Most teachers go into teaching because they simply can’t imagine doing anything else. They love their work, and they’re certainly not in it for the money or the fame. The teaching profession is filled with selfless, devoted people. So why are so many of them saying goodbye to the classroom? Join me as I show you Today’s Top 5 Reasons Why Teachers Quit Teaching.
The Teacher Shortage
The problem is real. According to the National Education Association, more than 40% of teachers leave the profession within five years. Teachers who received alternate certifications are more likely to leave than those who went through standard teacher training and certification.
These departures are causing a teacher shortage across the country, with schools in minority communities the hardest hit.
What’s leading to this mass exodus? Here are the top five reasons why teachers quit teaching.
1. Low Pay and Budget Cuts
This is the top reason that schools are losing teachers. It’s also the top reason that schools can’t recruit qualified candidates. The news in recent years has featured wave after wave of teacher walkouts in states across the country, as teachers protest low pay and strapped budgets that leave them unable to buy basic classroom supplies.
In fact, the pay issues is so important that some people argue that the so-called shortage would disappear if states simply increased teachers’ salaries. That’s a straightforward solution that some states are adopting, but education departments have to balance their needs against competing demands in state and local budgets.
A Logical Solution?
Other states are responding with bills that aim to punish teachers for walking off the job, but those measures probably won’t do much to stem the tide of quitting teachers.
It does seem logical that higher pay and higher school budgets would lead to teachers who were more qualified, more committed to staying and less likely to leave. In reality, low pay is just one of the factors, although it may be the most important one.
2. Too Much Testing
According to many teachers, their workload and ability to teach are overwhelmed by the fixation on standardized tests. These teachers agree that a baseline measurement of children’s learning is necessary, but they say they also need time to develop creative learning plans and get to know their students individually.
Recently, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a television interview that a focus on testing scores does not give teachers time for true engagement with their students.
She also pointed out that, “Other countries in the world don’t do this. We’re the only ones who fixate this much on testing.” Considering that U.S. schools only score mediocre grades against their international counterparts in industrial countries, it might be time for American schools to consider other options.
Does Standardized Testing Work?
In a recent article for Forbes, former teacher Peter Greene criticized the tests as opaque, time-consuming and ultimately pointless.
“The assessments that teachers create on their own, administer to students and then examine in detail, are far more useful for informing instruction,” he wrote. “The tests now taking up hours of school time may be helping somebody, somewhere, but not anybody who actually works inside those schools.”
It’s not just teachers who are fighting the tests. Many parents are protesting the fixation with standardized tests that don’t seem to be a true measure of their children’s abilities. If too many teachers feel hampered by them and don’t feel that the results are worth it, they’ll just give up teaching.
3. Lack of Support
While many teachers complain about lack of support, support is a difficult quality to measure. Most teachers are looking for support from their school administrators, especially their principals. This is especially important for new teachers who are just learning the ropes.
Most teachers agree that their principals and administrators can help them out if they do the following:
- Have their back. This means listening to the teacher’s side in disputes with teachers and students. Teachers want to know that their point of view is at least being heard.
- Allow for collaboration. Teachers who can work together on various projects are more likely to feel satisfied and successful at work. It’s a good way to share experience and talents. It also creates a more productive working environment.
- Avoid arbitrary rule changes. It’s understandable that a new principal will want to make constructive changes to how a school operates, but those changes can be jarring to established teachers. Principals who introduce changes in a collaborative way are more likely to get the support of teachers for those changes.
- Offer advice and encouragement. Many teachers would appreciate a principal who shares their experience. Teachers also want to feel that their principal is allowing them to develop professionally.
4. Better Opportunities
In 2018, employees of public schools at all levels quit their jobs in record numbers. According to the Wall Street Journal, educators, administrators, kitchen staff and janitors all walked off at a rate of 83 workers for every 10,000 during the first 10 months of 2018.
The improved job market could be one reason why teachers quit teaching.
According to the article, funding for schools has not kept up with inflation and has not returned to pre-recession levels. Many education budgets were cut during the recession, but once the economy rebounded, funding levels for schools stayed low.
Teachers quoted in the article said that they were still expected to perform well in the face of these budget cuts. Instead, a good job market means that they can leave for greener pastures. Most teachers are well-educated, and they may find it easier to find better jobs than to continue battling the school system.
“The educators may be finding new jobs at other schools, or leaving education altogether,” the Journal reported. “The departures come alongside protests this year in six states where teachers in some cases shut down schools over tight budgets, small raises and poor conditions.”
Professions that involve helping people and getting involved in their lives have high burnout rates. Teachers go into their line of work primarily to help others, and their burnout rate is high.
Writing in Psychology Today, psychologist Jenny Grant Rankin reported on numerous studies testifying to the emotional drain of teaching. She called burnout “epidemic” among teachers. Rankin listed the top contributors to burnout as:
- Excessive workload.
- Inadequate resources.
- Student behavior.
- Lack of support from administrators, parents and the community.
To understand why teachers quit teaching, it’s important understand that these reasons are interrelated.
Budget cuts lead to more work for teachers. A high workload comes along with lower pay and fewer resources to do their jobs. Meanwhile, teachers are still expected to perform at high levels. It’s not surprising that they’re getting burnt out and leaving.
Do any of my five points match your experiences in the classroom? If continuing on like this just isn’t for you, take a look at my #1 recommendation for escaping the classroom.
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