Where have all the teachers gone? No, that’s not an updated version of a 1960’s folk song, that’s a real question that parents, administrators, and school districts are asking these days. According to the Learning Policy Institute, it’s estimated that 8% of all teachers in America leave the profession for good every year. What’s worse? That number has risen dramatically over the last 20 years. While retirement can account for some of that, there are still thousands of educators every year that are walking out the door to never return. So the question is… why? As it turns out there isn’t one specific answer.
Extreme Amounts of Oversight
State testing has been the bane of the educational world for years now. Recently, however, those test scores have been used as a grading system to determine how much money school districts, individual schools, and even teachers receive. So it’s no surprise that district leaders are more controlling than ever when it comes to what gets taught, when it gets taught, and how it gets taught. Many teachers say they no longer have autonomy to run their classroom how they see fit and are being forced to “teach to the test” which takes a lot of the joy and creativity out of the classroom.
The Learning Policy Institute survey showed that many teachers left because they were dissatisfied, and one of the reasons for that was the conditions they are forced to teach in. Teaching is hard enough as it is, but that task gets a lot harder without the proper resources. Teachers having to pay for their own school supplies can be frustrating. Cramming classrooms with too many kids can be downright infuriating. Add to that the fact that some schools don’t have the proper amount of classrooms or facilities and it makes for an unhappy workforce.
Teachers may joke often about how stressful their lives are, but research shows it may be far more accurate than people realize. A 2017 study conducted at the University of Missouri says over 90% of elementary school teachers report “high levels of stress”. Pressure to succeed on state testing, a lack of support from administration, increased scrutiny from parents and the public in general; teachers swallow all of that and the results are harmful amounts of stress. Not only does that stress lead to increased health issues, but it also ties into poor performance in the classroom and low job satisfaction.
Teachers have long been fighting for higher salaries, but the gap between educators and other professions has widened significantly over the last decade. According to the NEA, in 1994 teachers were paid 2% less than other professionals with the same amount of education. Today they get paid 19% less. And while teacher pay has increased over the last decade, when you factor in inflation, teachers are actually worse off than they were a decade ago. That has led to many teachers taking on 2nd and 3rd jobs which leads to…
Respect (or the lack thereof)
At the end of the day, teachers are well aware they will never get rich. We don’t pick this line of work because of the fame and glory, we became teachers because we know how important our jobs are and the difference we can make in the lives of children. It is truly a labor of love, but lately, it feels more like a labor of unrequited love. Expectations from administrators, politicians, and parents continue to grow, and so has the blame when things don’t go as expected. This is leading to even the students showing less and less respect for their teachers. In the end, it leaves teachers fighting to please everybody, yet not getting the help and support they need from those same groups of people.
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