With what many say are worsening working conditions, heightened stress levels, low wage growth, and lack of support from school leadership, the teachers say they have had enough with their jobs, adding to the worsening teacher shortage crisis.

A recent study undertaken by Monash University education researcher Dr Fiona Longmuir has found that only 3 in every 10 teachers plan to continue teaching within the profession, compounding fears that the worst is yet to come regarding the current teacher shortage crisis.

Noticing high levels of dissatisfaction and reports of challenging conditions, Longmuir said that most teachers still feel they have a clear sense of belonging to the teaching profession.

“Teaching is a very connected and supportive profession,” Longmuir said.

“This shared sense of belonging contributes to a professional culture of connection, collegiality, and support which plays out in schools every day – but is also evident through social media platforms.”

“Online communities of teachers on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Reddit offer opportunities for teachers to reach out, share concerns, and support each other with ideas.

“In the current climate of teacher shortages and high attrition rates, some of these forums are also supporting those teachers who may be thinking about quitting the profession.”

Within these forums and online spaces, teachers at all stages of their careers are sharing their experiences of despair and desperation with their peers – and in some cases are actively supported in their decision to quit the profession.

Longmuir explained that many describe how they have been clinging on to their careers through difficult times until it has become “impossible”.

“They share the stories of the specific incidents that push them to that breaking point of quitting and they receive support from often unknown colleagues which helps them to navigate their decisions.

“Often these forums open discussions about broader systemic and social issues that are contributing to the challenges and they help balance the responsibility that a teacher might feel for their failure to be able to continue in their careers.

Although it is not possible to know how the discussions in these forums influence actual decisions, Longmuir explained that it is clear  that teachers are receiving a range of different positive supports from these spaces.

“These include practical advice such as other types of work that they might do after teaching; details of the processes and entitlements if they resign; and suggestions for practical ways they might be able to make adjustments to make their teaching career more manageable,” she said

“The discussions also importantly include empathy and understanding, helping teachers feel that they are not alone and that many others are facing the same challenges as they are.

On the social video-sharing platform TikTok in particular, teachers are reciting firsthand stories and experiences about their working lives and sharing personal stories on what has led them to decide to leave teaching, using hashtags such as #TeacherQuitTok and #TeacherBurnout.

Associate Professor Rachel Buchanan, from the University of Newcastle, said the usage of these hashtags represents the convergence of two trends.

“On the one hand, teachers are heavy users of social media (for purposes such as professional development, networking, social solidarity, and connection) and the changes in the social media landscape have shifted which platforms are being used,” Buchanan said.

“On the other hand, the ongoing teacher shortage is putting increasing pressure on those in the profession, exacerbating the stressful conditions and causing more teachers to leave.

“Despite widespread public (media and policy) discussions about the teacher shortage and the deteriorating working conditions, little has been done to alleviate the pressure that teachers are under.

The academic explained that such discussions are experienced as being about them and not with them; and that teachers are feeling powerless and unheard.

“The algorithmic specificity of TikTok allows teachers to easily find like-minded colleagues and the feedback through likes, shares, and comments reinforces the use of the platform,” Buchanan shared.

“While participating in these discussions can provide feelings of agency and of being heard and understood, #TeacherQuitTok also reinforces and validates the decision to leave the profession - hearing others' stories and joining in feels like participation in a movement or a moment.”

While social platforms and forums such as TikTok and Reddit serve as a space for teachers to vent their dissatisfactions, Longmuir said these same platforms can be used to spread positivity and encouragement for the teaching profession, acting as connective space for teachers looking to return to the education sector.

“Through suggestions to retain teacher registrations, advice about other work opportunities in education, and a space for those who have left to continue to 'belong' to the profession, they become an important discursive space for conversations about attrition, and potentially retention or re-engagement with a teaching career.

“If conditions change, either broadly, or even in pockets of schools or locations, these forums will spread the word to the large numbers of teachers who have quit, but still want to belong, and perhaps, some of them may one day choose to come back.”