Teacher dropout is attributed to a variety of things: low pay, stressful conditions, teacher mandates, and lack of support are often mentioned.
An overlooked cause of burnout is the psychological well-being of young teachers. In other words, exceptional teachers leave because they are unhappy.
(More on how to recognize and retain young teachers here.)
The first several years of teaching are difficult. To remain happy and engaged, new teachers manage their first couple laps around the track by setting meaningful goals:
"If 90% of my students pass the state test, I'll be happy. Once I've taught for five years, I'll be happy. Once I publish my first academic article, I'll be happy."
But after five years, they are not happy. They feel unproductive and inefficient and contemplate taking their talents elsewhere because they feel unsuccessful.
I strongly believe that if we address the psychological well-being of new teachers, we can retain them. We need to make them happy and help them feel successful.
The current paradigm for happiness is success first, happiness second. If that were true, young teachers should be happy; they have successfully made it thought the most difficult part of their career.
Shawn Achor disagrees with our current happiness model. In The Happiness Advantage, he successfully argues that success does not predict success. He explains that happiness precedes success.
"happiness and optimism fuel performance and achievement"
Accepting that teachers are leaving because they are unhappy, we can shift his argument around: happiness equals success, success equals teacher retainment. If we make our new teachers feel more successful and less unproductive and inefficient, they have a better chance of staying in the classroom.
This is an important step. This is NOT saying that to retain a teacher you need to pay them more, support them, or free them from mandates (though all of this might help). I am arguing that to retain young teachers, we can make them feel successful by focusing on what makes them happy.
Part 2 of Happiness = Success: Retaining Young Teachers addresses WHAT to focus on to facilitate the happiness of a young teacher.