Itís a commonly cited statistic: half of all new teachers quit within their first five years of teaching. Though their reasons are plentiful, here are four reasons that teachers commonly point to for bowing out of the profession before theyíve even really started:
1. Standardized Testing
The future of education is here and it looks like a barrage of generic multiple-choice tests. With federal and state interests in assessing student performance constantly, the system alters not just how things are taught, but why they are taught. As a result, arbitrary benchmarks supersede legitimate creativity and learning.
Itís not just the worry of ensuring that students succeed at the standardized tests. It also shatters the spirits of teachers who entered the profession to, you know, teach. Devoting so much time to mind numbing, irrelevant instruction rather than activities that build critical thinking and character prompts teachers to reevaluate their purpose and passion to lead a classroom when so much discretion has been taken out of their hands.
2. The Stressful Workload
ďGee, sure must be nice to have all those summers off!Ē While teachers are constantly told what an easy job they have, the reality is that the workday extends long after the final bell rings; class time is just one commitment of the job. If teachers arenít staying at their desks until dusk, theyíre bringing work home with them. There are always lessons to plan, hundreds of essays and assignments to grade, and new state-mandated educational requirements to learn. Add that to skipped lunch breaks to tutor kids, after school meetings and unpaid extracurricular volunteering, and itís easy to see why teachers often donít have time for a personal life.
Itís often not the lazy teachers who quit Ė itís those who overextend themselves trying to do their best to meet all of the demands of the job that burn out.
3. The Salary
Ask most teachers why they entered the profession, and youíll have trouble finding any that say, “For the money.Ē While underpaying teachers helps to maintain teaching as a ďnoble profession,Ē a badge of nobility wonít always keep people in the job.
Admittedly, public school jobs do offer a living wage. However, compared to other specialized jobs that involve degrees and training, the salaries donít stack up. Lawyers in New York City start at four times the salary as nearby teachers, and the disparity only gets worse over time. Compared to other jobs, raises are small. Even after 25 years on the job, the average teacher salary is only $67,000.
After putting in so many uncompensated hours of overtime and facing the reality that theyíll never be able to retire at the rate they dreamed of, teachers opt to jump ship early to pursue a career that can better reward them financially.
4. Lack of Respect
The low compensation is just one indication that teachers arenít highly regarded by society. Teachers see a lack of respect coming from angry parents, disengaged students who have already checked out mentally after years in a failing educational system, and administrators who place unreasonable or undefined expectations on their plates without offering the adequate support to help them succeed.
The rightwing anti-union movement only compounds this sentiment by labeling teachers as lazy leeches trying to destroy America. Moreover, the prevailing notion that if a teachers were smarter or more competent, they would have secured a better job leaves them aspiring for another path. When teachers give up so much time and money in an effort to make a difference, yet ultimately feel unappreciated on top of it allÖ why would they keep returning to a thankless job?
Improving this situation wonít be easy, but itís an absolutely necessary fix. Since it takes years of experience for teachers to feel confident in their abilities, losing teachers before theyíve had a chance to thrive at their jobs ensures a constant cycle of underprepared teachers with no stability. The current approach isnít good for our schools, isnít good for our students and isnít good for society.