Why Do Teachers Quit?

We recently posted this article to our Facebook page accompanied by the question: What’s your best advice for improving job quality and retaining teachers?

A typical FB post averages about five comments. This one inspired 55. Almost all were substantive.

Many comments pointed out administrative or systemic practices our readers saw as damaging to job satisfaction. Some readers felt disrespected by their administrations. Many stated they were underpaid. Meeting overabundance and micromanagement were recurrent themes. Several commenters called for changes to the overall education system (testing, teacher evaluation, unions, tax distribution, privatization, election protocols, etc.).

We were happy to receive a number of positive, proactive comments from teachers who had witnessed change or who believed it was possible via reforms that could happen at the school—or even the personal—level. Three stood out: 

…Utilize the smarts and hearts of experienced—perhaps even retired—teachers to offer more than just teaching techniques, but encouragement. Teaching is difficult, but it is not impossible. Perhaps our best teachers are born that way, but the rest can be taught good teaching practices and human relations skills for the classroom.

… One solution could be team teaching. If every classroom had team teaching, children would learn so much more because sometimes there would be two teachers there to work with kids and sometimes one could be with the class while the other planned for an upcoming lesson or unit or scored work in a meaningful way. 

… One of my best administrators was a man who…was always willing within reason to help me establish what I wanted and change the way things were done. He was a man who instead of asking “why?” asked “why not?” … It was EXTREMELY satisfying and gratifying to know that my voice was being heard, seriously considered, and that I had some power over the structure of my classes. 

These comments reminded us that the inclusive values and relationship skills our readers model and promote when working with children are important precisely because they are so critical beyond childhood. Upon reflection, we found that the themes of these comments directly mirror themes found in some of the culturally responsive pedagogical strategies that Teaching Tolerance recommends. Consider the applicability of these themes—in the classroom, at a faculty meeting and in the larger community:

  • Leveraging the strengths and wisdom of the larger community reduces isolation and helps create a broader sense of collective responsibility for educational outcomes.
  • Listening and remaining open to new ideas creates a safe environment where individuals feel empowered and respected.
  • Seeking and honoring multiple diverse perspectives capitalizes on a greater variety of strengths and leads to richer experiences. 
  • Supporting collaboration with and support between peers nurtures growth and ability. 

We know that, ideally, students would consistently experience and witness these principles and values throughout their entire school building. But we also know from our readers’ responses—to this post and to stories we’ve published recently about teacher bullying, about LGBT teachers and about retaining teachers of color—that this isn’t happening in many of your schools. And just as an absence of social justice in schools affects students, it affects the morale, safety and effectiveness of teachers—and the very profession of teaching.

So what’s our best advice for improving job quality and retaining teachers? Recognize that everyone, not just children, benefits when anti-bias social justice principles are incorporated into our work as educators, community members and citizens. And the more individuals who recognize this benefit, the more likely it will be that social justice principles escape the domain of classroom extension exercises and special, piecemeal trainings and become part of our school and community cultures.

The good news is there is an ever-expanding community of people working to spread this recognition. If you are reading this, then you are likely one of them. Thank you.

van der Valk is an associate editor for Teaching Tolerance.


Another Perspective

Submitted by Anonymous on 30 January 2015 - 4:59pm.

Hello all,

I've started up a resource to help teachers who are struggling. It's called Educator Rescue and it's at educatorrescue.blogspot.com. My goal is to help teachers by being support, offering resources and giving advice to teachers who are struggling in their current teaching contract. I hope I can help you if you are struggling!

I Couldn't agree more with

Submitted by Dave Langley on 1 April 2014 - 3:00pm.

I Couldn't agree more with Joe Puzzo. In fact as of 2014 I believe at least here in the UK, there has been discussion regarding increasing the time kids spend at school from 6 hours to 9.

I have to disagree with

Submitted by Marc on 17 March 2014 - 7:37pm.

I have to disagree with extending the school year. I mean, come on. It's long enough as it is. This is just my opinion, but the simple reality seems to be that teachers (and students) are exhausted by the end. Why make that problem any worse?

Education as a social system.

Submitted by Phil Arra on 13 December 2013 - 10:55am.

Education as a social system. In a very broad sense, we must always consider that we are part of a social system. The pressures are always opposing each other:
Salares vs. budget
Community values vs. educational goals
Multi-family structures vs. school structure
A teacher's background and upbringing vs. acceptable teaching standards
A teacher's work ethic/style vs. administrative expectations
Teacher personalities vs. student personalities vs. administrative personalities
And so on, and so on--

It is the natural human condition.
I empathize with those of us that feel stuck in a position, beyond their years of satisfaction. It should not be. But, for many reasons--usually situational/financial--we cannot step out, move on, to a new career.

