Staffing Every Classroom: Principal Perceptions of Teacher Stress, Burnout, and Attrition

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Educational Administration

Date of Award

Spring 2020


Growing student populations and rigorous accountability policies have placed a strain on schools seeking to hire and retain quality teachers. Supportive principal leadership behaviors can reduce the stressor effect of job demands and help keep teachers in the classroom. The present study used narrative inquiry to explore the beliefs, contexts, and experiences that shape principals' perceptions of their role in buffering teacher stress, burnout, and attrition. Participants in this study included campus principals in a single urban district where current levels of attrition were higher than state averages. Principals were selected based on knowledge and experience with the topic. Through a series of interviews and follow-up sessions, the researcher worked with participants to develop both personal stories and a cross-case narrative that described the shared experience of principals as they worked to staff and support teachers in their schools.In the findings, common themes arose as principals shared the factors they considered as having the greatest impact on teacher stress and burnout including student discipline, workload, and accountability. Specific supportive resources varied by teacher need yet common school-wide approaches included nurturing collegial relationships, increasing autonomy, and providing mentorship opportunities. Similarly, principals noted that they felt they could make an impact on teacher retention by building positive relationships, developing campus systems of support, and building feedback loops to better understand teacher needs. In describing their guiding beliefs, working contexts, and relational experiences, the principal narratives shed light on how the principals formed their perspectives on teacher attrition and how that framework impacts the principal behaviors used to buffer job demands. The results from this study may help future campus leaders navigate the issue of teacher attrition by increasing an understanding of how principals identify and support teacher needs. Keywords: teacher attrition, stress factors, burnout, principal perspectives


Ray Thompson

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Administration and Supervision