“Quiet quitting” is a new term, but it’s not a new way of working. And as controversial as the topic has become, it’s not all that revolutionary either. In this post, I hope to clear up some confusion around this new term and offer some tips on quiet quitting for teachers.
What is Quiet Quitting?
“Quiet quitting” (despite the controversy, blame, and panic from employers) doesn’t actually have anything to do with quitting.
Quiet quitting is simply showing up for work and doing the bare minimum you’re paid to do. It’s doing the job you’re compensated for without doing anything extra. A quietly quitting employee is still performing her job–and might have no intention of leaving it–but they’re no longer going above and beyond.
While teaching can be a very rewarding career, it is rarely a well-compensated one. Education basically runs on unpaid teacher labor.
How many teachers stay late after school, unpaid, to help students, grade work, or lesson plan?
In the summer, how many teachers start their work weeks before the beginning of their contract to get their classroom in tip-top shape?
How many teachers are arriving early, monitoring the cafeteria during their unpaid lunch, or attending required meetings after their contracted hours?
The answer, sadly, is most.
Before I’m attacked, let me say this: those teachers who are going above and beyond should be praised, and also compensated for their time and dedication.
Quiet quitting isn’t about screwing over employers or getting away with anything; it’s about refusing to give away unpaid labor. And as controversial as my opinion may be, I think the entire education system would benefit long term if more teachers did it.
Quiet Quitting for Teachers Tip #1: Set Hard Boundaries Around Your Time
This is the absolute first action you need to take if you want to quietly quit. You need to set hard boundaries around your time.
You don’t get to work until your contract time starts, and you don’t leave any later than when your contract time ends. If your lunch is unpaid, you don’t do a single thing except sit back, watch dumb Tik Toks, and eat your lunch during that half an hour.
Of course, I understand that this is easy to say and hard to implement in the teaching world. Sure, you can just not grade those papers, but what happens when students, parents, and admin are on your case to get them done?
You can skip lesson planning, but then what do you do tomorrow when you’re staring down thirty feral teenagers with nothing to do?
Make working only your contracted hours your goal and start cutting where you can. Lunch might be an easy place to start. Get rid of your lunch duties. Stop letting students hang out in your room. Shut the door, turn off your lights, and eat your dang lunch.
Then, start cutting some more. Can you get to work ten minutes later without being a basket of anxiety or running into awful traffic? Then do it. Can you leave thirty minutes after school instead of an hour?
This will mean you get less done. (Keep reading for more tips on that.) That’s the point.
You can get some more tips around setting boundaries around your time here.
Quiet Quitting for Teachers Tip #2: Do Less
Quietly quitting means getting less done.
You might not be able to create stunning bulletin boards every month; you might have to leave the same one up all year.
If you assign a worksheet for homework, collect it without grading it. Or only grade the odd numbers. Or require the practice only for test makeups.
Instead of creating engaging and interesting lessons from scratch, you can do the boring ones out of the textbook, borrow lesson plans from a colleague, or find some online.
I even recommend asking the librarian, tech teacher, or support staff to do “guest lessons.” That will take a few days of lesson planning off of your plate.
As long as you are still teaching, assessing your students’ progress, and fulfilling your professional duties, you’re doing great and you’re earning your pay.
Now, again, this is easier said than done in the world of teaching.
How Can You Do Less?
You might have to strike a balance between perfectly quiet quitting and enjoying yourself or not getting too anxious about teaching.
If I knew a lesson was going to be boring for my students, it stressed me out. I knew the lack of engagement would eventually lead to classroom management issues, which would in turn become more work and anxiety for me.
So lesson planning was always a place where I did allow myself to spend some extra time or money to get right. But I didn’t have those amazing lessons every single day.
To achieve some balance, I gave my students missing work days and used online platforms that generated scaffolded practice so some days required almost no planning.
I expected my students to turn in something almost every day. But there were many assignments that I graded based on completion only to save some time.
