The New Reality: Will Teachers Stay Forever?

Carey-Lyn Kurten

7th March 2024

“The long-held assumption that teachers will remain in their role because they love working with kids is no longer valid” Gallup (Feb 2024)

Whenever I engage with teachers I am struck by their commitment and their deep connection to living a life of purpose. The meaningfulness of the teaching role always seems to outweigh the unrealistic expectations and demands placed on them. It’s easy to get sucked into thinking that regardless, due to this burning passion to make a difference in the lives of children, that they will continue to work in the profession. Gallup’s recent survey the K-12 teacher experience, debunks that myth and shows us a new and scary trend.

A growing number of teachers in the Gallup five year survey have chosen to leave the profession. Yes, they have left the profession entirely. And 43% of their respondents are actively looking for another job opportunity. Will they stay forever? It appears not.

The reality is that teachers are literally in the trenches. Compared to employees working in other professions, according to Gallup they are…

  • less likely to have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right
  • more likely to experience frequent burnout
  • less likely to be treated with respect at work

The metrics from the Gallup data may not be a direct representative of the national figures in your own country, but you all know and connect with teachers and this struggle is real.

Just when the problem seems insurmountable, we are given some advice that rings true in every business, across every industry. There is always a point of leverage. Educational leaders need to prioritise what they can control.

Start with these four priorities:

  1. Address Burnout. Daniel Goleman says “Ultimate wellbeing has nothing to do with what’s outside us”. Recent research unpacks what burnout is, what causes it and busts the myth: Burnout is from overwork. This current teacher survey data really does support this research. There are some fundamental needs that are just not being met, that are leading to teacher burnout. This is an essential conversation to be having with teachers as it is one that a leader can influence.
  2. Focus on Wellbeing. When your teaching staff are barely hanging on by a thread, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for them to deliver engaging lessons, connect with the students, and show up fuelled by a passion for their work. Get to the heart of staff wellbeing. You can benchmark the five core elements of happiness and wellbeing with our survey and get support in unpacking the data. Using the PERMA Framework we can help you develop your Wellness Programme.
  3. Leverage Strengths. “Employees who say they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day are 57% less likely to experience frequent burnout.” Gallup. Create space and time to explore their strengths. The Brain Talent Profiles from Six Seconds and The NBI Thinking Preference Profile are great places to start. Make visible the strengths. Have a conversation with each of your teachers and start with the Gallup Survey question:
    • Do you have an opportunity to do what you do best everyday?
    • And if not, what can I do differently to tap into your strengths?
  4. Recognise and Appreciate Contributions. It is easy for teachers to get lost in tasks and forget just what an impact they really have. The role of leaders and of parents is to pause, affirm and appreciate. We know the importance of recognising and appreciating children, but often forget the exponential impact of recognising and appreciating teachers. Establish recognition as an essential element of your school culture. When children, parents, colleagues and management all recognise and appreciate the value of teachers, the results will be tangible.

“A great teacher is like a candle….it consumes itself to make light for others.” Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Take care of them. They may not stay forever.

Download the full Gallup Report here: New Perspectives – Improving the K-12 Teacher Experience

Carey-Lyn Kurten

Growing Resilient Leaders

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