An interesting study from Alliance for Education Excellence found here provides some interesting findings on why teachers are leaving the teaching profession. Here are the top three reasons for the teacher dropout rate:
The study also states that the cost of replacing teachers who are dropping out of the teaching profession is conservatively estimated to be $2.2 billion. The costs per state range from $8.5 million for North Dakota to over $500 million for Texas. Do you think that raises a few eyebrows?
But Why Are Teachers Leaving?
Let’s speak honestly about why teachers are leaving the profession. There is a distinct feel amongst teachers and administrators that there are so many mandates and so many expectations that the flexibility and the time necessary to build a real learning environment just doesn’t exist. When the issues above are coupled together it is easy to see how “lack of planning time” and “too heavy a workload” go hand in hand. This is an age-old problem and it is a problem that lots of people in lots of professions deal with. So why is this so problematic? Are we to believe that teachers are just not willing to work long hours and gut it out? Of course not.
The real issue is that when your classroom is untenable due to behaviors (issue #3) and you don’t have the time to deal with them (issues 1# & #2) then you end up in a downward spiral and the learning environment – and therefore teaching environment – suffers.
Teachers are very willing to work long hours. They are willing to work at home and on weekends. They are also willing to go the extra mile to prepare for the subjects that are based within the competencies of their education and training. Believe me, I know how hard teachers will and do work. I am married to a 1st grade teacher and she spends her day teaching twenty seven 1st graders. She spends her evenings grading and planning and preparing. Willingness to work is very seldom the issue for a teacher.
The Real Problem
The true problem lies in the fact student behaviors need to be dealt with but the schedule and the workload and the legislative mandates make behaviors a non-priority – except that it is the behaviors of the students that is diminishing the learning and teaching environment and making the classroom difficult. Aside from the fact that teachers are given strict mandates for performance they are also dealing with 20 – 30 different personalities spanning multiple racial, socio-economic, functional, and familial backgrounds in order to create an environment where learning can occur.
When you work long hours and spend a great deal of time in preparation and then you go into a classroom that is not manageable and yet you have stringent benchmarks for academic performance, teachers are being driven away.
We now have an educational system that espouses accountability, yet the accountability is measured solely on the academic proficiency of the students. Reading and science and math are the benchmarks of a job well done. Yet when you look at the reason teachers are leaving it is not because they cannot teach reading and math and science. It is because their classrooms are untenable and they are not given the resources and time to change them. They can do their job; they just are not given the chance.
Teaching to the Test is Not an Education
Martin Luther King Jr. once stated that “Intelligence plus character is the goal of a true education”. Mandates have replaced that with “a high standardized test score is the goal of a true education”. Yet while testing is important and the United States must be the standard bearer for academic performance and ability, teaching to a test is not an education.
A fact in all classrooms is that we have students functioning at different levels of academic ability and different levels of social ability. The vey make up of our classes coupled with the proficiency standards coupled with the time and resource restraints means that there will be some kids slipping through the cracks and this is hard for teachers to take.
The true problem lies in the inherent fact that the range of functioning within a classroom is not limited to academic abilities. There is also a range of social functioning that has a direct impact on a teacher’s ability to create and maintain a learning environment.
How do you teach to a test when you have students who won’t sit down and be quiet?
How do you teach the rigors of science when you have students who don’t understand the basics of social rules?
The classroom is after all a social gathering and even though it is autocratic by design that autocracy only works when the authority is understood and respected.
“Teaching Interrupted”, a study found at Public Agenda states that 85% of our current teachers feel that new teachers are not prepared for what they are going to experience in the classroom. These new teachers know how to teach reading and science and math. They aren’t equipped to deal with the students who are disrespectful, students who have no support system at home, students who have no desire to achieve, and then a system that accepts none of the above as an excuse for not reaching pre-designated goals.
True Classroom Success
The issue is that we have defined a successful education as one that creates a student population that scores within an acceptable range in the certain education areas that correlate to future potential employability. The problem with this is that this form of fundamentalist education does not take into account the students who are not prepared to participate at this level. When the push is all academics then when does the training for social competency occur? Students are not given the self-confidence and taught the social parameters for societal success and this diminishes their ability to be a part of a socialized classroom and this makes teaching and learning more difficult.
Teachers are not leaving the profession because they cannot teach.
Teachers are leaving because they are not being allowed to teach what is important. Rene Descartes once said, “To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” People go into the teaching profession because they want to teach. They want to mold the minds of children and create opportunities for them to succeed in life. Teachers are leaving because the opportunity to truly educate is no longer valued within our legislated system. Yes we are teaching. But we are not fully educating and preparing our children for life. And teachers are walking out. Their actions are speaking volumes.
I think teachers and administrators are trying to teach us something…
as they walk out the door.
They want the time and resources to prepare their students for life. Yes, competing and success within the global economy is important but so is self-esteem and friendship. The strictures of science must be learned but the value of respect and tolerance is just as important. Reading is an absolute but so is good citizenship. Teachers are trying to tell us something and until we listen, children will be left behind.