Why Teachers Quit

Behaviour: What the statistics say

One leading cause of teacher burnout is an inability to manage and correct behavioural challenges in the classroom. Between 22-33% of teachers leave the profession due to problematic behaviours including disrespect and inattentiveness (Friedman, 1995). Furthermore, a 2015 longitudinal study published by the US National Center Education for Statistics (NCES) found this figure to be 17%. Whichever way you look at this problem, when 17-33% of professionals spend tens of thousands of dollars (or pounds/euros) in tuition to enter a profession and then leave it due to one single issue, the problem demands addressing.

How big of a problem is behaviour?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation conducted a large-scale survey of inner-city teachers – 65% of whom reported that behavioural challenges were a significant concern. This statistic was slightly lower in high-income areas (56%) but no less challenging. A study of the summary, also released by Scholastic, can be found here.

Scores of programmes (and many millions of dollars) promoting family engagement, resilience, trauma-based instruction, effective school discipline, and mindfulness have been implemented around the world in attempt to solve this global problem. Many of these programmes take aim at underlying structural issues with trauma, family and the basic hierarchy of needs, but We Get To Teach posts will steer clear of focusing on broader sociological or psychological issues and instead emphasize classroom-based strategies that can make a difference for those in the profession and those seeking to join it.

The problem with college

With behaviour as one of the leading causes of teacher burnout, one might balk at the prospect that a major study found that less than 3% (!) of college programmes address this issue in their coursework. This same study conducted a meta-analysis that found the following:

  • 58% of teachers said that behavior disrupted instruction “most of the time or fairly often.”

  • Nearly half indicated that “quite a large number” of new teachers need more training on effective ways to handle students who have discipline problems.

  • More than 40% of surveyed new teachers reported feeling either “not at all prepared” or “only somewhat prepared” to handle a range of classroom management or discipline situations.

  • Classroom management was “the top problem” identified by teachers.

Remember this: less than 3 percent.

Tools to address the problem

We Get To Teach (WGTT) will use the first few months of 2021 to focus on practical classroom management solutions to address problematic behaviours. With less than 3% of teacher training and college courses dedicated to such a fundamental concern – and with behaviour as a major reason for teacher burnout – WGTT aspires to help teachers be their best so their students can do the same.

While you wait for the next post to come out, check out these previous WGTT articles that address behaviour and classroom management.


Friedman, I. (1995). Student Behavior Patterns Contributing to Teacher Burnout. The Journal of Educational Research, 88(5), 281-289. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27541987

Other references can be found by clicking on hyperlinks in the article