Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why Do Teachers Quit?

This article by Liz Riggs describes perfectly how I have been feeling.
I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in the 1st grade.  Sure I considered other careers in my 12 years of schooling before heading off to college: interior decorator, lawyer, criminologist... 
Ultimately I only applied to one college.  The one that was only an hour away from home & was one of the top teaching schools in the country.  I declared my major & only changed it slightly in my 5 years there.  I went in as an elementary education major & ended up switching fairly early on to secondary social studies.  By the end of my 5 years of college I wasn't exactly sold on teaching either.  There was a point when I had probably a year left when I thought about changing my major again.  I considered: both photography and travel & tourism. 
Instead I chose to stick it out.  I decided I had come that far.  Graduation was so close.  This was what I had wanted to do my entire life.  How could I quit before I even gave it a real shot?  I did my student teaching & loved it for the most part.  I definitely loved Texas.  So I accepted the only job I got offered...the job I currently work at. 
My first year was such an insane rollercoaster.  I loved the kids.  I hated the kids.  I wanted to quit my job.  I never wanted those kids to leave because I'd miss them too much.  I came so close to joining the Air Force...even called a recruiter.  By March/April of that school year I was applying...EVERYWHERE.  Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky...I'm sure even a few oddball locations were thrown in but those were my main focus.  I had one phone interview in Minnesota, an almost interview in Midland, Texas, and ultimately wound up not getting a new job.
Here I am at the end of week 11 of year 2 & ya know what?  I'm over it.  I've already contemplated the military reserves, going back to school for something else, find some bogus full-time job anywhere... Despite all of it though, I refuse to give up on teaching until I've tried at least one other district.  However, I can't say the same is true if I have to stay in this district one more year...or even if I find a new district but still feel the same way.
So why do I hate my job?  It's the kids...but not the kids...if that makes any sense whatsoever.  Despite our struggles, looking back I loved my kids last year.  I wouldn't trade a single one for the world...not even the ones I swore I'd never miss...not even the class that part way through the semester I stopped talking to because all I did was yell.  As people, I care so deeply about these kids.  Not quite as much this year...which also makes me sad.  I don't have nearly as deep of a bond with this year's kids as my students from last year.  It could be due to the fact that a) I burnt out so much faster this year b) my students last year were my first ever set of students c) the fact that I see these kids every other day rather than everyday...or perhaps a combination of all 3.  Regardless I still care about these kids as human beings.  I want to see them succeed.
However, I work in one of those "low-perfoming districts".  I work in a district where I have 160 seniors but only 30 crappy textbooks that are from 2003 that aren't allowed to leave my classroom.  I work in a district where my students aren't always at school...maybe they're skipping, maybe they're working, or maybe they're taking care of their child(ren) or their sibling(s)...whatever the reason 11 weeks in I already have maybe 10% of my 182 kids (I have 22 "intervention period kids") that have never been late to or missed a day of school for an unexcused reason...11 weeks in I have some kids who I've still never seen or seen maybe 2 or 3 times.  I work in a district where my students might have the newest "J's" or iPhone but don't have a working telephone or internet at home which makes sending work home & communicating with parents a struggle.  I work in a district where at least half of my students' parents don't speak English as their first language so communication is almost nothing.  I work in a district where it's hard to communicate with at least half of those students who do have parents that speak English because either they don't care, do care but are never home, or yet again don't have a working means of communication.  I work in a district where it is heavily funded by federal money so test scores & graduation rates are everything.  I work in a district where giving out homework is more effort on my part than it's worth because I will get less than 10% of any assignments sent home back...where even in the 90 minutes I have them for I get maybe 50%-75% of assignments on a regular basis...because there is no drive or motivation to do anything.  I work in a district where these kids are taught that they don't need to be responsible from a young age...where if you fail a test or skip school it doesn't matter because you can take that test as many times as you want in order to pass or you can come for a few hours on a Saturday to make up all the credit you're missing.  I work in a district where the administration is more concerned with money than actual student learning & discipline.  I work in a district where students are passed along...& they know it.
I could go on forever about the kind of district I work in.  Essentially though it all comes down to this:  I work in a district where there is next to no respect.  No respect for teachers both from the students & the administration.  No respect for the students from themselves as well as some of the staff.  No respect for what education could & should be about from all parties involved.
I will not last 5 years in a district like the one I currently work in...hell I don't know if I could last 3... Should that be the case, I too will become apart of the 40-50% that leave within the first 5 years. 
Believe me...I'd much rather be in the other 50-60%.

1 comment:

  1. This is so sad. From a family of teachers, I know that it can be hard but that it truly is such an important calling!

    PS--SO glad you'll do the Turkey Trot even in the cold...we don't have anyone from Minnesota yet!! Score!