I am a teacher who has left the classroom. My reasons vary from the norm 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 loss 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 rely very heavily on lip reading and body language and cannot even imagine the disaster that behavior management would be having to depend on that! I do love the education field and really miss being in a classroom. I stay involved with my curriculum creation activities, but when I volunteer in my children’s classrooms 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 years in a high poverty, 100% Title I 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 best interests of the students 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. For my sanity and health, I took advantage of a leave program with the district and chose to stay at home with my children. It was a way to get out of the situation with that principal and still be able to return to the district in another position.
I loved being a stay-at-home mom to my children. I also quickly realized that staying home was not as much of a financial burden as we had expected. We paid fewer 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 one full paycheck per year!
I did start to feel that pull back to the classroom, however, at this same time, a mild hearing loss that I developed in my early 20’s suddenly worsened to a degree that took away my ability to return. That is when I started taking the materials that I had created for my classroom and preparing them to sell to other teachers. I tested the market on eBay and Amazon before discovering Teachers Pay Teachers.
I know my overall story is an odd one, but the experiences with burnout and bad administration are all too familiar to many teachers. There are many articles out there talking about just this issue.
“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,” a teacher 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.”
There are also many articles that focus on 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!
Many “experts” feel that changing teacher prep programs at colleges could be a solution. 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 hear repeatedly about 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 their passion!
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.”
“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 in my first year!
As a society, we need to value and retain the passion of those new teachers. If every classroom had a teacher full of 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? How do we keep the fire alive?