Why 1 in 3 Teachers Consider Quitting the Profession

Starting a new school year on a positive note with a classroom or group of students is important. It’s important for learning. It’s important for teamwork. It’s important for enjoyment. Let’s just say, it’s important for everything!

One way to start the year on a positive note is creating an environment that minimizes negative student behavior and maximizes the positive. Unfortunately, too many students are losing critical opportunities for learning – and too many teachers are leaving the profession – because of the negative behavior of a few students. Student discipline is and continues to be a major concern to teachers and parents that affects both teacher morale and student learning.

I recently came across The Teaching Interrupted: Do Discipline Problems in Today’s Public Schools Foster the Common Good? study, conducted by Public Agenda in 2004. While the study was done quite a few years ago, I believe the story it tells still resonates in 2019. The study was based on a national random sample of 725 middle and high school teachers and 600 parents of middle and high school students. The results of the survey are insightful and alarming…

The vast majority of both teachers (85%) and parents (73%) say the school experience of most students suffers at the expense of a few chronic offenders.

  • Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) said students are quick to remind them they have rights or that their parents can sue.
  • Nearly half of teachers (49%) complain they have been accused of unfairly disciplining a student.
  • More than half of teachers (55%) said that districts backing down from assertive parents causes discipline problems.
  • Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) say there are persistent behavior problem students in their school who should be removed from the regular classroom.
  • More than 1 in 3 teachers say they have seriously considered quitting the profession – or know of a colleague who has left – because student discipline and behavior became so intolerable. And 85% believe new teachers are particularly unprepared for dealing with behavior problems.

The study found that, although problems are more severe in urban and lower income area schools, student behavior and discipline is a pervasive problem that extends to schools across the country, regardless of demographics.

When asked to identify the causes of such widespread misbehavior, 82% of teachers and 74% of parents cited ‘parents’ failure to teach their children discipline as the primary reason. The “disrespect everywhere in our culture” that “students absorb” and bring to school was second on the list (73% of teachers, 68% of parents). Other factors cited included overcrowded schools and classrooms, parents who are too hasty in challenging school decisions on discipline, districts that back down from assertive parents and teachers who ease up on discipline because they worry they may not get support.

There is no quick and easy answer or solution on how to deal with student behavior problems. We can’t ignore it either. The stakes have never been higher for student achievement. We can’t continue to allow a minority of students from keeping a majority of students from learning and teachers from teaching. We also can’t allow quality, skilled and caring teachers – including you – from leaving the profession over it.

As an individual teacher, you can’t always control how your school administrators or district will handle student discipline problems. However, there are things you can control and do in your own classroom that can make a positive difference for the students and you. Over the next several weeks I will be sharing classroom management tips and techniques you can experiment with. What works for one teacher may not work for all teachers. What works for one student may not work for all students. The methods I offer are intended to be used by you with that in mind. If anything, I hope they offer you hope and insight as you begin a new school year.

I would love to hear from you also as to what you have found works for you. Email me your tips and I would be happy to share them in future blog posts!

Wishing you a school year that starts on a positive note and stays that way throughout the year!


Making The Transition

Kids seem to always be in transition. They go from being infants to toddlers to preschoolers to school age to teenagers and to young adults with a blink of an eye. Some transitions are easier than others. The most challenging transition is moving from elementary to middle school.

Going to middle school creates many first-time anxieties, apprehensions and fears for children. They are concerned about changing classes, getting to class on time, having multiple teachers, keeping up with homework, opening their locker, getting on the right bus to get home, making new friends and being around older and bigger students.

The transition to middle school is accompanied by other changes with kids. They will start pushing for independence, be more concerned about peer acceptance, experience rapid physical growth, face challenges in planning ahead and staying organized, have hormonal changes causing an increased interest in the opposite gender and mood swings, take more risks without thinking about the consequences and desire their parent’s guidance, love, and support one minute and the next wish they would disappear.

Going from elementary to middle school is just as difficult of a transition for parents. They don’t always appreciate the changes they see with their child. There is a tendency to want to give up or step away from parenting. They forget that what their child is going through is normal and necessary. Parents play a critical role in successfully guiding their child from elementary to middle school. It is a time when parenting most needs to be “knocked up a notch”.

