4 Real Reasons Why Teachers Leave the Profession

 

Teachers leaving the profession continues to be a serious problem in education.

Even though the demand for teachers is higher than ever, there are teachers leaving the profession in staggering numbers. School boards and educational research organizations are trying to discover why this is happening.

As a past teacher, I can give some first hand reasons why teachers consider leaving the profession.

Let me clarify, I loved teaching and the impact the profession has on the next generation; for me, the decision was more a change of lifestyle than a displeasure in my career. I can, however, give some practical concerns arising among teachers that lead to many of them choosing a different career.

#1 – LOW SALARY

I think the main reason teachers are leaving the profession is the lack of competitive salary. Many people believe that teachers have “the easy life” because they get summers off, but teachers work significantly more hours than we get paid for, especially when we have a dual assignment such as sponsoring a club or coaching a sport. If you took the average yearly salary and divided it by the number of hours that most teachers actually work; the result was that teachers make about $10.00 an hour with all the late nights on buses coming back from games, and early morning tutoring sessions for struggling students, not to mention the three page essays for one hundred and fifty students. If you are considering going into teaching for the money, then you may want to reconsider your career choice.

#2 – STUDENT BEHAVIOR

The second reason why I believe teachers are leaving the profession has to do with the lack of morals and discipline that some students receive at home, and the inability to do much about it in the classroom. This generation is the most fatherless, divorced, and neglected generations in the history of America, and it is noticed in the classroom. For young teachers, it is often difficult to balance teaching with discipline when respect and honor for teachers has not been instilled in students. Some students are not taught moral values at home, and children are often in situations where they raise themselves. In this case, it becomes difficult to expect a teenager to follow your rules and turn in homework when the student has never had to follow rules or have responsibility at home.

#3 – LACK OF SUPPORT

On the other side of that argument, and another main reason for teachers leaving the profession, is the issue of parents. The problem with some parents is that they often see their child through rose colored glasses. Their child could curse at you and throw a desk across the room, and somehow the parent will find a way to blame the teacher. It is very difficult for teachers, especially young ones, to help parents understand that their child must take responsibility for their actions. Parents look to school administrators to discipline teachers for their child’s failure, all the while having no expectations for their child to change. This is a very difficult and tricky situation to navigate, and if a teacher does not have the support of administration, the teacher will find themselves in meeting after meeting getting reprimanded with very little positive outcomes.

#4 – TOO MUCH TESTING

The last reason teachers leave the profession is probably the most frustrating, and that has to do with standardized testing. Many districts are being pressured to perform better “or else” and I agree that performance standards need to be raised, but the responsibility must fall equally on students and parents as it does on teachers and administrators. If other professions were treated like teachers, then every time a person committed a crime in their jurisdiction, a police officer should be fired, or every time a patient got sicker, a doctor should lose his license. The fear of losing a career because a fifteen year old does not take a test seriously is a sad reality of standardized testing.

Why Do Teachers Quit?

A FEW BOOKS ON THE TOPIC

Teachers in Crisis: Why Do They Leave After an Average of Five Years in the Classroom?
Why Do Teachers Leave the Teaching Profession?: Can Alternative Certificate Programs eliminate the U.S Teacher Shortage Issue?
What teachers need: research into why teachers leave the profession is helping lawmakers craft better policies to hold onto them.: An article from: State Legislatures

 

Comments

  1. I am seriously considering leaving the teaching profession. I have had enough. I am verbally assaulted daily, I have been brought to the office countless times and I am frustrated and pretty discouraged. When I first started out I had dropped out of high school and I was a single mother of two boys. Now, I have a bachelor of arts, bachelor of education and masters in education. I really care about helping kids to stay in school and try to stay out of poverty. But I am tired of the repirmands, the ignored referrals, the snide comments, the complaints from parents and the general comments from the public during any day off. I feel like saying, hey, if you want to be a teacher, be my guest. I would miss the kids an watching them grow. I don’t ever believe in giving up on the kids, but I just wish my admin wouldn’t give up on me. Too much debt and too little support. The article, sadly hit home.