I have always professed that a teacher should not come straight out of teaching school; but instead; first, they should experience the daily struggles and benefits of some other line of work. I think that it gives clarity to the perspective of teaching, from an alternative vantage point, when we enter the profession.

Teaching is a wonderful, societally, important profession to pass on kowledge through the ages. But, for those who get into teaching for the right or wrong reasons, it is best that they realize, if it isn't their dream job, that they shold move on quickly and become fullfilled in their final occupational endeavors.

America offers us many opportunities to do what we wish to do; but, we often waste that opportunity to become our best.

Wow. I find the negative

Submitted by rroberts on 9 December 2013 - 7:33pm.

Wow. I find the negative reaction to my prior comments concerning as well as telling.

First, my comments were meant to encourage teacher participation in the process of change as I do believe teachers in the classroom possess the best means to propose the changes that are needed. But, perhaps most telling is the reaction that I have no right to speak about the changes because I am not a teacher. That is like saying that a customer in a restaurant has no right to tell the chef his dinner is bad because the customer has never worked in a kitchen!

But, if you want to be specific, my wife has worked in elementary schools for 10 years (and lost her job twice because of budget cuts). We have both been VERY active in a large number of school parent oriented groups. I was a member of our district's Gifted & Talented Committee for eight years. I carried petitions to get a new high school built. I stood up in a meeting before the state school superintendent, when evaluation criteria were just being developed, and said that the criteria need to consider each student and their respective abilities and not just educating students to some minimum level! (And got no support from any educators in that room for that comment, by the way!)

But, you are correct in that I have not taught in a classroom. Hence why I say that teachers should drive the change!

Perhaps someone can explain to me why teachers are so frightened by pay based on performance, and getting rid of bad teachers. Sure, some good teachers will get a poor deal out of this. Some will be unfairly treated. BUT THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS TO THE REST OF US, ANYWAY!! Right now, every good teacher is getting a poor deal because there are bad teachers driving down the image of the entire profession. Right now, every good teacher is spending their time doing unneeded paperwork and teaching "to" tests because the teaching profession has not come up with a better idea. To say that the teaching profession today is underpaid is absolutely incorrect because there is a line of applicants for every open position.

About two years, I was sitting at a table at a dinner with several teachers. The topic of school reform came up. I stated that I thought that "good teachers" should be thrilled to be evaluated and paid based upon performance. One of the teachers said that she would agree with that, except she didn't trust the State to come up with a fair process for that evaluation and pay to be set. I had to agree with her. That is why I say that teachers need to be in the lead.

I guess, if I were a teacher, I would go to my union and ask "Why aren't we leading?"


Submitted by Anonymous on 18 August 2014 - 3:49pm.

Increasing teacher accountability will only succeed when and if there is a proportionate increase in student accountability. What does that mean? We are providing a disservice to students by promoting them in subjects they are failing. Our school system is not equipped at this time to tailor to the needs of all students, simply because it is unrealistic to expect teachers to create 35 individualized lessons a day and teach them all at the same time.

I suggest we change the system so that students are not organized into year-long grades, but are leveled by proficiency in different subjects -- perhaps three proficiency levels would apply to a single academic year. Age would not be the determinant of classroom placement; it would be the readines of the student. As a student demonstrates proficiency, he or she may then proceed to the next level. Students in such classes would be at a very close level of curriculum needs and would be more prone to success. Moreover, they would have real ownership of their academic destinies.

Teachers, then, would be working with students who were themselves accountable. Imagine managing a group of employees you do not get to hire nor fire. They do not get any special reward for being there. If they fail to do any work, or are verbally abusive to everyone around them, they get a day off. You alone are resonsible for the quality of their work, and they have no accountability. Your pay is determined by the quality of their output. Such a scenario is unimaginable in the world of business, but it is every teacher's daily reality.

"Perhaps someone can explain

Submitted by Rita Moak on 26 May 2014 - 1:56pm.

"Perhaps someone can explain to me why teachers are so frightened by pay based on performance, and getting rid of bad teachers. Sure, some good teachers will get a poor deal out of this. Some will be unfairly treated. BUT THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS TO THE REST OF US, ANYWAY!! Right now, every good teacher is getting a poor deal because there are bad teachers driving down the image of the entire profession."

