I have spoken to several teachers in the last few months who are quitting the teaching profession. I spoke with someone just yesterday who told me they too are leaving. I have been wondering why? Why leave a profession that you spent years to get into? I know many sacrificed money and time to be able to get their credentials, and now they are willing to give up their credentials for a job doing something else. Many are leaving for jobs they have never done before saying as they leave, “Anything is better than this”. What is so bad? Why are so many leaving? I have five main reasons (these have nothing to do with money):
1. Kids are apathetic – This is the number one reason that so many teachers leave. They have spent years becoming teachers, loving their topic and can’t wait to share that with young minds, only to have these young minds show little or no interest. I am not talking about typical complaining about work, but an outward disdain for anything you have to say. Imagine spending hours preparing for a lesson that you have prepared so that the students can be motivated and challenged by it only to hear them say, “This sucks” which happens often.
2. Kids are disrespectful – A close second to the first one is this, disrespect. Many students today grow up in homes where teaching this important part of society is not taught. Thus we are required to teach in the public schools. Teaching respect is not new, but when students have not seen this modeled, it is hard to understand how to do it. Last year my wife was called a “blanking blank” on more than one occasion. After a while, this takes its toll on a person.
3. Poor Working Conditions – This is the next reason I often hear about. This ranges from class size being too big (40 + in secondary) to poor technology, to equipment that is antiquated and let’s not even talk about the furniture. Just today I was attempting to make copies for my students and had to go to four different ones to find one that worked. We are trying to prepare the children of today for the future of tomorrow with the tools of yesteryear. Visit most classrooms and you see the same set up we had in the 1950’s, save for smartboard and video projector and the chalkboards have now become white boards. It is demoralizing to work in this environment day after day.
4. Lack of support (School and Home) – This might be the biggest reason for some, but I put in fourth because I think the first three are really a reflection of this one. Send a kid to the office and have him sent back to you. Imagine this scenario: kid acts out, teacher sends kid to office, principal sends kid back to class. Well thanks a lot for your help. This is hugely discouraging Or call home and have the parent tell you, “He’s your problem at school”. You may have trouble with one student over time and feel like the administration isn’t helpful. Often there is nothing the principals can do, their hands are tied (which is a whole other topic), but you pay the price. Or perhaps you have parents so involved, that they don’t let their kids work out problems for themselves. A teacher wants to be able to teach the material and build a positive relationship. Often lack of support prevents this and is a cause of much teacher turnover.
5. Work Load – This too could be higher, but it is nonetheless in the top five. Young teachers don’t fully realize that teaching your classes is only part of being a teacher. The real work happens outside of the classroom. Planning and preparation take real time and this must be done outside of the classroom. Saturdays and Sundays are rarely free days, in fact, for many of us they are the days we use to get the next week planned. Plus, there is grading to be done and inputted into the gradebook. Calls home and conferences are often done outside of school hours. As if all this wasn’t enough, our administrators think meetings, meetings, meetings and meetings are important. You are supposed to get a conference period each day to take care of all of these things (one hour is enough?), but often you are covering a class because no sub was secured for your fellow teachers.
We have real problem in education and specifically with teachers turnover. It isn’t a new problem, but is going to get worse as the baby boomer teachers retire and we race to replace and retain teachers. Do you have any ideas on how to retain teachers? I have some and ideas on how to “fix” education. It will never happen, but in the days to come I will share my ideas with you. In the meantime, leave a comment and let me know how you fix things. Until next time, peace.