Each year teachers go through the ritual of gathering boxes and purging their classrooms of unneeded items in preparation for summer break and the new school year in the fall. For many teachers this will be the last time they undergo this process. Far too many teachers are currently leaving the teaching profession. You might think that it is normal for teachers to retire and for others to decide on new career paths but this year is different. This year teachers are not leaving because of retirement or other careers, this year many teachers are leaving because they can no longer stay in the profession.
I’ve asked several teachers across the state why they are choosing to leave teaching and their answers have left me wondering about the state of our profession. Some of the reasons for premature departure from the teaching profession have included:
• Not being able to pay medical bills, mortgages and student loans
• Working over 60 hours per week
• Student loads of 150 or more
• Limited classroom resources and time to plan for instruction
• Being caught between policy and parents
These conditions are not new to anyone that has been a classroom teacher. Teachers have been doing more with less for a very long time, however this year seems to have revealed some type of tipping point. These teachers are leaving with heavy hearts, they regretfully walk away from a career they love but can no longer subsidize. What is changing that is causing committed career educators to walk away from their classrooms and students? The loss of these highly skilled and motivated teachers is a blow to our profession. The gaps in experience that these teachers leave behind will not be filled by the revolving door of new teachers.
I found it very interesting that none of the departing teachers stated that they were leaving the profession because of students. In fact, all of these teachers spoke fondly of their time with students and looked back with a sense of loss. I wonder how many teachers will decide to come back next year and what changes might need to be made to keep them coming back year after year.