Why are Experienced Teachers Leaving the Profession?

I read the following article with interest:
Classroom 'crisis': Many teachers have little or no experience

I am a teacher who has left the classroom. My reasons vary from those stated in the article a bit.  Why I left and why I have not returned are two very different stories. I would actually really like to return to the classroom but over the past 10 years my hearing impairment has worsened to a point that it would not be appropriate to return. I have a rare type of loss that is not really helped with the current technology of hearing aids and other adaptation technology. I do love the education field however, and I stay current in my readings and with my curriculum writing activities. I do volunteer in my children's classrooms and I always walk away with a yearning to go back and work hands on with the kids again. I miss it!

I did not leave the classroom due to my hearing loss however. I left because of a burnout that was caused by an absolutely worthless administrator that was placed at my school. I had been teaching for 5 years in a high poverty school. Our students lacked for the basic daily needs and it could be quite challenging but also quite rewarding working with them. For the first few years I was there our school had an outstanding principal. He was respectful and supportive of teachers. He treated us as professionals and he had the student's best interests at heart. He helped balance the challenges with the rewards and made teaching there a joy! Sadly he retired and was replaced by a new principal who had no prior experience being a principal. There is no way to sugarcoat it, she was a nightmare! She was disrespectful to staff, students, and parents. As a staff we went to the upper administration and even met with the superintendent begging for help with her. Our pleas were ignored. Sadly she remained at that school for 10 years and ran it into the ground and teacher turnover was very high. She was finally removed with the help of the teacher's union. At the same time we were dealing with her I was going through a series of miscarriages. I was pregnant again and this time I didn't miscarry. For my sanity I knew I could not return to that school with that principal after my maternity leave so I took a leave for a year.

I loved being a stay-at-home mom to my son. I also quickly realized that staying home was not as much of a financial burden as we had expected. We paid less taxes, saved money in gas, childcare, clothing expenses, etc. One of the biggest surprises was looking at how much I was saving by not teaching. I poured a ton of money into my classroom, at least 1 full paycheck per year! Since we were surviving financially, I loved being with my son, and I still was feeling the burnout of working with that principal, I decided to end my employment instead of returning after my leave.

My daughter was born 2.5 years later and I still loved being home with them but I did start to feel that pull back to the classroom. That is when I started taking my units that I had created for my classroom and preparing them to sell to other teachers. I tested the market on Ebay and was pleased with the response. At the same time I was doing this my hearing started to worsen and when I was ready to return to the classroom it had become too much of a disability to allow me to do so. Fortunately I have been able to stay current and continue with my love of education through curriculum writing and sales.

Which takes us back to the article. Why are teachers leaving? I found some of the following quotes interesting:

"It's the demands," said Jamison, who is beginning her third year in the classroom. "There are state demands, district demands and parental demands. We haven't even mentioned the needs of the individual student. It's tough." 

"I'm doing more work, but I'm getting less money every year," she told NBC News. "Instead of being excited about a job and looking forward to your job, you begin to fear your job. It becomes stressful, tiring and takes a toll not only on your health, but on your family."

Speaking of new teachers: "And too often, they soon realize that their jobs aren’t what they thought they would be: Teaching to tests and fighting bureaucracies rather than experiencing the thrill of opening up young minds, educators say."

The article does go on to talk about the difference in turnover in a school with a positive working environment versus one with a negative one. I can attest to the truthfulness of this!

The article talks about changing teacher prep. programs at colleges and other possible solutions. Personally I am not so sure. Do we want to better train our teachers so that they are ready for bureaucracies and teaching to a test or do we want them to be focused on opening young minds? It angers me to see on a daily basis teachers getting bashed for the problems in the education system. I firmly believe we need to stop blaming the teachers and start to seriously look at the administrators and bureaucrats that are running things. I don't think the general public really realizes how little power the teacher has in the educational hierarchy. There are so many fantastic teachers out there that are leaving, not because of money, but because they aren't allowed to actually teach which is where their passion lies!

I also took note of the following:
"While education experts caution that lack of experience isn't necessarily an indication of a teacher's ability, student achievement scores do show that on average a first-year teacher is not as effective as a third-year teacher, said Susan Moore Johnson, an expert on teacher recruitment and retention at the Harvard Graduate School of Education." 

Are standardized test scores the only measure of success? We live in a quickly growing district so there are a lot of new teachers being hired every year. My kids have had a first year teacher several times. It has always been extremely positive. I find that first year teachers are so enthusiastic. What they lack in experience they make up for in passion. They love their jobs and it shows in every interaction with their students. I know it was true of me my first year! As a society we need to value that and retain that passion. If every classroom had a teacher full of that passion we would be on the right track to fixing this system. What can we do as educators and parents to retain that passion? What can we do to support our teachers so the passion doesn't defuse?

2 comments:

  1. I absolutely loved your article, and I agree with many of the points. My husband and retired from a large public school district because we knew if we didn't, we would both be dead from stress and overwork. I now teach at the college level which I love, love, love! He teaches in a rural district where sanity reigns and kids are just kids!

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  2. Thanks! I often wonder how my views would be different if I had been in a different district, or didn't have such a bad principal experience. I do really miss teaching but sadly these days so much of what a teacher does in not teaching at all. As a society we need to step up and change things for the positive, and that is not necessarily monetary, it is an overall respect and value for teachers and education that has fallen by the wayside in this society.

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