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Supporting Teachers During Various Career Phases

Stack of books with an apple on top and a pencil cup full of colored pencils on a teacher desk - teacher in background facing chalkboard

Understanding the different phases teachers experience throughout their careers can help leaders provide appropriate support structures that contribute to teachers having a more positive professional identity, stronger resilience, and increased commitment to the teaching profession.

Career Phases and Support

Teachers’ commitment, identity, well-being, and effectiveness can vary throughout their careers, according to recent survey data from an EdWeek State of Teaching survey aligning with research from Christopher Day, a professor at the University of Nottingham in England.

Day’s research identified six professional life phases by years of experience.

Zero to Three Years

Beginning teachers start their careers feeling relatively optimistic and excited. They develop a sense of efficacy in the classroom and get a handle on the workload while forming an identity as a teacher.

Early career teachers need plenty of specific curriculum and pedagogical professional development training. They also need continual administrative support — especially with difficult students, overall classroom management, and working with challenging parents. Supportive colleagues, a strong mentor, and a strong personal support network are critical for beginning teachers to build resiliency and handle the heavy workload while developing a sense of efficacy and pride in their work.

Four to Seven Years

Teachers continue to build and sustain their sense of identity, self-efficacy, and effectiveness. But this is also the time when teacher morale slumps and is typically at its overall lowest. This can be due to disillusionment with the demands of teaching and stagnant wages compared to peers in other industries.

School leaders find retention the most challenging when teachers are in the fifth to seventh years of teaching. Strong leadership can help teachers be resilient and maintain a sense of purpose and well-being. Leaders must find innovative ways to maintain teacher morale.

Facilitating a sense of connection and community among teachers is important, as well as offering a choice of professional development that is interesting, relevant, and challenging. Leaders should encourage teachers to set boundaries between work and personal lives. Providing authentic recognition is important, as is offering some flexibility and choice in the work schedule and assignments.

Eight to 15 Years

Teachers in this phase may experience changes in their roles and identities. Some may become parents, prompting an adjustment to their work and life balance. They also might doubt their commitment to the teaching career or feel like they’ve hit a plateau.

Teachers in the midyears and beyond need effective school leadership, supportive colleagues, and a strong personal support network. Additionally, they need to feel valued and respected, have autonomy in day-to-day decisions, be allowed choice in professional development, and have some career path options.

Sixteen to 23 Years

In this phase, teachers are often in the middle of trying to balance their personal responsibilities, such as raising children or caring for aging parents, with their work. Work and life tensions can contribute to a decline in motivation and commitment. But if teachers see success in their work or career advancement opportunities, they are more likely to experience increased motivation and commitment and remain in the profession.

Twenty-four to 30 Years

This is the phase most teachers are likely to commit to remaining in the profession until they retire as they’re already heavily invested in their careers. They can either sustain a strong sense of motivation and work to be the best, or they can possess a half-hearted attitude for their last few years. Health and energy issues can contribute to decreased morale or sense of purpose.

“Close to retirement” teachers can be incredible assets to the profession and other teachers. School leaders can recruit them to mentor, offer guidance, model teach, and help other teachers solve problems. Highlighting these teachers’ careers can help instill confidence in other teachers that they will not only make it but be successful in the teaching profession.

Thirty-one Years and Beyond

Retirement is in sight! Teachers can maintain their commitment, or they may feel tired and just hang on until retirement.

There’s not an exact cut-off between phases; some overlap and intersect as opposed to being perfectly linear, but school leaders should understand the general phases to best meet teachers’ needs.


Having a better understanding of what teachers experience during the different phases of their teaching careers can result in leaders providing appropriate supports to increase teaching effectiveness and teacher retention.

Teaching is an incredibly complex profession and requires different supports at different career phases. Teachers are typically driven by caring values, ambitions for learning and achievement, and dedication to the well-being of their students. Giving them the supports and resources to successfully implement and reach their goals allows them to increase the intellectual, emotional, and physical energy levels needed to stay motivated and committed to remain in the teaching profession.

Additional teacher support information can be found in the following HRX articles:

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Cheryl Hoover
Cheryl Hoover

Cheryl Hoover joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. During Hoover’s public school career, she served as an executive director of curriculum and principal leadership, executive director of human resources, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.

Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and obtained her master’s degree from Texas State University. She is a certified PHR.

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TASB HR Services supports HR leadership in Texas schools through membership offerings in specialized training, consulting, and other services.
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