As a teacher of 22.5 years, I assure you that I am not frightened by pay based on performance--as long as that performance is mine! I do, however, have a big problem with an evaluation system that evaluates me on what another person does, especially another person who may not care about quality performance in the first place! Whether you admit it or not, more and more students could care less about the scores they make on any particular standardized test because there are no consequences to the student. I have monitored students taking standardized tests many times. And many times I have witnessed students just randomly marking answers on an answer document without giving much thought as to what a test item is actually asking. Some students know if they bomb a particular test, they will be allowed to retake the test an unlimited amount of times. Since actual student failure is rare, some students have learned that they can achieve retribution on a teacher by underachieving on standardized tests. If society really demands that I be evaluated for my students' achievement, then it must also come up with ways to assure me that students are doing what I ask them to do in order to succeed! Focused attention in class, being on grade level before being assigned to classed, consistent attendance, doing assigned homework on a regular basis, and asking relevant questions in class to enhance learning are but a few of the things in which today's student needs vast improvement. Why do we never see reform efforts directed to these areas?

The original commentator

Submitted by Anonymous on 18 August 2014 - 3:51pm.

The original commentator failed to recognize that the analogy of a manager without hiring authority is more accurate than that of a widget-maker, at least for what we do.

My mom is a teacher and I

Submitted by Chris Garduno on 18 February 2014 - 4:58pm.

My mom is a teacher and I agree with this 100%

Throwing more hours worked at

Submitted by ethelfxm on 8 December 2013 - 6:55pm.

Throwing more hours worked at the problem is like throwing more money at it willy nilly. It doesn't attempt to eliminate the root problem. Look if teachers are quitting a lot of it mosly has to do with the fact that teaching the kids in their classroom is hard and the methods in place yield little results. Who wants to keep doing something if it doesn't work? I personally think that PE should be the first class of the day, for everybody. As in MANDATORY. Why? Because it helps increase concentration and focus, this is scientifically proven. More focused students leads to better learning and therefore, easier teaching. If teachers have more success at teaching their students, I'll bet that they'll be more inclined to keep on teaching.

I couldn't agree more it is

Submitted by Richard Rose on 1 April 2014 - 2:51pm.

I couldn't agree more it is nothing but an exercise in futility.

I think the root of the

Submitted by tshamma on 7 December 2013 - 7:43am.

I think the root of the number of teachers leaving the field can be summed up as "More For Less." Teacher are expected to teach more with less time and support. The curriculum expectations have increased while there are more intrusions on the school day and fewer resources for teachers. Funding to schools have been slashed while accountability is raised. There is more paperwork and testing and less pay. It seems the increase in the cost of health insurance surpasses my pay increase (when we get one) every year, resulting is a net pay decrease. Teachers work more free overtime than any other profession - EVER. Parents expect more individualization of instruction for their children, while giving less of their own time and efforts on supporting their children at home with homework and volunteering at school. I am fortunate to work in a school in which parents volunteer in most classrooms, but this is a rare occurrence in many schools. I love teaching, but it seems a much smaller part of my job now. The paperwork and time required for documentation and grades, and professional development, and conferences, and preparing new lessons for the ever changing curriculum (supplies for which are often purchased out of my ever dwindling paycheck) have taken over. What I would give for someone to entrust 15 students (instead of an often overwhelming 22 - 30) to my professional wisdom, and say, "Thank you for all you do, we trust that after 25 years, you know what you are doing and will love and educate these children and prepare them for the future. Please let us know what you need to accomplish this in the way of supplies and support, and we will provide that for you." Both of my older daughters volunteer in my classroom and have for years throughout high school and now into college. They want to become teachers themselves. I know that they will be great ones. I hope they find the encouragement and support I seek in their professional lives.

An outsiders view: Teachers

Submitted by rroberts on 3 December 2013 - 6:41pm.

An outsiders view:
Teachers should take the lead in fundamental changes to the teaching and educational structures. That has been lacking as Teacher's Unions have fought to preserve the status quo including tenure (I have never seen a bad teacher fired), pay based solely upon years of service, unrealistic retirement benefits (the teachers in my area can retire at age 55 and enjoy nearly fully paid health insurance--the cost of that is crazy!), etc. etc.

Because teachers have been viewed as ONLY fighting for the status quo, politicians have stepped in and the result is micromanagement replacing a complete lack of management.

If you want better administrators, then push for a system that values the performance of schools, teachers, and administrators more fairly (and addresses multiple levels of performance, not just test scores; and also gives consideration to the socio economic status of the student body).

