We’ve written a lot about the reasons why teachers quit their jobs, from low pay to high stress to everything that happens outside the classroom door. But this recent tweet from math teacher Alice Keeler puts another pin in why so many teachers quit. Teaching is a fundamentally creative job, and yet there’s often very little room for creativity. Micromanagement makes us want to quit teaching.
The response to Keeler’s tweet shows how widespread micromanaging is in education.
User @JustaGuy wrote that he once worked at a school with the highest test scores in the building. But he received a write-up because his “do now” was 17 seconds too long. Seventeen seconds, people. The shocking consequence? 80% of the teachers at the school left. Other teachers weighed in with their own micromanagement stories, from being told “no” all the time to having to enforce rules that ultimately don’t impact students’ education.
Micromanagement also frequently comes up in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook, where teachers have complained about principals who police their wardrobes, perform incessant walk-throughs, critique word choice in their emails, and give teachers grades on their bulletin boards.
Micromanagement often hides as “helping” teachers
We’re told that we’re getting a brand new curriculum that will make our jobs so much easier—but actually strips any of the joy and creativity away. We’re told that adhering to the same rules for everyone will lessen discipline problems, when we’ve seen that the same rules don’t work for everyone. We get treated like we’re children, too, and ultimately, what that communicates is a serious lack of trust in teachers.
Autonomy drives job satisfaction (not just in teaching)
@pvigg tweeted about the importance of autonomy for teachers, and the research backs it up. A 2017 study of 20,000 workers found that autonomy, including the ability to make decisions, contribute ideas, operate with limited supervision, and determine responsibilities, is a key factor in overall job satisfaction. And a 2021 study showed a strong correlation between school happiness and teacher autonomy.
The problem is teachers rarely get to make decisions, contribute ideas, and operate with limited supervision
We’ve heard of principals who ban teachers from drinking coffee. Of walk-throughs where administrators punish teachers for not being on the exact page of the scripted, district-prescribed curriculum. And, of course, of lawmakers who want to require teachers to submit an entire year of lesson plans.
Even under the best principals, the ones who encourage creativity as long as outcomes are met, we’re operating in a system driven by high-stakes testing and near-constant scrutiny from those outside education.
And yeah, that makes us want to quit.