Teachers quit their jobs for lots of reasons but star teachers don’t, it’s not in their DNA.
Dr Martin Haberman explains what star teachers do in his book ‘Star Teachers: The Ideology and Best Practice of Effective Teachers of Diverse Children and Youth in Poverty’.
Star teachers never give up, they are persistent and highly efficacious teachers who have the ability to avoid burnout because they have developed coping skills and problem solving abilities to self-manage. A star teacher is a teacher who can successfully manage their own well-being.
Star teachers know and understand that all teachers fall prey to burnout (Haberman, 1995b) and that burnout isn’t caused by difficult students but is closely related to the workload and the bureaucracy of teaching. A star teacher knows that in order to survive, collaborating with colleagues is essential. Star teachers know they need other teachers.
Teachers who quit are unable to function or thrive in a school because of bureaucratic pressures and are completely defeated by school “organisation” and burnout (Haberman, 2011). Those that don’t quit don’t allow it to incapacitate them or kill their energy. As Werber (2019) notes,
Burnout isn’t simply a synonym for stress, the definition suggests; it’s the result of deep, long-term stress that hasn’t been dealt with, either by the sufferer or their employer.
Hill-Jackson et al (2019) have studied Haberman’s ideology in detail and they say when it comes to surviving in a school they have situational and intrapersonal awareness. They say,
“Star teachers are plugged in and attentive of the school environment. The understand that you may not always be able to change your situation, but you can change the way you respond to it.”
The difference between a teacher who quits and a star teacher is that a star teacher is devoted to children’s learning and this motivates them to adjust and cope. They are more conscientious (Bastian et al, 2017).
They have ‘organisational prowess’ and they can block out the bureaucratic noise so they can focus on their students. They also have personal prowess or resiliency and establish “networks of like-minded colleagues who serve as a support group and using informal structures to help them accomplish their teaching tasks” (Hill-Jackson et al, 2019).
Resilient teachers don’t give up on their students and they don’t quit their jobs. But sometimes quitting is the best thing a teacher can do because they may be ill-suited to their school context or just not suited to teaching as a profession. As Haberman states,
The school is, in effect, a judgmental pressure cooker in which all who participate are both victims and generators of anxiety. Unfortunately for students, large numbers of teachers remain in teaching who cannot function under constant pressure.