If you want better pay, then push for pay based on true performance and not tenure. Push for bad teachers to be forced out of the profession. Push for differentiated levels of teacher positions such as lead teachers, etc.

I have said for decades that teaching is the only occupation where it is possible for a person to work a lifetime and enjoy reasonable annual salary increases, but not do any more work or have more responsibility than the year they started.

This perspective may have

Submitted by Chris on 8 December 2013 - 6:39pm.

This perspective may have been relevant in the past, specifically for PUBLIC schools and probably not the norm even there.

"I have said for decades that teaching is the only occupation where it is possible for a person to work a lifetime and enjoy reasonable annual salary increases, but not do any more work or have more responsibility than the year they started."

This is the most misinformed statement you could make. I'm sure you have heard of No Child Left Behind and the Common Core State Standards- two new gigantic responsibilities for teachers implemented in less than one decade.Huge increase in work load.
Individual education plans, personal Literacy plans, advisories with IPASS tracking, differentiating every lesson for every grade and individual class within the grade(not only ability but addressing individual learning styles), constant tracking for response to interventions, behavioral assessments and incident reports, senior projects, digital portfolios and teacher organized community service (required under new standards) and standards that change on average EVERY 5 years. It is very easy for you to voice a consistent belief for decades without having any idea what the job entails but it does not make it any closer to being true.

I work with adjudicated/at risk youth at a semi private/charter school.
We have all the expectations and paper work the public schools require with the addition of state and DCYF reporting- it's overwhelming.
State and Federal budget cuts and disappearing grants have halved our staff. Our workload has increased 250% over the last 5 years and we have had no contract, union or pay increases of any kind (including cost of living adjustments)in a decade.
I am working with socioeconomically and emotionally challenged teenagers that have had little success in other school settings. The disrespect and lack of intrinsic motivation, combined with high student absenteeism has made my job a nightmare to keep my lesson plans organized.
My classrooms have always been inclusive with reading levels in Grades 9-12 varying from >1 to <12+.
The key to understanding merit ratings on teacher effectiveness relies largely on intrinsic student motivation to perform well on culturally biased standardized testing. The desperate attempts to provide students some incentives and desire (never mind pride) to learn and produce evidence of that learning is possible- instilling an intrinsic drive to succeed is not.
If merit pay is introduced you will see a mass exodus from the schools in urban and poverty stricken communities because with teacher evaluations being somewhat subjective from the administrator in addition to large gaps in learning will hurt the very students who need the most intensive support.

I will address the unasked question many people who are not teachers would automatically ask: "Why don't you leave and work somewhere else if you are over worked and underpaid?"
The answer is there aren't many people who can do my job- it is difficult to see the rewards at times. I am not the perfect super teacher but I have experience dealing with the "worst of the worst" and if I don't do it who will?

I encourage RRoberts who

Submitted by RRobles on 5 December 2013 - 6:44pm.

I encourage RRoberts who wrote, "I have said for decades that teaching is the only occupation where it is possible for a person to work a lifetime and enjoy reasonable annual salary increases, but not do any more work or have more responsibility than the year they started" to volunteer at a school. I am suggesting "real time" as an aide, as a long-term substitute, or dare to become a teacher in order to gain real perspective on what teachers really do and under what conditions they are doing it.

I am fortunate to work in what is considered an affluent community that does not face what other school systems do. However, I know that I have not seen a fair contract in the sixteen years that I have taught there. In my time as a teacher, I have worked without a contract (meaning without an increase) twice, and when a contract is agreed upon the annual increase has been well below the cost of living inflation rate. How exactly does one "enjoy" that?

I for one, do not entirely disagree with performance pay. I know that I am an exemplary teacher, and my family can truly use the extra money. I also recognize there are those who make one's work harder because they are not doing their job effectively. However, I have also seen the effectiveness of good veteran teachers questioned and challenged, when only a few short years before were recognized for their exceptional practices. Therefore, out of pride and self-advocacy I will never denounce the usefulness of the good work that union can do.

I have seen many changes: with work-load as well as responsibility, with the introduction of a new group of diverse learners with equally diverse needs, with curriculum, with evaluations, and with the standards. I know that, in addition to my teaching work, more and more administrative work is required of me each year to address these changes. Many teachers already put in unpaid overtime on a daily basis including weekends and sometimes over vacations. It's no wonder why some quit - even clinicians recognize that teachers are among the largest professional groups who suffer from exhaustion due to the unprecedented demands they face each year which they are certain to be held accountable for, in addition to acknowledging comments made from outsiders that resonate the lack of support and appreciation that is needed to keep the good teachers from quitting.

