A parent I know who is a strong crusader for goodness and public schooling told me about a Forbes article, “The Top 8 Reasons Your Best People Are About to Quit – And How You Can Keep Them.”
How does this list apply to teachers?
How do the negative business reasons described by Forbes affect teachers and drive them to quit?
How could principals or district administrators keep teachers, if they wanted to, and what are the real reasons teachers quit?
Here’s the Forbes list adapted to teaching. Some suggestions as to how administrators could hold on to their teachers.
1. Overloading—Teachers have larger and larger class sizes with extremely diverse students, all with individual needs. This includes students with disabilities and ELL students. Usually teachers have approx. 60 min. a day for planning. Sixty minutes can be eaten up fast with parent meetings or a variety of other scheduled events that have little to do with real planning.
Then there’s paperwork. Teachers are laden with assessment preparation and tracking results and that all takes time away from the real teaching preparation that matters. There is also nothing that kills the joy of teaching more than being overloaded with chores that you don’t believe in or find purposeful.
2. Micro-managing—When a principal micromanages and treats teachers with little professionalism, it will eventually drive those teachers to look elsewhere or quit if they can.
Currently, Common Core State Standards are micromanaged standards everyone must follow. Teachers are usually proud of their creativity and ideas, but CCSS gives them little breathing room.
It’s also common knowledge that when teachers don’t participate in developing such standards they do not feel vested in what they do. Teachers were left out of the development of CCSS and a lot of teachers see problems in the standards.
3. Administrators who are never around – Good principals are engaged with what is going on at their schools. They should be about supporting teachers and helping teachers find answers to their difficulties. They play a huge supportive role and teachers know it.
When they are not around most of the time they aren’t doing their jobs.
Even if they are at the school they can be disengaged, always making excuses and never trying to solve the real difficulties that come up.
I once walked in on an administrator who was reading a romance novel.
4. Not in touch with individuals. I apply this to principals caught in a tough place with the rough reforms against teachers and students, especially with Common Core and high-stakes testing.
But administrators can also be a wonderful source of support. Many principals have been courageous standing against these reforms or attempting to lighten the load of teachers. Their ability to still maintain their support for teachers and parents is definitely noticed and appreciated. When they speak out it matters.
5. Not being interested in a teacher’s overall career. I remember fondly every administrator; who considered my teaching along with my overall objectives as a professional.
I also remember, not so fondly, the ones who didn’t know a thing about me—who were focused only on running the school and putting out fires.
Good principals seek ways to promote their teachers. They might support them on district projects, or simply understand the direction a teacher is looking to go.
It might be something as basic as the teacher’s desire to switch grade levels.
Teachers don’t need buddies in their administrators. They need caring individuals who notice the teacher’s strengths and how those skills will better serve the students.
6. Badly run meetings. Meetings can be well-done with an organized agenda. They can bring a staff together and create a smooth running school. Or meetings can make you feel like you died and went to hell.
Remember this professional development nightmare? Why didn’t teachers leave?
Anyone who cares about the passing of time will notice the last scenario. How many of us have sat through boring, even unprofessional, in-service training, over nothing relevant, only to be frantically thinking of all the things we have to do back in our classrooms? This often happens during planning days in the beginning of the year.
Administrators who value teachers will respect their time.
7. Principals who care more about themselves. I once knew an administrator who would never have a staff meeting without reminding everyone about all the good she did for the school. All progress was due to the changes she made. When this administrator moved on to a different city everyone rejoiced. No one gave her flowers upon her departure.
Principals are there for support. They are a step away from the most important job which is teaching. Their job is to lift teachers and staff.
8. Jumping on board the latest trends without teachers. The use of the word “disruptive” when it comes to school reform has always been troubling. It is usually referencing technology replacing teaching.
But the last thing children need is disruptive anything! While we can’t shelter children from change—it is a fact of life—throwing change at teachers and students is not something of which to be proud.
Teachers become more organized when they understand procedures, and when they can add their own ideas to the mix. When test agendas continually change, becoming ever more complicated, or new programs and protocol are added, without teaching preparation, it is startling to both teachers and students.
Today’s “gotcha” environment is especially difficult for teachers and their students.
These are some of the issues that drive teachers to leave. I would add overcrowded schools and dilapidated school buildings, teacher isolation, and filling a teacher’s time with daily duties that could be done by volunteers, are also reasons teachers leave.
Most of all, teachers are quitting today because they recognize how harmful many of the reforms are to children. They don’t want to be any part of it.
They did not go into teaching to repeatedly test children, or implement standards like Common Core when they question the value of such standards. Teaching for most of us is about helping children learn through joyful experiences.
And more and more you find impersonal schools because of the drive to convert public schools into charter schools and get rid of professional teachers. One gets the feeling today’s education reformers want credentialed teachers to quit, otherwise they would include them in the decision-making.
So school administrators, I encourage you to change course and try harder to keep the real teachers in your public schools.
Let’s also talk about the commercialization of education. The SAT, Pearson and other education companies see schools as opportunities to harvest public dollars. They even collect and sell students’ academic and personal data. Then in the name of “reform” they push expensive products that aren’t on par with what teachers produce.
Commercial drills, quizzes, tests, lesson plans, behavior analytics, etc., drain funds from proven programs like after-school tutoring, credit recovery, summer school, counselors, nurses, libraries, and electives. Yet education industry lobbyists swear the expense is worth it, despite outside measures showing zero improvement or worse.
The industry even uses propaganda to sell its products. “Individualized learning” is Orwellian double-speak for all students doing the same exercise, just alone at their individual computer and not as a class. Then they simply call their current business plan “reform”.
It’s also interesting that countries with the highest student achievement, like Finland, emphasize individuality, hands on subjects, less computer work, and allowing teachers to apply their creativity, training and experience.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you. Points well taken!
Billy Boy says
Thank you. Good points for retaining great teachers. Let us be creative and stop micro managing us!
Also throwing too many new things at once at teachers during pre-planning ( parent communication site, new technology, a new behavior plan and new way of tracking success). All are worthy but overwhelming all at once and teachers grappling with new preps feel stressed.
Also, please don’t routinely criticize one group and tell them what they are doing wrong while another department never gets criticized. So dispiriting. If you have a problem with someone tell that person.
Don’t tell us you have an open door policy and you want to hear our concerns, then turn around and accuse us of being negative when we ask how something will work or point out a perspective you clearly overlooked