  2. Dr. Patricia Fioriello says:

    It is very upsetting to hear about your dissatisfaction with the teaching profession. As a past high school principal, student behavior and lack of support were always two big issues for teachers. We seem to lose teachers who the students would benefit from the most. To drop out of high school and then to later graduate college and graduate school is a positive message that should be shared with students. Teaching is not an easy profession. New teachers always struggle with class management. The job cannot be done without a strong support system. Consider using a class management plan that other teachers find effective and outreach to your colleagues for strategies that work in their classrooms. Also, not to make light of your situation, it is near the end of the school year and we always seem to have more problems during this time of the year. Teachers are tired and frustrated. Failing students feel that it is pointless for them to attend class. The last two months of a school year are filled with many different emotions. Make it through the year. Take the summer to relax. Enter next year with a strong class management plan and support you can count on during difficult times – maybe a teacher who can mentor you or a teacher support program in your district.

  3. After twenty one years as a special education teacher, I too, can’t wait to reach 62 and retire (I am 59). The lack of administration support is my prime reason to leave. Lack of common sense to stand up to politicians and the federal and state governments about all the demands for testing and teacher accountability has me very discouraged about the future of education. Not everyone has the same interest, drive or ability to pass the same test. If that were achievable, then I would be out of a job as a special education teacher. I never wanted to learn to be a doctor or an auto mechanic. Should I be expected to pass a test for either one of these occupations just because “the powers that be” decide I should? I think all students need to be able to read, do basic math and write grammatically correct. Then those who express and interest and desire to develop more should be given the resources to do so. We have made education a right and in the country too many no longer appreciate that right as well has many other rights. All people NEED to be given equal opportunities but not all people are capable of the same level of success or ability.

  4. JustOne says:

    To comment on the previous post: in this country – (though we hear it all the time) education is not a right, but rather a requirement. There’s a difference between the two. Sometimes I think it should, indeed, be a right and not a requirement. We spend more money on students who are uninterested in learning than we do on students who strive to excel. There’s something ironic about that. But I digress…

    I would be curious to see the effect of current politics on teacher motivation to seek (or return to) another field. Parent/student challenges, long hours, etc are a part of the business of education, regardless of level (college, high school, middle school). That hasn’t changed in the past 15 years or so. But social/political changes have occurred. I keep waiting for the system to ‘bottom out’ so we can rebound, but I keep watching it get worse and worse. The state budget items that are included at the expense of education send a clear message to teachers and educators (a message that I won’t discuss in polite company). A colleague of mine suggested, “They do it because they know teachers, educators, and parents won’t fight back. It’s in our nature to be people pleasers. We care about people. Pretty soon, instead of a salary, we’ll be paying for the opportunity to teach and smiling the whole while. Teachers don’t have the knowledge or inclination to fight.” As one who fully enjoys Allinsky’s works, I found this thought disheartening.

    Moving on. I am flabbergasted. I have worked with students at the college level, students at a nationally recognized/accredited K-12 private school, and now with students in a high-performing public school district. Yet, I find myself increasingly frustrated with an institution (including the stakeholders at all levels) that is nearly unrecognizable to teachers of only a few decades ago (my mother, for example, is relieved that she’s retired). I enjoy teaching, but I (and all education professionals) deserve a work environment (pay, benefits, growth, respect, opportunities) indicative of my training, experience, and dedication. (Teachers are expected to accept situations that no business professional could comprehend.) When the discrepancy between business and education is small, it’s easy to shrug and say, “Well, I love what I do.” When the discrepancy is large, people begin to ask, “Is it really worth it?” and it seems the last teachers people want to see leave are the first to go. [The irony is that those are the VERY people we need to stay and fight, but, alas, I am again reminded of my colleague’s observation that teachers simply don’t fight (they may bicker, but they don’t fight).]

    You know something is amiss when the discussion around the proverbial “water-cooler” has less to do with classroom activities or even district initiatives and more to do with which countries have better work arrangements for teachers and what other jobs would allow a person to do the inspiring, structuring, and empowering that we entered education to do.

    I am a good educator. My colleagues, parents, and supervisors have told me so. My students will even admit as much (on days when my learning expectations don’t conflict with their free time). When I have the opportunity, I write grants, develop curricula, design online supplements, and keep a finger on the pulse of educational innovation. Yet, more and more, media, politicians, districts, etc seem set on devaluing education, micromanaging a teachers time, and replacing research-based techniques with “cover your butt” remediation techniques. (Watching online proceedings of the state’s subcommittee on education can be a very enlightening experience. One day I would like a politician who believes that we are all ‘bad teachers’ to come show me what a ‘good teacher’ looks like. I learn well from modeling.)