Dear "An Outsiders View:

Submitted by E. Makucha on 5 December 2013 - 10:07am.

Dear "An Outsiders View: Teachers", Please walk a mile in my shoes before you become an expert.

Your letter, Roberts, is a

Submitted by Collette Stallone on 4 December 2013 - 11:59pm.

Your letter, Roberts, is a good example of why "outsider's views" are of limited value. If you aren't directly involved in the school system, how would you know whether or not a bad teacher has ever been fired? They have. I have also seen good teachers be pressured to resign. You have said for decades that teaching is the only job where you can make more money each year and not have any more work or responsibility than day one. Really? My experience is that there is more work every year...much of it having little to do with teaching. If you think teaching is such a cushy, easy job, perhaps you should get a masters in your subject matter and apply for a teaching job. Then you, too, can enjoy great privileges and early retirement. It shouldn't be too hard to find a job...teachers are quitting in droves.

"I have said for decades that

Submitted by Tom on 4 December 2013 - 9:17pm.

"I have said for decades that teaching is the only occupation where it is possible for a person to work a lifetime and enjoy reasonable annual salary increases, but not do any more work or have more responsibility than the year they started."

I am concerned that your thinking about the teaching profession has not changed for decades. Does the fact that someone has thought this for so long thus mean the position is correct? I would truly caution someone who is not a teacher - someone who has not worked in a classroom for 1 year or 5 years or 15 or 25 (or more!) to discern what is it exactly that he/she truly knows.

Of course, what do I know? I have said for decades that teaching is the only occupation where it is possible for a person who does not have a working knowledge of pedagogy, paperwork, and people to declare that they understand more about the profession than the people who are in the trenches.

Oh rroberts, I respect that

Submitted by teacher on 4 December 2013 - 8:55pm.

Oh rroberts, I respect that you consider your outsiders perspective significant and that it means you can comment on the system objectively removed from the connection we feel with our students and communities. Certainly consultants have their value. However, you don't have a leg on which to stand if you haven't spent time in the classroom since you were a student yourself and see this from the teacher's side of the desk. You do use some germane buzz words in your post but neglect to mention HOW teachers can push for a "system that values the performance of schools." Additionally, what is "performance?" Who is performing? Is this performance quantifiable--resilience and creativity aren't, but they're cultivated in schools (see, I'm an optimist!)? I'll bet I lack the knowledge or authority to comment on what I see as the fundamental problems in your line of work and publicly offer vague solutions. Do tell me more about these "reasonable annual salary increases," though. In what district can I work and get one of those?

Disrespected by their

Submitted by Kirstin Bashara on 3 December 2013 - 3:04pm.

Disrespected by their students, undervalued by society and constantly blamed for the unsatisfactory performance of students in under-funded and under-staffed schools -- it's no wonder we are leaving the field of teaching in droves.

Kristin, thank you for your

Submitted by Sunshine on 7 December 2013 - 8:11am.

Kristin, thank you for your comment. I am a teacher who puts a lot of my time into planning fun, meaningful and higher order thinking activities. But who cares when students walk into the the door, without having showered, eaten or without something as simple as a pencil. So what do I get to do instead of teaching these fabulous lessons? I get to PARENT students (who are an hour late to school every day) by FIRST checking a list of things that have to do with their social emotional health.

1. Did you eat? Do you want to eat? (Send them to get breakfast)
2. Where is your uniform? (Provide them with a school uniform)
3. Do you have a pencil? (provide them with a pencil, even though I just gave them one yesterday)

THEN … if all of that doesn't work, I STILL have the honor of being disrespected because their needs are not met at home.

When is everyone going to admit that EDUCATION IS A THREE LEGGED STOOL:
1. School
2. Student

Why do we keep ignoring that student achievement is directly related to family/home life?
Why do we keep telling teachers that they have to get yet another certification, or be retrained in order to service a dysfunctional generation of young people?

It's ridiculous to me. Yes, there are teachers who are not professional - but let's face it: those kinds of teachers have been around since the beginning of time. Why not honor good teachers for what they are doing well, retrain teachers who need to be retrained and then focus on the population that is really killing our education system: FAMILIES.

Let me be frank, I have four children. They are nothing like the students I teach because I am a PARENT to them each day. I don't rely on their teachers and school staff to do that for me.

This is ridiculous and no matter what politicians, administrators or test-makings say ... school will be under-performing as long as parenting is left to the teachers.