Here are a few tips you can offer to help them do it:

  • Encourage their child to be involved in school activities. It’s a great way to meet friends with similar interests.
  • Make sure their child has supervised afterschool hours. These are the hours kids are most likely to become involved in risky behaviors.
  • Get and stay involved as a parent. Encourage them to get to know their child’s teachers and attend school functions like open houses and parent-teacher nights. Volunteer for activities at schools.
  • Continue regular family routines and activities. This gives their child a sense of stability at a time that may be very overwhelming to them.
  • Help their child stay organized. Designate a study space and set a consistent study time. Buy them folders or binders to organize homework. Teach them to use a planner to remember important dates and deadlines.
  • Set clear boundaries, limits and rules for their child’s behavior and communicate them clearly with their child.
  • Keep the lines of communication open between them and their child. Do more listening than talking.

With a new school year beginning many parents will be making the transition to middle school with their child. It will be a time of many changes, but also an exciting, fun and rewarding time for both. Remind them to always be the parent before being their child’s friend. That’s what their kids most want and need from them. Don’t let their kids convince them otherwise. I know it’s easier said than done. But who ever said parenting was easy.

Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

I met PJ in one of my classes a number of years ago. He was a 7th grader at the time. As he was going through the All Stars program, his vision of a future for himself became more obvious and clear.

In one of the All Stars activities PJ was asked to choose four words he most wanted to see or have in an ideal future for himself. The four words he choose were education, achievement, strength and health.

In a later activity, PJ had to draw a symbol or a picture for each word he wanted that would visually tell him and others what he wanted those four words to look like or mean in his future.

Here’s the picture that PJ drew…

When you look at the symbols or pictures PJ drew for each word it’s easy to see what PJ wants from those words in his future.

The word education in his future means going to college. He identified a specific college he want to go to – Southeast Community College. He wants achievement in his future to be in football. Strength for PJ means being physically strong. And, health for PJ is eating the right foods (even if it is milk right from the carton!).

The overall vision for PJ and his future is quite clear. But, it’s when PJ spoke about his vision to me and the class that I knew PJ was going to very likely get what he wants in his future. Why? Because when PJ spoke about his vision for the future this is what he said:

“These four things are like four puzzle pieces that fit together to create the vision of my future. If I have good health in my future, then I will have the physical strength I need and want to achieve in football that will, hopefully, then lead to scholarships for me to go to college.”

Wow! All four pictures or pieces of the puzzle did all fit together! But, then I asked PJ…

“But, what happens to your vision and these four things if you drink alcohol someday or use tobacco?”

Of which he quickly replied, “It won’t happen.”

I followed up by asking, “What won’t happen?”, and he said, “My future.”

Of course, I asked him, “How?”

And again, he was quick to say, “Because if I drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, then I won’t have good health, which will hurt my physical strength, which could keep me from achieving in football and that could keep me from going to college.”

I asked one final question of PJ. “Then, PJ, will drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes help you or hurt you in your future?”

And he looked at me like I was one dumb teacher and emphatically said, “It’ll hurt my future!”

I had a good sense of PJ, but he certainly confirmed it for me with his answers. He is a person with idealism!

Research shows that young people who have a vision for their future and see risky behaviors as getting in the way of what they want are less likely to participate in the behaviors. This is what idealism is as a prevention strategy. Kids who have idealism have something important to lose if they drink, smoke, fight or have sex. What do they have to lose? Whatever it is they want in their future!

Young people who have lost sight of what they want to have or be in their future are more likely to participate in risky behaviors. From their perspective, there’s nothing on the line for them to lose.

Middle school students are developmentally more likely to think and act “in the moment”. Thinking and planning ahead isn’t something they can or will naturally do on their own. You play an important role in keeping middle school students focused on their future.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Talk with each of them about personal qualities they want to best be known for in their future. Ask, “What words would you want others to use to describe you?” Help them identify a reputation they most want to earn and what they need to do to get it.
  • Encourage them in the things they do well. Visit with them about how their talents and skills can turn into personal achievements or a specific career someday.
  • Make a list of what they need to do to get what they want in their future. Set short and long-term goals with them so they can see the progress they are making towards their future.
  • Offer praise, encouragement and rewards when you see them doing something to support their future.
  • Talk with them about how risky behaviors can get in the way of their future goals.

If you want to learn more about Idealism as a prevention strategy, watch my masterclass on idealism! It offers an in-depth understanding of it and tips for implementing it with your kids.