I implemented independent reading because my students needed it, but also because it gave me a break from them for half an hour.
Try to find places in your duties where you can do less without doing harm.
Angela Watson has a whole course on how to manage your time more effectively and leave the building earlier. (I’m not an affiliate, but Angela Watson, if you see this, hit me up.)
Quiet Quitting for Teachers Tip #3: Ask for Compensation
This is my absolute favorite thing to do. When you’re asked to do something extra at work, simply say, “I’d love to as long I’m fairly compensated.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve annoyed admin with this one.
As soon as someone starts talking about a new initiative or training that will require time outside of contract hours, raise your hand and ask how much you’ll be paid for those extra hours.
“We need more teachers to supervise lunch.”
“Great! How much will I be paid for that? When will I be relieved so I can take my lunch?”
Enter conversations expecting to be paid for your time. Advocate for your colleagues to get paid for theirs as well.
The more educators start demanding extra compensation for extra duties, the better.
Quiet Quitting for Teachers Tip #4: Spend Less–Or Better Yet, Spend Nothing
Quiet quitting is about not giving more than is required. So don’t spend money on materials for your classroom.
That means using the supplies given to you by your building (if any) and cracking down hard on kids stealing pencils.
Quiet quitting means not throwing pizza parties as a reward unless the school reimburses you.
And it also means recycling or using others’ classroom decorations.
Make sure you’re not buying students lunch or food. If they’re hungry, make the counselors aware (ours always kept extra granola bars and fruit for students).
Skip frilly decorations when dollar store borders will do.
When you need something, ask admin if they will reimburse you. Use Donors Choose. Post online about your classroom’s needs and ask the community for donations.
Again, I know this is super challenging in education. Instead of focusing on never spending any money in your classroom, pay really close attention to what you are spending it on.
For example, I spent a lot of money on my classroom library when I was in the classroom. I always asked the school to buy me some every year and used every cheap trick in the book to get inexpensive books. But it definitely added up.
But I was ok with it because it brought me joy and having lots of options for independent reading made class easier for me.
Decorating my classroom, however? Not so much. I reused the same posters every single year. I never swapped out my bulletin boards during the year. And I bought the fabric I used to cover them with coupons during sales.
Find a balance you can feel good about–and then continue trying to find ways to spend less. This is a job after all–it’s supposed to make you money, not cost you money.
Quiet Quitting for Teachers Tip #5: Work On a Way Out
For many, quiet quitting has nothing to do with wanting to leave a job. It’s instead a way to prevent burnout or advocate for better compensation for duties that go above and beyond.
But for some, quiet quitting might be the step they take before actually quitting.
If you’re actually thinking about leaving the profession, quietly quit while you make a backup plan.
I quietly quit teaching before it was cool. During the last few years of my career, I knew I didn’t want to be in the classroom for much longer, so I did everything in this post. Meanwhile, I worked on building up my Teachers Pay Teachers business, explored other career options, and talked with my partner about our future plans.
(You can read my personal quitting story here.)
If you’re quietly quitting because you want to quit for real, don’t waste that time. Start learning the skills you need to begin a second career. Build up a side hustle. Talk to friends you trust to see if there are positions open up in their companies.
Don’t forget that, no matter how bitter you might feel, to try and leave on a positive note. Don’t let students know you’d rather not be teaching. Avoid talking about leaving with your colleagues and admin until you’ve accepted a position elsewhere.
And remember, quiet quitting means you are still fulfilling your duties. It does not mean that you skip work or teach students nothing for months at a time.
Quiet quitting is difficult in the teaching profession, but enacting a few of the ideas behind it can help your work-life balance immensely. If you’re struggling with burnout, quiet quitting might be the cure.
And if you’re thinking about leaving teaching entirely, quit quitting is a great step to take while you explore other options.
Even if you love your job, think about implementing some of the quiet quitting strategies. It can help you set more boundaries around your time, energy, and money. Plus, it can help advocate for more fair compensation for educators everywhere.