You took the words out of my

Submitted by Katie Laws on 10 March 2014 - 12:20am.

You took the words out of my mind and mouth. I am at a turning point right now in my teaching career due to these exact issues. 11 years and nothing is getting better-in fact I feel backed into a corner. Evaluations based on standardized test scores-my students are not standardized, they are hungry, some homeless, tired, and NOT being parented!
On top of dealing with parenting and behavior, I will have to up my certification next year while teaching full time.

The problem is figuring out what to do next. Like some of the previous comments, I am only 37, but feel exhausted all the time-no family at home. I don't think teaching in the US is good for women's health.

I have come to the similar

Submitted by Elliew on 24 February 2014 - 3:34am.

I have come to the similar conclusion as you, that there are 3 FACTORS that determine the success of a student:

1. Student willingness to work and help him/her self

2. Teacher to teach and encourage the student

3. Parent/Guardian to support the student and instill values at home (pertaining to behavior and the importance of education)

I get irritated by the simpletons who write articles blaming 'schools' for all kinds of decline (i.e. graduation rate, math tests compared with other countries,...). From the way they write, you would think that Teachers teach in a vacuum. There's never any mention of parents who let their kids have unlimited time on the computer and other video game devices or the tv, or who didn't realize that their kids need at least 8 hours of sleep to be awake enough to learn. Or how about the student who never finishes his homework because there is no real 'consequences'.

Yes, there is even a societal problem that is never mentioned in these 'our schools are doing a terrible job' articles. These problems include: children who feel entitled to get what they want without having to work for it, and parents who simply don't parent. We can also add global competition and corporate culture into the blame game, because both contribute to Americans having to work at least 50 hours a week to hang on to their jobs and home. Very stressed out adults with very little down time have a hard time supporting their children.

Disrespect by students, you

Submitted by TT on 3 December 2013 - 11:06pm.

Disrespect by students, you are so right. Until we hold students accountable for their actions, their lack respect, things will continue as as are. But most important, we need to cease social promotion in middle school. I'll argue the point with anyone who says holding a student back doesn't make a difference.

I couldn't agree more!

Submitted by CJ Little on 3 December 2013 - 9:20pm.

I couldn't agree more!

WOW! Currently I am "on

Submitted by LM on 3 December 2013 - 7:08pm.

WOW! Currently I am "on break" from teaching. I am working as an aide and the pay is extremely low. I really enjoy teaching; however, I must agree with the vast comments regarding teaching - difficult administration, stressful environment, student behavior, hair falling out, verbally attacked, physically attacked, unrealistic evaluations of test scores and our kindergarten students are also subjected to computerized tests :( I understand the data is useful; however, administration uses this information to criticize teachers. I would like to return to the classroom but . . . I don't want to return to that stressful situation. I plan on return to school to obtain another degree.

I've read all these reactions

Submitted by Janet on 4 December 2013 - 3:00pm.

I've read all these reactions with empathy and emotion. I left teaching to retire about 5 years TOO early because my health was failing. The lack of support by administration, the demandingness and insults by parents AND students, the lack of respect and accountability by students (which was often underscored by their parents) was overwhelming. I believed we were all in the education process together, believed in passionate learning, developing relationships, skill-building, creating a body of knowledge and learning beyond whatever State test we were to prepare for. However, parents went straight to administration for the slightest infraction, students used my time to solve their bickering problems & need for parenting, the focus of the school was to let kids have "fun" with an overage of assemblies, programs, guests, parties and rewards (rewards for what?no work was getting done!) Parents regularly took kids out of school for two weeks in Hawaii or a week in Disneyland with the thought that I could send some work and it would equal what we did in class. Later, however, they would complain that "Susie" was feeling left out in class, or didn't get the appropriate score -- sure thing! -- you have to attend to feel like part of the group and you have to do all the work all the time to know the work in order to "get it" and pass!! Methods to crack down on poor class behavior, students failing to remain in their seats during instruction ( water fountain,, trash bin, pencil sharpener, restroom) were met with resistance from parents and administration because I was denying them their rights -- never mind that I could not get their attention and that their were a distractant to the few students whose attention I did have. Arriving at 6:30 am and staying for free after-school tutoring until 6:00pm daily gave me plenty of opportunity to help students at all levels, go to all the (ridiculously duplicitous) daily meetings, and to be prepared for every lesson, evaluate all work in a timely manner. I did have fun gimmicks in my classroom and a quality art program to enhance the literature and science program I presented. In final measure it was the lack of respect by students, the parent manipulations (including some out and out lies) and the administration's willingness to placate the parent at all costs (throw the teacher under the bus) and not really care about E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N that drove me out. From where I sat, the Administration was there to promote itself and the image of the school district (which meant money), please parents at all costs, please children, keep things looking good from the outside and jive with regulations, then after that be concerned with accomplishing genuine learning, and LAST take care of the needs of staff.

