Why can’t we keep the best teachers in the classroom?

Opinion of an American teacher

I’ve known a lot of great teachers who left the profession well before retirement age.

Here are the reasons, in the order that I’ve seen them happen, from most common to least common:

  • They have children of their own and want to be a stay-at-home parent. This is by far the most common reason. Teachers, better than anyone else, realize the importance of good parenting. Teachers are also college graduates, which means they’re statistically more likely to have a college-graduate spouse with a good job who can support the family on a single income. (Not that I’m saying I’m a great teacher, but this is probably the route I’m going to take.)
  • They take a job in administration. Administrators don’t teach.
  • They take a job with a tutoring company or educational resource company or anything that is in education, but not dealing with a classroom full of students.
  • They are poached by “better” school districts. Here in Chicago, the suburbs tend to pay slightly less than the urban schools, but have much fewer discipline issues with the students. A lot of new teachers “pay their dues” in the more-difficult urban schools, and jump on the first opportunity they have to get to the less-stressful suburban schools. Some also “escape” to private schools, but the pay at private schools is much lower than even the cheapest suburban public school.
  • They have disagreements with new district policies.
  • They don’t like teaching anymore. They take a job in a different field. One of my former coworkers… a really great teacher… started making craft beer instead. He told me that the money was the same, but he enjoyed making beer more than he enjoyed teaching.
  • They’re let go because of low enrollment.

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