It’s a common saying: not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. This month we take up the question: why do some teachers quit the profession and why do some stay? Some of those who leave will be older educators who are feeling the weight of the years. But most will be newer teachers. According to The Atlantic (second link, below), up to 46% of new teachers quit within their first five years. Here are some articles and opinions on reasons for leaving the profession, and, equally importantly, reasons for hanging in there. [by Jim Lang, M.Ed. PhD, Associate Faculty Department of Social Justice Education, Philosophy of Education, OISE/University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario]
- Why are so many new teachers burning out? – Writing in UBC News, Corey Allen reports that, “According to 2004 figures from the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, roughly 30 per cent of Canadian teachers leave their jobs in the first 5 years.” Their reasons include: the workload; dealing with adolescent challenges to their authority; and in the case of rural teachers, feeling like outsiders in the community. Research suggest ways to reduce turnovers. For example, offering new teachers a lighter workload and involving social workers in schools “to help build better relationships between the teachers and the community they serve.”
- The First Year of Teaching Can Feel Like a Fraternity Hazing – Many teachers leave the profession because they are unable to consistently and successfully manage student behavior in the classroom. Mike Duklewski left a job in the corporate sector to become a teacher in Maryland. He found it much harder than he expected. In this article for The Atlantic, he tells a realistic story of his efforts to manage student behavior. He says, “If a teacher can’t manage a classroom, nothing they’re going to do will be successful.”
- Why I quit my teaching job mid-year (no, it wasn’t the testing) – Angela Watson tells a stark story of her last days as a teacher, and says of the day she finally decided to quit, “It wasn’t that I was incapable of handling it. That day, I could have had the class back on task within a minute or two after all those interruptions. But those things happened all day long, every day. I was managing the classroom, I was maintaining some sense of order, but I wasn’t teaching.” She lists five “things to know if you’re thinking about quitting your teaching job,” emphasizing that some conditions are out of your control. At the same time, she says, “I’m not telling you to quit your job. Quitting is not always the right decision: in fact, there were plenty of other low points in my teaching career in which I wanted to walk away but didn’t.”
- I Will Not Quit – Even After… – In her short, inspirational read, Lisa Mims recognizes the challenges, but refuses to quit. After listing a number of reasons why she could quit, she says, “As difficult as being a teacher has become, I don’t want to quit. I don’t want to leave my students in the hands of another teacher. Or leave them in the hands of someone who is not as passionate as I.”
- Why Good Teachers Quit Teaching – Again, not everyone can be a teacher, and those who find they simply cannot do the job to required standards likely ought to consider another profession. But what of teachers who are good at the job – why would they leave? Writing in We are teachers, Elizabeth Mulvahill suggests five reasons: challenging working conditions; not enough support, respect; testing and data collection; no longer looking out for students’ best interest; teaching takes too much time away from family life.
- Why I Haven’t Quit Teaching (And You Shouldn’t Either) – Found on Teachwire, a range of personal stories of teachers who are planning to stay in their jobs. A sample: “The infinite variety of the job never palls, despite here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians trying to standardise, reduce and homogenise everything schools do into some bizarre mutant cross between whichever far-eastern country is currently top of the bloody PISA rankings and some misty-eyed view of a mythical 1950s home counties grammar school education. I won’t let those particular bastards grind me down – I’m not quitting till I’ve won.”
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