    With regard to the ability of alternative certification programs to serve as a solution to the educator shortage, in my opinion (as an alternative certification participant), I would have to say, no. At least not yet. Until policy genuinely values retention, satisfaction, and growth, alt. cert. teachers will follow the traditional five year ‘drop-outs’ but at faster rates. I agree with a comment I heard, “The most qualified [alt. cert.] teachers tend to be the first to leave; not because they can’t handle teaching, but rather because they are most quickly dissatisfied with the work conditions. Their experiences tell them that something isn’t right and as a classroom teacher they have little power to change things, so they move on.” Numbers support this claim. Of the 10 of us who entered the intensive science preparation program, 3 were not employed, 1 quit after summer school, 1 quit after 1 year, and 1 (after 2 years) is considering changing ‘teaching’ from a ‘destination’ to a ‘stepping-stone’. I have not had recent contact with the other 4. Alt. Cert. individuals have experience in a professional work environment. Those of us who earn our way into the intensive programs have credentials that would impress any employer: advanced degrees, leadership, accomplishment, dedication, etc. We consider teaching for a variety of reasons, but I don’t think anything prepares alt. cert. individuals for the difference between being a business professional and an education professional. [Compounding the problem, alt. cert. individuals seem to get the students/teaching situations that seasoned educators strive to avoid. This ‘giving the toughest job to the newest employee’ has never made sense to me. It gives new people little to look forward to.] I was lucky to have had successes and support in other teaching settings before attempting my first public school assignment. I thrive in adversity, but there were many days that I longed for the ‘bad days’ at my previous jobs, because they were a cake walk compared to the current assignment.

    In my humble opinion, the day we start focusing on supporting education and retaining teachers (rather than targeting bad teachers and finding new ways to recruit replacement ones) is the day that people will aspire to enter the field of education again. People don’t seem to understand that the factors that lead to ‘force reduction through retirement and death’ are beyond our control but the factors that lead to ‘shortages’ are completely within our control. There are a lot of young people and teaching-oriented professionals. Why aren’t they coming? Why aren’t they staying? It’s time that someone not only studied it, but also had the nerve/power to actually enact a solution.

  5. After 26 years in teaching, I’m more than ready to get out. Unfortuately, I’m trapped. Yes,I said trapped. I’m from Michigan and from one of the lowest paying public schools in the state. With all the legislation that has recently passed, and the cuts I have taken on the district level, I find myself with a salary that has regressed 12 years, and the worst benefit package ever. I refinanced my house, and have a 2nd job so I can make ends meet, and get told that my “moonlighting” is taking jobs away from those who don’t have any and I’m greedy.
    So where does my “greed” leave the kids in my classroom? I spent an average of 31 unpaid hours A WEEK on schoolwork/preps for my classes which is no longer possible. I’m sick of all the testing required by legislators who know NOTHING about educating children. Last year say $300.00 out of my pocket for classroom supplies and $200.00 to put clothes on the backs of some of my poverty students. It leaves them in trouble this year. There will be zero personal dollars spent in my classroom this year.

    To say there is too much testing today is putting it mildly. There is so much testing required, it does not leave time for teching. No wonder test scores are dropping. OH I FORGOT..it’s my lack of dedication to the classroom and lack of knowledge that is making those scores drop.

    With my BA, and MA education, I find out that I have no job skills outside the classroom that will bring in any kind of money.

    Trapped…….Sad indeed.

  6. Jennifer says:

    re: “Even though the demand for teachers is higher than ever…”

    Uh… WHERE exactly, Patricia? The whole time I was at university, representatives from the School of Education and the mass media kept reassuring us that there would soon be a teacher shortage, as all the baby-boomers were expected to retire. Now I’ve graduated, I’m finding that this was a complete LIE. There are no jobs in the state in which I live in Australia, and no-one’s hired on permanent contracts. As education graduates, we’re expected to work for YEARS on temporary and casual contracts (ie no job security), or in extreme remote areas with NO holiday pay (approx. 3 months of the year) under lousy conditions, facing constant bullying and belittlement from both administrators and senior teachers alike. So I’ve now got a HECs debt, and no job, and no prospect of getting one. If I’d known that when choosing my course, I would’ve studied something else. ANYTHING else.

  7. Dr. Patricia Fioriello says:

    Since posting this article, I have heard from countless teachers who are disappointed and disillusioned with the teaching profession. With recent cuts to education, the demand overall may not be higher than ever but education still provides job opportunities compared to other professions and the need will continue in the future. It is just that now the majority of jobs are in high need areas such as ESL, Special Education, Science, Math, inner city schools or school administration.

