Skip to Main Content

Teacher Retention: Thriving not surviving – investing in your development.

August 2022

You could be starting out as an early career teacher, exploring leadership options or looking to improve your own classroom practice, it doesn’t matter what career stage you’re at, investing in your own development matters. It’s often the case in teaching that you’re so focused on meeting the needs of the students in your classroom that you put your own developmental needs on the back burner. This is understandable but over time it can be detrimental to the way you feel about the job and your own self-worth as a teacher. It’s important to take time out to reflect on your experiences and think about what this tells you about your practice and where your professional development needs to head.

Every teacher deserves to enjoy their job, just like everyone else. We spend a lot of time at work, it’s a big part of our lives and teaching can be incredibly rewarding. What do you enjoy about teaching? Is it your subject, is it the interpersonal relationships and connections made with students, colleagues and/or parents, is it about making a positive difference to someone’s life? Research suggests that when teachers enjoy the subject they teach, the quality of their teaching also increases.

How you feel about what you do in the classroom has an impact on what you do.

“… analysis revealed that the interpersonal relationship formed between teachers and students was the strongest predictor for teachers’ joy (positive relation) and anxiety (negative relation), …”

If you’re feeling anxious about an aspect of your teaching you might be wondering how you can do something about it. Don’t isolate yourself, speak to someone. Whether this be your mentor, colleague or a senior leader in school. Talk to them, find out what you can do to address it and then action it. I can guarantee that the issue will not go away if you just decide to ignore it; asking for help and support is not a weakness. Conversely, there will be aspects of your practice that you consider to be real strengths and you’d really like to develop these. In fact, there’s a growing bank of research evidence under the umbrella term of ‘Positive Psychology’, that supports moving away from a deficit model of looking at learning and growth is beneficial in terms of motivation, well-being, happiness (although this in itself is a tricky thing to define) and job performance.

A strength based exercise to try:

What are your strengths as a teacher? Note them down, in any order you like. Pick one that you consider to be one of the most important or strongest for you and then commit to practising it and developing it over the course of a teaching week. At the end of the week what do you notice? Has it had an impact – positive or negative – on your practice and how can you tell?

When you do this, you may find it helpful to discuss the outcomes of this exercise with a trusted colleague e.g. a mentor or a more experienced colleague. Taking the time out to reflect is important and other people can help you see things about your practice that you can’t.

People also benefit from the use of scenario based learning tools, such as, T-Screen and T-Insight, to help them to explore and identify their strengths and weaknesses (TSP Research). Identifying development needs and building confidence to improve teacher effectiveness in the workplace matters, for teachers, for pupils and for society. Please contact us to discuss how you could use these tools in your school, college or trust.

An image visualising teacher retention.

Coaching Tools

There are other coaching tools that you can use to support your development. I’ve included a couple of these below. As before, it’s always good to seek out someone e.g. your mentor to help you work through coaching exercises as they’ll be able to provide you with the challenge you need to help you to probe and explore your thinking.

The Wheel of Life (provided online by The Coaching Tools A well-established coaching tool and a worthwhile exercise. You have a life outside of teaching. Have you got the balance right?

The GROW model Developed by Sir John Whitmore in the 80’s and probably the most widely used coaching model around the world today. Try it. Did it work for you?

*TSP is not responsible for content in external links.


  1. Russo, J., Bobis, J., Sullivan, P., Downton, A., Livy, S., McCormick, M., & Hughes, S. (2020). Exploring the relationship between teacher enjoyment of mathematics, their attitudes towards student struggle and instructional time amongst early years primary teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 88, 102983.
  2. Hagenauer, G., Hascher, T., & Volet, S. E. (2015). Teacher emotions in the classroom: associations with students’ engagement, classroom discipline and the interpersonal teacher-student relationship. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 30(4), 385–40334
  3. Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–421.
  4. Kauffman, C. (2006). Positive Psychology: The Science at the Heart of Coaching. In D. R. Stober & A. M. Grant (Eds.), Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting best practices to work for your clients (pp. 219-253). Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  5. Meyers, M. C., & van Woerkom, M. (2017). Effects of a Strengths Intervention on General and Work-Related Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Positive Affect. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(3), 671–689.