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Why Good Teachers Quit

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Why Good Teachers Quit

by Kay Bisaillon, Teacher

Editor’s Note: For  related reading, see also 25 Ways To Reduce Teacher Burnout & The Secrets For Teacher Survival

My friend is an amazing teacher.

She is an amazing teacher who is ready to quit the job she has loved for 20 years. She was honored just a few years ago as one of the best teachers in her area. She cares deeply about her students. These students come from some of the poorest living conditions in the state she lives. Many of these students come to school everyday for the stability she brings to their lives. She goes in early every morning and stays late almost every day. She brings home hours of work each night.

She carefully prepares her lessons with engaging learning and interactivity for her students. She is one of those teachers who has a interactive white board and the students touch the board as often as she does. She explores lessons in real and meaningful ways and empowers learning in her classroom.

What’s the problem? The problem is she is approaching her breaking point with her teaching career. She is ready to leave teaching completely. She is tired of trying so hard, in so many ways, and still feeling as if she is losing the battle. She is losing faith that she is and can make a difference.

She’s Not Given Time to Adjust to the Newest Teaching Styles

She was recently admonished for asking a question to the class and calling on a single student to answer. She was told this could and would not be done anymore. She was supposed to “ask the question and allow students to discuss with each other the answer.” She explained she had been applying this new approach and did find it valuable. She also explained the previous style of asking and answering a question to a single student was a style she had used for many years, but was making a conscious effort to stop using the approach.

She was told to “not try, but do…” and I am being polite in my recount of this episode. My friend and I both agree the new approach has a lot to offer the students. Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to fully convert to a new teaching style within weeks of the start of the school year? Is she not allowed time to adjust to a new style?

She left that discussion with her administration feeling inadequate, deflated and disrespected.

She’s Swimming in Work at Home and At School

She leaves her house at 7am most mornings. She teaches until 3pm and stays at school to do paperwork, cleaning and preparing for the next day until 5:30-6pm. She usually does a few hours of grading and lesson plan preparation each evening. If you add an errand on the way home, and dinner, and general housekeeping, the day is a long and exhausting one. She feels as if she is losing ground each day and trying to make it up the next. It is a vicious cycle.

She’s Struggling to Learn Each New Program Introduced

This year she has had multiple new programs to learn: a new gradebook program, a new online lesson planning program, and a new reading series. She admits her confidence in her technical abilities is lacking but she tries. She attends every mandatory and voluntary information session offered. She spends weekends reading and watching the how-to videos. She asks questions of co-workers and tries to get as comfortable as she can with these new processes. She is learning it all, but it takes time and patience…and more time. This time comes from her personal life.

She will eventually learn it and get comfortable with it all, but it does come at an expense.

She Does Not Feel Valued

All of the above would not feel so deflating if she felt valued. If the extra time she invested felt appreciated by her administration. Instead, the push is to do more, do it faster, improve the student’s grades and, more importantly, their standardized test scores. She must not only improve those test scores but document every little piece of data along the way. (See 10 Ways Data Can Sabotage Your Teaching.)

She is exhausted by the demands of her time and energy and doesn’t know how much more she has to give.

Her Family (and husband) Misses Her

I mentioned my friend has been a classroom teacher for 20+ years. She has three grown children and her home is slowly becoming an empty nest. Her husband misses her. He is ready to have his wife home in the evenings at a reasonable time. He is ready to spend some time at home with his wife when she isn’t preoccupied with grading papers or preparing lessons or worrying about completing those things before the next school day. Her grown children are worried because their mother is working all the time.

Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

My friend is required to keep a binder for, well, just about everything. I can’t tell you how many binders, sections, topics, titles, charts, graphs and forms I have heard her discuss. I would bet she has a binder to help her keep her required binders organized! In all seriousness, the complexity and sheer numbers required in that type of record keeping and data recording is painstakingly detailed and mind-numbing. She is frustrated and overwhelmed by it.

The Counter-Balance

Related Posts

My friend gets up everyday and still does an amazing job. She doesn’t do it for the pay or the administration…she does it because her students need her. Her students come from an economically depressed area. Many of her students come to school hungry and need the joy she shares. She knows she makes a difference to their day, their week, their year, and their life. She will continue focusing on this one simple reason until all of the other ones become too much for her to handle.