    I too was in education for 25 years. Although mostly an administrator, I also was very frustrated and felt like I was unable to implement change and left the public school system a few years ago. The interesting thing is that I never looked back and never missed it. It was the best decision I made. Right there something is wrong. First that I could leave early and more importantly that I did not have second thoughts about my decision…

  8. I have one more year after this before I am vested in our teacher retirement system, and then I am gone. The sad thing is that I’ve been on job boards nearly everyday contemplating whether I’ll be let out of my contract if I resign before school starts back. I don’t want to throw away a portion of retirement when I have so little to go, but I sincerely wonder if I can stand to teach for two more years.
    It isn’t the kids. They are simply products of an environment that they have no control over. Even the ones who can be rude or lazy or disrespectful are mostly good kids who have had poor parenting. The system doesn’t help. This entire NCLB nonsense has created an enviornment where teaching to the test is expected. It doesn’t matter if the kids learn how to learn or learn how to think, no, the message to teachers is to rehash only the material being tested. Dont’ give homework- it interferes with sports and video games. Don’t have high expectations, and put it on a silver platter when you hand it to them. The kids aren’t perpetrating this idiocy, of course they go along with it- they don’t know any better, it is the adults in our society- the parents, politicians, admins, and yes the teachers who don’t fight, who are undermining education. As a society we will fund the building of a stadium before we’ll fund the building of a school. That really says it all, doesn’t it?

  9. I am the one who left the comment at the very beginning. Now that I have had the summer to think about everything I would like to share my reflection: To the person who stated that I needed to get classroom management under control, I have it under control. Making me feel like it is my fault that things don’t go well is so typical and wrong that I don’t know where to begin. I am a resource teacher. If I wasn’t good at classroom management I wouldn’t have taught resource, university and elementary school. Asking questions and trying to help me to help myself I believe would have been a better response.

    To the others who are awaiting retirement, I wish we had another answer. Personally, I am daily looking at something for something else. I don’t mind having to work more hours and I will end up with more pay and I hope more respect. The issue for me was that I was written up for calling parents too often. I am not allowed to discuss marks with parents as a resource teacher. I have had other principals tell me to but apparently this one thought it was very wrong. I can see her point, but taking away my dignity in the process was unnecessary. Again, I love the teens, I miss them this summer, but it is not worth it for me to consistently lose my dignity and I don’t think I should have to choose between the two. Good luck to the brave few who are going to stay and fight. I am to weary and I have too many people who count on me financially for me to risk it.

  10. Jennifer T says:

    I can relate with this blog and just about everyone of you other teachers who commented. This is my third year teaching. I started out as a young, naive university intern teaching forensic science. You could think WOW COOL JOB! Don’t get me wrong…FORENSIC SCIENCE is way intriguing…however; the student population that I would get would be the low performing under achiever who enrolled in my class to avoid chemistry and physics. I was provided with $0 to run this course. I would have to purchase even the basic supplies myself. Rulers, glue sticks, tape, markers, color pencils, magnify glasses, chemicals etc…and what I found was that many students did not even care about school, they would use the supplies I used to support their education to deface school property and even break the supplies I funded. They were 16-18 year old kids who didn’t even want to clean up after themselves. I asked students to do a community outreach to see if they could collect some donations for some highly needed items in our class such as scotch tape, gloves and tissue boxes, like perhaps when they visited dentists offices or doctors, and many of their parents work for a medical office. However; one student, a straight D student by the way, felt she deserved something higher in my class, and desperately wanted an instant C overnight. She spoke to me with disrespect for me to change her grade, and when informed that her grade could not magically change a grade level overnight, she was furious and reported that I instructed students to buy things in replace for a grade. I got reprimanded for that incident and with a few more incident involving destruction of property and material being stolen from my room, I had a teacher meltdown you could say. I felt VERY VERY under appreciated and very much unsupported by any administration who by the way asked me to make a special accommodation for that female student who needed an instant grade change…an fact not very surprising at all was she never completed the extra credit assignment. Teaching five forensic science classes with a 1:40 teacher to student ratio with $0 is equivalent to a magician pulling a white rabbit out of a top hat. What makes it even worse is my teaching success is solely based on the proficient rate of my 11th graders passing the CA CST Biology test. I do not even know how this is a fair and equal opportunity of assessing students who are not even taking a biology course. But all the funding I do to provide a decent education for “federally funded” public education is the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life. It doesn’t matter how fun, engaging or interesting I make this class, in the end…the low proficient percentage rate of these immature 11th grader is the only thing to reflect my teaching success in the public eye of the education scene. I’ve already back tracked my choices all the way back to my freshmen undergrad year and decided I should have truly worked harder and excelled in a skill or knowledge where my daily life can reflect a more rewarding experience than this internally, flawed and backward system we call education. I have no hope that there will be any change and there are not really any way to transfer districts either. Suck it up and collect your pay is what the poorly treated or supported special education teachers suggest I do. Ugh.

