Over the past year, the internet has been full of stories of teachers leaving teaching. A recent NEA survey revealed that 55 percent of currently employed teachers are seriously thinking about leaving their jobs, and that number is even higher for teachers of color. These numbers have spiked sharply over the 21-22 school year: In August of 2021, only 37 percent of those surveyed said they were thinking about leaving. Even more alarming, more teachers than ever are breaking their contracts and leaving in the middle of the school year, a decision many thought they would never make.
It’s no exaggeration to say that a big shift has occurred, and it happened very, very recently. If you are in a leadership position—a school administrator, a district superintendent, or even an official at the state level—and you’re concerned about this shift (which you definitely should be), I’m hoping to offer something helpful here.
We’ll start with the stories of four teachers who recently made the decision to leave their jobs and finding the common threads between them. These are the cautionary tales, the ones from which we can learn what not to do. Think of this part as “How to Lose a Teacher in One School Year or Less.”
Part two will be about teachers who stayed, and the administrative decisions that made this possible. For this section, I looked specifically for teachers who stayed because of administrative support. At this point in history, I refuse to gaslight teachers into “doing it for the kids” or being some kind of heroes for mankind. We are so beyond that. The reality is, teaching can be a satisfying, sustainable career if and only if policies are put in place to make it so. The policies are possible and they are being put in place in small pockets all over the country. All it takes to make it happen are brave, insightful leaders who set their egos aside and stand up for what is right. Those are the people who are keeping their teachers, and my goal here is to spell out exactly what they’re doing to make that happen.