I know my friend is not the only good teacher who feels this way. We talk often and I try to be the sounding board she needs. She leans on co-workers for support. I know teacher burnout is a common issue among very good educators. This is what worries me. There are amazing teachers, young and old, veterans and rookies, who are starting to eye the exit door. These teachers feel overworked, underpaid, undervalued, deflated, and emotionally and physically exhausted.

I only hope the one good reason continues to outweigh the others long enough to keep those good teachers teaching.

Image attribution flickr user nasagoddardspaceflightcenter; Why Good Teachers Quit

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Shawn Storm

This saddens me…I encountered that wall and wanted to quit a few years ago. I began asking myself what are 3 things that went well today (read it somewhere) and then I connected with amazing educators on Twitter and it has re-energized my teaching and actually allowed me to find balance through the connections that I’ve made. We have the most important job in the world and we need to support each other.

Paul Murray

This is why good teachers need good unions.

BestEducationalApps

My wife and I are both teachers in Canada. We can relate to this story as we have many colleagues feeling the pressure of todays teaching stresses. What is a fearful reality is the number of new teachers that are turning away from the profession in the first few years. It’s time governments put time, energy and resources into supporting teachers both financially and pedagogically leading the charge to increase political capital for the teaching profession. The economy and our future demand it. Thanks for sharing this!

nancy wimbush

Too bad, usually the collaborative, team, can support struggling educators. Mentors, mentees, shared expertise and common goals. I have seen people who don’t have enough time for this or that, tech is too hard to catch up on. I think recognizing your limitations and realizing that you are not feeding your soul is a good sign to look for something else.

LWoods

Very sadly, I must say that I can definitely identify with this teacher. I very much love teaching and my students but I am really growing weary of all the extras that distract me from my actual teaching and all the excessive grading and paperwork. I am tired after a day of interruptions to my lessons.

george

WOW. To start I’m suprised she is not married to another teacher, he must have the patience of Job. I thought only teachers could marry teachers (or principals or CEO’s or something). Guess I’m wrong. ANyway, education 100 years ago was the three R’s, reading, writing, and arithmatic. (OK so there is only one R in there but it shows how much it has changed). Also history and geography was the history and geography of mostly Amerca, which I’m sure it still is. But really, now students have to learn about every little town on earth. Math was euclidian, but… Read more »

Some days this is me. Teaching is an art, but it sure does have a lot of craft to it as well. Never enough time. Less freedom with each day–hard to interact with students genuinely. Grading, grading, grading (which stops learning dead, in my experience) every night.

MHEN

I AM A TEACHER,I QUIT TEACHING IN PUBLIC SCHOOL BECAUSE I WAS NOT PAID WELL. BUT IN MY HEART I LOVE BUILDING THE FOUNDATION OF CHILD TO MAKE HI/ HER FUTURE BE AT THE BEST.ITS SO SAD THET WE TEACHERS HERE IN THE PHILIPPINES ARE NOT WELL COMPENSATED.I WAS IN THE SERVICE FOR 12 YEARS,8 YEARS GUIDANCE COUNSELOR,SCIENCE COORDINATOR,ENGLISH AND SCIENCE TEACHER,TRAINOR,KINDER AND GIRL SCOUT COORDINATOR.BUT I QUIT TO FIND JOB IN THE OTHER COUNTRY BECAUSE I NEED TO EARN ALSO FOR MY CHILDREN

Lisa

I have not taught for 20 years; however, I get up and go to work at 7, stay until 5:30 or 6:00 every night. I do not feel my students get the maximum amount of my effort if I am not able to put in those hours. I am always pushed with meetings and other individuals that take up several hours of my day. I need the time before and after school to complete my grading and all the materials that I can not accomplish. This teacher makes me feel like I am human, not the only one who gets… Read more »

John-David Hughes

They call it the “Socratic Method.” Try teaching, or managing a class without the opportunity to return a student to attentive behavior by asking a pertinent question. Time to quit. No doubt.