I was just in a school like

Submitted by mk on 6 December 2013 - 12:44pm.

I was just in a school like this last year. Before then I wouldn't have believed it, I would have thought it was just "whining", or "negativity". However, it is real. This type of thing really happens. Parents before education.

Thanks Kirstin, I couldn't

Submitted by Jason on 3 December 2013 - 6:41pm.

Thanks Kirstin, I couldn't have said it better. It takes a village and right now people only seem to blame the school system(mainly teachers) for our country's poor test performance. Society as a whole needs to buy in to education and the village needs to pick one another up to improve everyone together. Kids today have lost respect for adults in general and seem to feel "entitled" to everything, but don't want to work for anything!

As a teacher, I can only tell

Submitted by greg sytch on 3 December 2013 - 5:29pm.

As a teacher, I can only tell you matching the teacher to the school and position is vital - as is the administrator. Not all are meant to teach in the schools they are in, due to changes. If you are in a low demographic area, having proven experience helps. Also, the paperwork issues are ridiculous. I taught ESE last year, (last year noted) and I spent too much time on paperwork. Get those kids in programs designed to give them skills to be successful, not force them into high school algebra if their IQ is 85 and they have no motivation. We waste so much time and money "not leaving the child behind" yet, that is what we do!

In the last paragraph it

Submitted by Mark Goodheart on 3 December 2013 - 2:17pm.

In the last paragraph it began with retraining teachers.....WHY? We should be retraining administrators with regard to their bully tactics, lack of job skills, and their inability to have meaningful conversations with their teachers.

Thank you for your comment.

Submitted by Teaching Tolerance on 3 December 2013 - 5:12pm.

Thank you for your comment. Just to clarify, the last paragraphs refers to how we can retain teachers; we are not suggesting retraining.

I also think it's ridiculous

Submitted by Lola Pittenger on 3 December 2013 - 3:41pm.

I also think it's ridiculous how much more administrators get paid than teachers (at least at my school). Although both jobs are very challenging, being with a classroom of students ALL DAY LONG is much more draining than administrative work. I'm sure there are some very hands on administrators but still, pay should be more equalized among roles.

I think this statement by Mr.

Submitted by Julia Fletcher on 3 December 2013 - 3:23pm.

I think this statement by Mr. Goodheart is as broad as my saying, as an administrator, all teachers need to do this, this, or this and get some teaching skills and learn to have a meaningful conversation with administration. The only time a school succeeds is when everyone is listening to everyone and the conversation is centers on improving learning opportunities of students and staff. You go no where alone.

I couldn't agree more. The

Submitted by Traci on 3 December 2013 - 3:15pm.

I couldn't agree more. The teachers are doing all the can to teach & most I know do a wonderful job. I don't believe the answer is to retrain teachers either. I quit teaching after only 3 years in the public school system. I absolutely love teaching; however, I could no longer deal with all of the mess we were being put through. On top of that, the stress was adversely affecting my health. My blood pressure was through the roof, and at one point, I thought I was having a heart attack ~ very scary. I was teaching 4th-6th grades; however, I am currently teaching 3 & 4 year olds in a private preschool and Love it!! I actually get to teach, there isn't a ton of documentation, and the most important part, our director is Fabulous ~ no bullying, no degrading, no anything... however, there is respect & professionalism ~ something the AP at my former school needs to work on. BTW, the year I left, 11 other teachers left too. That really says something about what is going on in our schools. I do wish I would have stuck it out 1 more year however... The AP was passed over for the principal's position, so he got mad and found a position in a different district. I've been told things have gotten better since he left.

I have been involved in

Submitted by Martha Ahern on 3 December 2013 - 3:09pm.

I have been involved in teaching special education since the 70s. For me the main frustration at this time stems from the constant reorganization, of restructuring how we prove we are accountable, all in a very paper trail heavy manner, it takes so much time away from the teaching process. I see this in regular ed too. Throw in all the new technologies we are expected to master and utilize at the same time as twice the paper and it is overwhelming. The social climate and growing emotional needs of our students fill up more of our time. If we expect ourselves to address their needs, in order to then be able to teach them, administration necessarily needs to consider individual teacher classrooms and student populations. In stead we are facing state standardized ways of judging our worth in very prescriptive manners. Teachers quite because we are in a constant state of 'overwhelm' with not enough support and more and more demands on our time..

