A Systemic Framework for Halting the Teacher Exodus

We know the reality; for many teachers, the overwhelming demands and emotional toll of the job have caused them to at least consider leaving our profession. The number of teachers leaving and the lack of college graduates with teaching certificates is disproportionately affecting our most vulnerable students, leaving them with long-term substitute teachers at best. There have been efforts to support teachers by encouraging self-care habits and providing food and jeans days, but those efforts are akin to putting a bandaid on a geyser. What is really needed is systemic change to create environments where teachers feel whole, valued, and seen. The six pillars of Leading the Whole Teacher are designed to provide administrators and teachers with a framework that can support the necessary systemic change.

Let’s dream for a moment about what school could be for teachers. How could we create a school environment that nurtures the whole teacher? What could a school set up for teacher success mean for students? When teachers are nurtured, they are better able to nurture their students. As shown in this graphic, the six pillars of Leading the Whole Teacher are:

  • Emotional safety. Ensure emotional safety comes first by making school a safe space for teachers to have both successes and failures.
  • Valued educator. Make sure teachers feel valued by recognizing their strengths.
  • Positive relationships. Build healthy, strong, and positive relationships among all staff, students, and families.
  • Healthy workload. Protect healthy workloads by removing responsibilities from teachers’ plates when possible and encouraging them to hold family and personal time sacred.
  • Decision-maker. Give teachers a seat at the decision-making table by empowering their voices.
  • Continuous learner. Foster continuous growth and learning for teachers throughout the course of their careers.

We’d like teachers to head home after a day of teaching feeling satisfied and fulfilled, and we want them to have a little energy left in their tank for their personal lives. We know this is good for teachers. We know this is good for students. It is good for teachers’ families. We know it will positively impact the overall school environment. We can start this journey by asking teachers to reflect on each of the pillars using this handy PDF that describes each pillar and includes a reflection guide. Collect all responses and celebrate the strengths that are identified and collaboratively make a plan to address the gaps that the data presents.

If you are interested in learning more about the six pillars and strategies that can be implemented right away, feel free to check out the book or visit for many free resources.

The reality is that there are many things out of our direct control in relation to our schools–from school shootings, to homes filled with violence or addiction, to global pandemics. However, many things are within our control and/or influence, like relationships, feeling valued, and how we support one another. It is up to us to create systemic change through a collective and sustainable effort.

Onward and upward my friends, we are in this together. As Ella Fitzgerald said, “It isn’t where you came from. It’s where you’re going that counts.” Wherever you’re starting from as you create a school or district environment that supports the whole teacher, you are perfectly poised to take the first step—and then the next step. Slowly but surely, the culture will shift until teachers are running toward your school rather than running away from it.

Living life with a “Serendipity Mindset” does not mean pretending that everything is a happy accident. It means knowing that everything we go through, from our highest of highs to our lowest of lows, offers us beautiful gifts–IF we look for them. You can check out the #SerendipityEDU books out on Amazon by clicking HERE. Each book is filled with inspiration to help us discover the gifts in along life’s journey. With the addition of a middle-grades chapter book called The Serendipity Journal, there is a book for every age level. And, want to hear the best news yet?!? My newest book, #LeadingTheWholeTeacher is available now!!!

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