A.H. Perry

I hope this teacher, and many others like her, will be able to remain in this profession. “Humans” like her are needed while the push to improve systems seems to create machines (like fearful administrators). It may help to realize that this stressful energy is dominant in all fields right now. Eventually a balance will/must be reached. Meantime, everyone in this situation MUST pay attention to self care. Meditation and visualization will also help; a strong spiritual base is important (regardless of religion). Finally, it will help when the work is one’s “purpose” (versus a secure job). I do understand…I… Read more »

Guest

I was heartened to see this post today!! I have been feeling so very alone in these thoughts and feelings myself! I arrive at work at 6:45 am and usually leave about 8:00 pm 5 or 6 days every week (for the same pay as teachers who leave at 3:30). I used to think I was a pretty good Music teacher; but no longer. The administration does not support my point of view when comments or complaints are voiced, consequently the parents are running the Marching Band. I really wonder…….

Tina

I am a teacher in the UK. I have just resigned after 15 years. In the UK we retire now at 68. I am looking for an alternative career pathway while I still have the energy. There is a cap on the time you can give the amount of energy to a profession that teachers do. I am deeply saddened but younger more energetic teachers will replace me and I will have the energy to enjoy myself again.

The Picture Book Pusher

I’m about to leave the profession for the exact same reasons. This article articulates the situations so well. Especially the constant expectation that we are to assimilate into a new curriculum or style within weeks, and then are evaluated for it. Paperwork, and everything else that takes away from us meeting the needs of the children.

The Picture Book Pusher

Only thing wrong with this article is the unnecessary shirtless child they have as the accompanying photo.

anon

This article articulates many of the reasons I left teaching. I only lasted 4 years before I burnt out but know a lot of my pressure came from my own high expectations of myself. I was constantly reassured that I was doing a great job but within myself it never felt like enough. After I had my little girl I tried to go back to teaching but felt like I was neglecting her, and the thought of starving her of my time and attention to give it to other people’s children just wasn’t my cup of tea. Now I have… Read more »

Alexis

Oh God! This sounds just like me. I am sitting in front of my computer hoping someone would tell me what to do. My heart wants to stay in teaching, but my head is burned out. I wish someone would make this agonizing decision for me: Which is more painful? Stay with teaching or start over in a new field from the bottom up at the age or 42?

Beverly Watson

I quit in the middle of the year, stayed home, and just recently started looking for work but NOT in schools. I could not take it anymore. This lady sounds just like what I was suffering. I dont miss the school nor the other teachers.

Jamie

What is the recipe to drive someone crazy? You put that person in a four wall room, add 30 to 40 children, add tons of paperwork, add a group of parents and administrators that gives that person frequent verbal whip-lashing, and finally a society that watches and cheers it on! This is what a teacher faces every day. Does anyone want to be a teacher?

Teacher of firsties

I think you wrote this about me!!

Carol

I was up at 5:00 a.m. this morning- feeling the exact same way! I was exploring retirement options. I can afford to quit; however, I don’t want to! I have much I want to do with the students but I don’t know how long I can go on. I am exhausted! I think school every minute of the day and night and the pressures are overwhelming. I am expected to teach a class of 16 students from JK (3 & 4 year olds) plus grades 1-3 (most of which are at least a grade below where they should be) and… Read more »

burnt out

I’m asking the same questions now, after 20 years of a dedicated, successful career. Like you, I’ve longed for someone to tell me the right thing to do; I am indecisive with matters such as these; but the truth is, no one else will tell me or you what to do. Let’s weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision. Me? My eye is on the exit door. The problem? My students. My retirement. The truth of it? I may not even be around then if I don’t properly deal with the stress NOW. Best of luck to you.… Read more »

StressedJojo

Who wrote this about me? It’s spot on! I am there. After 22 years, I am almost there.

Greg Schnagl

Kay,

Thank you for bringing this into the forum.

The frustrations your friend is experiencing are all to common in teachers at all levels, from preschool to graduate school.

I’ve echoed your sentiments and cited you in a recent blog post.

http://teachercentricity.com/2014/09/26/why-good-teachers-quit-by-kay-bisaillon-teacher/

Thank you for advocating for your friend and all those in a similar predicament.