Each child’s future is an incomplete puzzle. Assist them in putting the pieces together to complete the picture. When a piece doesn’t fit, let them know or see it. When there’s a missing piece, help them find it. Most importantly, always remind them of what the puzzle picture will look like when it is complete.

To learn more about the All Stars program and how it builds idealism with middle and high school students, visit All Stars Prevention or KNS Learning Solutions.

One Thing You Can Do To Instill Hope and Prevent Vaping With Your Students

There’s been a lot of stories in the news lately about the vaping epidemic with adolescents. You’ve probably heard or read them yourself.

It’s very concerning. It’s likely why my recent blog, Vaping Surges…Largest Year to Year Increase Ever Recorded was one of the most highly read blog posts among my readers. It’s a concern of many. And, it should be. A 2018 study indicated that one in five 12th grade students vaped nicotine in the last 30 days.

I recently came across an online story from NBC News about how vaping is hurting teenage athletes and dashing their futures in sports. You can read the full story yourself, but it was another reminder to me of how vaping (and other risky behaviors for that matter!) is changing the course of kids’ futures.

The NBC News story introduces Cade, an 18-year-old student in Newburyport, MA. Cade fell in love with the sport of hockey at a very young age. Hockey was his life and his future. Hockey coaches and recruiters had their eyes on him starting in middle school.

Cade was a promising young hockey player.

Cade was introduced to e-cigarettes at a sleepover in 8th grade. Within a year he was addicted and it affected his hockey performance. He couldn’t stay on the ice for more than 90 minutes as his lungs hurt and he couldn’t get enough air into them to play.

Cade was eventually caught vaping in school and was stripped of his role as captain of the school hockey team and had to sit out a quarter of the season his senior year. The result? Missed opportunities to be recruited by a college and advance in the sport. His dreams of playing hockey beyond high school were shattered.

Cade’s story makes me think about the blog series I have also been writing these past several weeks about instilling hope with your students.

Cade had been dreaming and visualizing a future in hockey since he was a little boy. He was doing what he needed to do to make it happen – going to practice, working hard and getting good grades. Until…

He made the decision to start vaping in 8th grade.

Having kids dream and visualize what they want in their future and set goals and develop a plan of action to get it is important for instilling hope. But, what happens when one decision undermines everything they wanted and were doing to get it – like the decision to vape? It could easily lead a hopeful student, like Cade, towards a future they did not want or dream of. Or worse yet, a path of hopelessness.

I believe if you are going to build hope with your students you need to also integrate a bit of prevention into the process. If you don’t, then you can have a lot of kids with big dreams and plans for their future, but who are one drink, one e-cigarette or one sexual encounter away from losing it all. Keeping your kids from engaging in risky behaviors is important if you want to increase the likelihood their future aspirations will be fulfilled.

There is a prevention strategy that research has identified as having a strong influence on middle and high school student behavior when it comes to risky behaviors. It’s a strategy that encourages kids to dream and plan for their future while also thinking about how risky behaviors can either help or hurt them and their future. It challenges their sense of invincibility and need to do risky things to fit in with their peers.

You need to know what this prevention strategy is. Why? Because it can make a BIG difference in whether your students engage in risky behaviors AND get the futures they most want!

So, I have a brand new (and free!) masterclass!

In my “One Thing You Can Do To Instill Hope AND Prevent Vaping With Your Students” Masterclass, I will…

  • Give you a deep understanding of what the strategy is all about and the benefits to your students when you integrate it into your work with them.
  • Showcase research-based activities you can do with your students that incorporates the strategy. Best of all, these activities are hands-on, highly engaging and easy for you to integrate into a classroom setting or any community-based setting, like an afterschool program, recreation or faith-based program, community center and so many more!
  • Offer tips & insights to increase your effectiveness with the strategy. For example, what do you do with a student who can’t imagine a future for themselves and says, “I don’t know”, when you ask them what they want for their future? We’ll tackle this question (and so many others) in the class!


So, here’s the deal…

If you’re willing to invest just 60 minutes of your time to this masterclass, I promise you will walk away with hands-on ideas, practical tips and insights you can use with your students and that WILL make a positive difference in their lives. Most importantly, give them hope for the future and reasons to not engage in risky behaviors – like vaping!

The masterclass is especially important if you work with middle and high school students! So, if this is you, then I can’t wait to see you in the class!

~ Kathleen

P.S. One more thing…If you want to start the new school year with a sense of energy, purpose and hope, then this masterclass is also for you!