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Why Teachers Quit


One top reason why teachers leave the profession is their lack of mastery in one of the basic skills necessary to be successful in the field: effective management of student behavior.

Although basic classroom management is taught in teacher preparatory classes, few college graduates leave their education classes with the ability to successfully deal with the disruptive behavior that will undoubtedly present itself in their new classrooms.

Why haven’t more teachers mastered this critical skill? It is the nature of the beast. Classroom management skills are not intrinsic and are not easily taught through instruction. Effective classroom management is best learned through experience. And experience is just what a freshman teacher lacks.

Education experts do not agree on what constitutes effective classroom management. Research on why teachers leave the education field has been done by numerous organizations such as The New Teacher Project and The Research Alliance for New York City Schools. Classroom management and teacher retention theories abound. So there is no ‘cookbook recipe’ to follow. A new teacher must discover what approach best fits their comfort level for the management of the students in their classroom. However, there are some strategies to help keep students on task and in line.

Despite differences in approach, all successful classroom management programs share basic tenets. The consequences for misbehavior must be clearly defined and consistently applied. Teachers who maintain a persona of dispassionate strength, confidence, and authority are most likely to ensure success. Strong and consistent management and organizational skills have also been identified as leading to fewer classroom discipline problems. In addition, cultivating a nurturing and empowering school culture is very important. Furthermore, academic achievement, teacher efficacy, and teacher and student behavior, are directly linked with a postive concept of school and strong classroom management. Encouraging and establishing student self-control through a process of promoting positive student achievement, high expectations, and good behavior, should be the aim of every school.

Classroom management has three major components:

  1. Content Management – “Occurs when teachers manage space, materials, equipment, the movement of people, and lessons that are part of a curriculum or program of studies” (Froyen & Iverson, 1999, p. 128)

– Example: Ms. Dobson demonstrates content management when she begins the day by leading her students in a very short hand routine that involves clapping and listening. The hand movements focus the students’ attention on the teacher and signal that it is time for a learning activity.

  1. Conduct Management – “Refers to the set of procedural skills that teachers employ in their attempt to address and resolve discipline problems in the classroom” (Froyen & Iverson, 1999, p. 181).

– Example: Mr. Steinman’s students are learning about the human heart by gathering and analyzing data on their own heart rates. The teacher demonstrates conduct management when he assertively corrects irresponsible and inappropriate behavior by firmly reminding his students that one of the goals of working together is to respect one another. In addition, he warmly encourages them to respond one at a time.

  1. Covenant Management – “Focuses on the classroom group as a social system that has its own features that teachers have to take into account when managing interpersonal relationships in the classroom” (Froyen & Iverson, 1999).

– Example: One of Mrs. Victorino’s students resists working with his peers because he didn’t get to play the role he wanted. His teacher demonstrates covenant management in an attempt to solve the discipline problem. She expresses concern for the student as an individual, trying to build a relationship of trust and understanding. She genuinely listens to his complaints. Mrs. Victorino also reviews the process the group used to assign roles, and reaffirms its fairness. Then she prompts him to reflect on the importance and value of his contribution to the group as a whole.

Teachers must also be flexible enough to throw tried-and-true tactics out the window if they no longer work. Each new classroom of students will require a carefully honed set of classroom management techniques. It is the veteran teacher who is best able to accomplish this task and be a mentor to other younger teachers.

In most cases, the degree of success achieved by first-year teachers is dependent upon the support of the school administration. Schools with a strong mentoring program have higher teacher retention and a greater degree of overall school success. During training, it is best for administrators and educational specialists to remember that classroom management skills do not ‘come naturally’ to most new teachers. It is the kind of skill that should be practiced and mastered beforehand, but is too often learned right in the classroom, as necessity dictates.


Froyen, L. A., & Iverson, A. M. (1999). Schoolwide and classroom management:  The reflective educator-leader (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall


I. Rose De Lilly is a published writer, educator, and award-winning poet. When she is not working on her graduate degree or teaching children to read, she writes engaging articles for She enjoys traveling, spoken word, bike riding at the beach, finding new restaurants, reading, carpentry, and collecting miniatures. Connect on Linkedin!



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