Appreciatively,

Greg Schnagl

Anna Burton Harwell

We LOVE and appreciate our teachers in Katy, TX. They get the pay they deserve and we as parents see terrific results due to their hard work. I am so glad we moved here!

Former Teacher

I left teaching last year because the job had taken over my life and made my family come second. I just had to stop and get my priorities straight. My children were going up too fast and I wasn’t available to them. Unfortunately, only other teachers would understand the demands. Most people think teachers are just complaining. They have no idea.

tt

This is so sad this is exactly how teachers feel we as parents need to take on more responsibility for our children’s education and take some of the work load off of teachers if we reinforce what there teaching we would have a world of outstanding individuals

Nan

My daughter is a teacher. This could have been written about her. It is shameful that our excellent teachers are so disrespected. Absolutely shameful.

TLC--Tender Loving Care Tip

Yep! That’s me…

MelKat

I honestly might have ended up going into teaching if my parents had not been teachers (I wanted to be a teacher a long time), but after seeing firsthand the sorts of things they had to deal with toward the end of their careers, I decided to pursue a career where I could still do something I was passionate about without all of the pressure and unreasonable expectations.

Becky

I am a retired teacher. I retired early for all of the reasons above. Stress compounded every year. At the beginning of each year, new requirements, responsibilities, demands were placed on our shoulders from many branches of the education system. One branch had no idea what the other branch was requiring. There was not enough time in the day to meet the demands. We were jumping through hoops that had little to do with lesson preparation or planning. I thought surely there were directors, administrators, state department people that would communicate with the teachers and bring balance and reason to… Read more »

Tammy Rosenkranz

Teacher’s aides feel the same way!!! It seems nothing we do these days is good enough! We are taken advantage of by our bosses, the students, and the parents!!! We come in early, stay late, and spend our own money taking care of students, most of the time without so much as a thank you! Do you think I enjoyed changing your child’s poopy pants today, or liked cleaning them up after they vomited everywhere??? No, I didn’t!!! All because you think it is my job!!! Well, let me tell you something, it is NOT my job!!! My job is… Read more »

Midwest special educator

I spent 32 years as a special educator working very hard, staying late, teaching on my prep, and often working through lunch to set up the afternoon or put grades in the computer or prepare for an IEP meeting. My last year of teaching we moved to a new building that was not finished so we had construction workers showing up everywhere. We had a new schedule, new computerized IEP program, and a new math curriculum. Our room layouts caused us to be more isolated from one another, and we were far from the office. No more sending a student… Read more »

Juliet

So very sad that the most rewarding profession has been reduced to feeling undervalued and stressed, rather than proud and rewarded. I did leave, but still feel lost sometimes that my psyche just could not begin to balance the anxiety with the joy. I did not give up, but solutions when I asked for guidance included platitudes such as “work smarter, not harder”. I miss helping my classroom family and my very stressed coworkers as well. I welcome the peace I feel but continue to search for something that will bring even a small piece of the daily satisfaction I… Read more »

AnnMarie

Today – I could have written most of these comments! 21st Century was supposed to give me the “freedom” to create my own learning environment – and the time to puruse my INDIVIDUAL 21st century needs. Two days into the process (16 hours), it has been one LONG meeting, a “wide” choice of only “3” options and forced collaboration! And, there is at least another 3 hours of these meetings yet to go! Way to turn something great into something bad and sad!

Mister Dillon

It was always my dream, even as a 7 year old boy, to want to be a SpEd teacher. It took me MANY YEARS to make my dream a reality. I have tried different jobs over the course of my life…..working in retail, and an office cubicle from 9 – 5, in downtown Chicago, but that didn’t feel right and was not me. I finally went back in my late 20s and got that teaching degree. Here I am at 50. I should be proud of what I have accomplished in my years of teaching. I should have found my… Read more »

Labradorsrule

I left special education after 20 years of teaching. In addition to all of the above, there was always the threat of law suits hanging over our heads. No matter how hard you worked, or time you spent, parents could always sue if they felt like it. Even if you met the goals and objects of the IEP, there were parents who could decide that they didn’t feel it was enough. I worked 60 hour weeks and still felt like I had more to do.

