become teachers to “make a difference” and when we feel this is impossible it’s difficult to stay motivated.
Is it time for you to quit teaching?
The teachers of the world are an incredible group of individuals that deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Teaching is not easy, but it’s important work for the future generation. If you’re a teacher reading this article who feels like they might quit or has already quit teaching because their frustrations outweigh their joys – we see and love you! Sometimes all you need is a change of school to fall in love with the profession again; sometimes it’s absolutely in your best interests to walk away. Whatever your decision, we respect you. Here is a list of other careers for teachers that might inspire you to change!