Why Do Teachers Quit?
Pain and gain
The battle of ideas
Climbing the ladder
Closing the deal
New challenges and power lunches
Trust and opportunity
These are the crucial elements
That animate the teacher
And drive him
To look for a new job
The following is a comment from the last post. Here is the comment, in italics, and my response:
I understand your blog is primarily a medium for venting, and having been a classroom teacher, it’s probably a necessary pressure-releaser. I do want to ask, however, what are your intentions to try to change the things about which you complain? Do you feel you have any power to change them? Or will you be one of the many who get fed up and leave, thus ensuring the continuity of lame meetings, horrendous PD, ridiculous admin BS, etc.?
And you’re right: education, sadly, historically has been a bastion for the unambitious…those who look forward to 35 years of repetitive drudgery, less-than-average pay, and low professional esteem in the hope that the payoff — summers off and retirement with a pension before the age of 60 — is worth it.
But for you, who don’t feel challenged by what you do, why not shift your focus to a career in education where you are in a position to change those very things you need your blog to vent about?
Thank you for your comments and questions.
First, what I would like to see is a complete rethinking of teaching as a profession. The trouble is I’m not sure what that would look like. And I do not feel I have the power to do this. So I complain and, hopefully, spark discussion among thoughtful people. Together, perhaps we can come up with something. (I have to say, the biggest surprise since starting this blog is that some teachers have written in saying that this has given them some sort of release and actually made them feel more positive and ready to keep teaching. That’s fantastic.)
Education is my professional field. This was my field long before I started teaching. I would love to someday work for an organization that concentrates on the question of why teachers leave and what can be done to keep more of them. I would love to interview teachers who have quit, who could have been great, and find out why they left. I would love to think about pilot programs to increase retention. There are some people you couldn’t drive out of teaching with a flamethrower and some who wouldn’t stay even if you gave them their own flamethrower. There are a lot of people in the middle who would stay and be valuable to their schools if things were different. Can we identify some of those larger elements that cause many teachers to leave? Can we fix them? Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not about the money for most teachers who leave.
I would also like to say that people can be ambitious about different things. Some people can be ambitious and singly focused on providing the best education they possibly can for their students. They are relentless. This is what keeps them up at night, the wheels in their brains spinning. This happens to me once in a while, too. I get a project idea or I’m thinking about how to teach a reading that I really like and I’m up, walking around the kitchen talking to myself until my wife comes down and tells me to go to bed. I’m up not because my weekly lesson plans are due, but because I want this to be a great lesson. But this effort is not rewarded. Turning in the weekly lesson plans is rewarded in the form of not being hassled. That’s the real problem for me.
But this isn’t what keeps me professionally satisfied and challenged day in and day out; getting out of bed ready to rumble. I need more variety. More intellectual challenge. More writing (thus, the blog.) Less predictability. Less structure. I don’t want the best part of my job to be time off from my job. How much of this is a problem with the profession and how much is just an uneasy fit with my personality and personal goals is difficult to judge. But with the very high turnover rate of teachers and the associated costs, it seems that some structural elements of the profession could use a looking over.