kat

Well, if you’re old and have been at it for a while, you realize you would not choose this career today. Being an experienced teacher, it is not hard to buck the system a bit-esp. when the results show that your students are learning the curriculum. I never recommend this field to young people. The mavericks are all older teachers now- the young teachers are very much in the box and conformists by nature….very afraid to speak up and voice opinions. We are not attracting the brightest and the best in my opinion-they seem to just do what they’re told… Read more »

Michael Jeffries

I’ll be real honest, all those issues above are big issues. However, I just don’t like the kids anymore. Don’t get me started on their parents. And while it is true administration is running off good teachers, having to be the primary adult in the lives of hundreds of students has worn me out. Thankfully this is my last year.

Craig Eppler

I am not a teacher, but I am married to an amazing one. She loves to teach (4th and 5th grade) but her work is never ending – morning, day and night. She has been teaching for nearly 30 years. She is not burned out, but only because she loves the children and truly sees it as her ministry. The changes driven by politics are never ending and exhaustive. Then, on top of that, teachers are blamed for poor performance of students when the teacher is usually only one small variable among many variables. I am proud of her, but… Read more »

Justin Ryne Wilhelm

To all you AMAZING teachers out there!!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIbXvaE39wM

Done

I got out of the classroom years ago because I couldn’t take the destruction aimed at me. Administrators made me feel like if I had behavior problems from students, or if students made low grades, it was my fault. Not one administrator ever made me feel like referring a student was deserved. Instead, it was as if I failed. News flash….kids smart off, kids blurt out to make other students laugh, kids talk instead of working, and kids can get an attitude. Some kids don’t work in class. Some don’t do homework. Some could care less about good grades. In… Read more »

Larry Kelley

… this is the result of government intervention and unions. Whatever happened to independent school districts and a strong school board that actually cared about what and how our children were being taught? Garbage in; garbage out…

30 plus years

After years of teaching and so many changes each year and more demands , less pay, less respect, less supplies, no books, only what we search on line each day to find things that will help our kids, trying to make a difference in their lives and help them out of this life style that never seems to change no matter how much is give out of our pay checks each month and our hours that we work over each day has not made a difference in 50 years. So , I conclude that it is not the teachers that… Read more »

theoldballcoach

I’m a teacher of 25 years but here’s the rub of what she can do and I can’t. I would bet I’m the primary bread winner and she is not. I feel her pain though my challenges in secondary education are somewhat different. But I feel I must go on for at least another five years until full retirement. It sounds like she has the financial option to get out.

Deedie

So much of this is right in target. Whoever wrote this could be talking about me, except I don’t have children. I can’t imagine trying to teach & be a mom, too.

Beth

THANK YOU! I adore my students and teaching, but I am completely exhausted and drained from the endless demands and my family and friends have basically given up on my having a life outside of work. I want to make a difference, want to teach, love throwing myself into my work- but it is becoming too much. My kids suffer from their mom never being there and that is the most devastating thing of all.

Tired Teacher

I feel like this article is a reflection of the “Teaching” life I’m living. It;s sad but I’m glad that I’m on a leave of abssence, recuperating from back surgery. Can you believe it….It took a Spinal Fusion to give me the break I needed from a job I so loved. Not sure if I’m going back into the classroom ever. Back to work…yes, classroom….No.

Oogie

Don’t give up on teaching! It’s public school’s design that’s the problem. Try teaching in private school. There is less pay, but my god, it’s much more rewarding. You have independence and support if your administration, smaller classes and NO testing! Plenty of disadvantaged kids attend private school as well

susie

Alexis, I’m a nurse and understand the feeling that someone good has to keep at it. But in my 61 years, I’ve learned that what really counts is your family. God sends us first to our family, not every other family that appears in our lives. If you are giving more to others than to your family, you are probably out of the balance that will give you peace and energy. Starting over somewhere else is really not so bad. Especially if it’s true that you’re not in teaching for the money. As a professional, starting over may mean less… Read more »