  11. I sympathize with all of my fellow educators on this post who have spoken of the many difficulties of the profession. I have been teaching for seven and half years, and I can honestly say that teaching gets more and more difficult every year. Recently I went back to school to get a higher degree because my home state of New York demands that all teachers must have a higher degree if they are to continue teaching, but after recent events of hostile working condition (from parents and especially from students) I guess that I will take my degree and seek employment in some other line of work. I am done with teaching! Low wages, belligerent unruly students has depleted my strength. And I don’t think my feelings are going to change. I use to be very passionate about teaching, but the lack of parental involvement, nonsupporting administration and a public hell bent on blaming teachers for a fail system has made me evaluate everything that I once believed. I have one year left of my graduate studies then I am long gone. In the meantime I will grim and bear the students verbal insults, parental criticism and administration apathy until I finish with my studies. By the way, all of these comments are from a teacher who has passed all of his evaluations with flying colors!

  12. Hertz
    i can relate. This profession is not for every body but at times i feel trap in school that is decayed in support, morals, and discipline.

  13. I found your website through a search on alternative careers for teachers. I have read all of the posts and relate with every single one of them. I have been in the education profession for 12 years and am currently an assistant principal. Every day I am faced with student discipline, and I am amazed with the lack of support from parents for holding their students accountable. More and more parents blame me or the teachers for their child’s total disregard for authority. One parent has even acquired a lawyer and threatened me with a lawsuit for following the discipline plan and holding their child accountable. I am so worn and tired that I am willing to work in any other job other than education. Are there any alternative careers for school administrators? Thanks.

  14. It is again unfortunate so many educators want to leave the field. However, I completely understand because a few years ago, I was in your shoes. After many years in the public school system, I finally left mainstream education. I was a teacher, principal and central office manager. Regardless of the position, I felt that I was never truly making a difference – implementing change. I did feel on a day to day basis that I managed to influence students and colleagues. However, it was devastating to realize that if I was gone for awhile that it was business as usual and that my unique skills were not necessarily valued. It was my job to complete tasks that was more desired. Am I making sense? Getting to your question…I fumbled for years trying to find my place in the education world but not in traditional roles. It is a challenge because majority of positions are connected to large education institutions especially during difficult economic times. However, it is possible now with the shift in careers in general due to the internet and a more global approach to work. There are many places online to share with other educators and to provide feedback but I have not come across a place for “ex- educators” to develop related skills and/or seek alternative careers. Most educators who leave the field have commonly gone into human resource, training or educational sales positions. It would be encouraging to see more support for educators to explore online positions such as blogging, development of e products, international studies, etc. This conversation is giving me a few ideas for a new website…Good luck to you!

  15. If the demand for teachers is higher than ever, why can’t I get a job? I’ve had my credential for two years. I now sub in TWO districts, originally thinking I would only sub in one so I wasn’t spreading myself too thin. I did pick up a 6-month long, long-term kindergarten job, which I loved, even though I was making $110/day when “real” teachers were making three times that. I am 49 years old. I have raised my kids. I know how to deal with discipline problems. Perhaps my districts are too desirable and teachers aren’t leaving this area? I don’t know. All I know is that my savings is dwindling while I make $100/day subbing…sometimes. So to all of you out there who are unhappy: At least you have a job :O)

  16. I understand the comments from the educators. I just left the high school classroom after 19 years. The disrespect from the students and parents was the main reason I left. Over the years the accountability issue has become large when I first started teaching the students understood that they had to work hard to improve his or her skills. But over the years this has declined. Parents have complained because the student had 3 or 4 hours of homework a week ( I taught upper level mathematics) which took away from the time the student could spend doing activities. The administration does not support the teachers and in fact many time called me in to change a students grade because the parents wanted his or her student to receive a higher grade in the class. The lack of support from the students, parents, and administration forced me to make the decision to leave. I have not completely left the classroom I teach as an adjunct at a community college and enjoy my time in the classroom. For now I am living off my retirement until I can earn my MBA and start a new life. Starting over at 48 I am happy now and my health is improving and enjoying life away from the classroom.

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