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September 2016

My Own Thoughts on Why Teachers Quit

Right now I am standing over my book cart in my classroom thinking about why so many teachers leave the profession before their fifth anniversary, and I think I can offer a few answers. Today I completed a survey asking questions about the leadership at my campus, and while I don't have much to complain about now, that has certainly not always been true. Last night, I looked at the lead story on my old blog, and I was astonished to find a recounting of the time my old principal had come into my room without understanding the content and wrote an observation that would have appeared ignorant to anyone in the English community. 

Finding out that the person you trusted with your livelihood (your administrator) is a charlatan is one major reason why teachers quit. When I realized that my district, my principal, and many of my coworkers had little or no experience, I almost went into a panic. I still suffer from long term mental side effects from my early adventures in teaching, especially vivid nightmares. I still can't believe that one of my coworkers (an experienced special education/English teacher) that moved all the way from Minnesota to Texas, selflessly rehoming her pets and sacrificing her family life, had to suffer an unbelievably traumatic blow to her reputation by an irresponsible school support officer and her truly ditzy retiring instructional coach, both of whom are classic adult bullies. 

Most teachers are saints, and they deserve respect and decent pay. But many of the people that work in administration were only teachers for a few short years. I remember discussions about principalships from the 80's, and the general consensus was that if you taught for 10 years, you would probably be ready to advance. That shrunk rapidly in the 90's to about 5 years, and now the average is 3, with lots of teachers intending to jump on the ladder before they even certify for a subject. If it's true that it takes at least 5 years to become a solid teacher, then why are we allowing these rapid climbs into administration?

When droves of still inexperienced teachers are taking certification courses to get into a principalship, then it only makes sense that we have a drain of expertise at the top. If someone makes a rapid climb out of teaching into administration, then we should all revisit what must be a broken system that rewards those of us who hate teaching, and only want to climb into an undeserved supervisory position.

Teachers that work at high turnover schools are vulnerable to inexperienced administrators. High turnover schools need solid, hardworking, experienced teachers and principals, not the 28 year-old newly certified principal from a business background. Teachers that work with at-risk students need behavioral supports, technology in the classroom, and principals that have studied childhood development, legal rights, and are expert at implementing procedures that support order without chaos.

That is why teachers quit, inept administrations.