This is a question that

Submitted by Linda Tiezzi Waldera on 3 December 2013 - 1:38pm.

This is a question that haunts dedicated educators, especially those of us who serve urban schools. I am a teacher educator and continue to wonder what we can do at the university to support teacher candidates as they enter our profession during this historical timeframe. It's a tough, often unwelcoming environment out there and it's not unusual to hear that our students' career choice is being questioned by their friends, family and even currently employed teachers. "Why would you want to become a teacher? Are you sure you want to enter this profession?" I am pleased to see that Teaching for Tolerance has opened this discussion. It is a very complex issue and deserves multi-dimensional strategies to address the many facets of this problem. Hopefully this on-going discussion can begin to rebuild the structures needed to support this honorable profession.

Wow, I'm so happy you've

Submitted by Sunny on 4 December 2013 - 1:18am.

Wow, I'm so happy you've written in with concerns for our future teachers. As a 25 year educator, and one who has always viewed teaching as a calling or as service for our children, I've truly watched the systemic problem that has taken shape over the years. It is a decline in professionalism, and I do not mean with recent graduates. As a matter of fact, they are usually the most enthusiastic to hit the field. With the increase of unions, however, principals lost power. With that, many teachers (my goodness, not all)lost professionalism. Suddenly, it was okay to talk about confidential things in the hallway- right in front of the kids. Suddenly, it was okay to talk on cell phones in the classroom. Suddenly, it was okay to wear skimpy clothing. Worst of all, suddenly, it became okay to disrespect a child or parent when "Sally" didn't have her homework. When our new graduates witness these role models- and worse yet- witness administrators who do not reprimand or halt this behavior, the entire spirit of teaching hurts. It truly only takes one or two teachers with poor manners that can bring an entire morale of a school spiraling downward.
My biggest advice to new teachers, follow your heart. It has never, ever been an occupation for the love of money; your rewards are far greater. But the moment negative talk creeps near.....RUN....and shut your door....then dance with your kids. They will learn because they feel safe and love you.

Sunny- As a soon to be

Submitted by Lindsay on 6 December 2013 - 1:02pm.


As a soon to be graduate at a university, I could not agree with your statement more! I start my student teaching in January and I have gone through two practicum semesters thus far. Each semester I have been questioned as to why I would want to become a teacher. I have seen unethical things going on and I have heard what is truly said in the staff lunch room. I refused to enter the staff lunch room after my first practicum semester. I'm not saying ALL teachers are like this but like you said, the few that are bring it down for everyone else. I have questioned my choice several times since the start of my college education because those few teachers seem to seek us out and question are reasoning for doing this.
Thank you for reminding me WHY I wanted to do this- as I enter my student teaching, I am nervous but not because I think I am making a mistake but nervous to do well, and make an impact on the students that I teach.

TIME! Teachers need more time

Submitted by Joe Puzzo on 3 December 2013 - 6:37am.

TIME! Teachers need more time to plan and prepare lessons and materials. TIME! More time to teach, less time giving tests. TIME! Longer school day, longer year with an increase in pay. TIME! Parents need to take more time to ask about school and work with their children to help them be successful. TIME! Kids need more free ACTIVE time to play, increase recess, PE, and in class gym brain type activities that get kids moving. TIME! More time for art, music (vocal & instrumental), computer training…..as schools are expected to teach more and more, more teaching time is needed. TIME! Business, local organizations, the community….needs to invest more time in schools and children, before, during, and after school programs joint school/community programs to help children learn, especially for poor, special needs, and second language learners….it takes a village.

I have been teaching in

Submitted by valerie wagner on 22 December 2013 - 9:47am.

I have been teaching in inner-city urban middle & high school humanity classes for the past 22 years & I could not agree more with your assessment/request for more TIME for teachers to PLAN, prepare & teach lessons & less time spent testing. As I bundled up all my district required semester project essays & Advanced Placement rewrite DBQ essays this past Friday, Dec. 20th to drag home with me to grade during my two week winter break, this was the exact, precise thought I was having in my own mind. When (if ever) will teachers begin to see such needed amounts of time????

I agree with all said

Submitted by Literacy Coach on 3 December 2013 - 5:21pm.

I agree with all said here---EXCEPT---the longer school day, & year!

Couldn't disagree more. In

Submitted by Adam Heenan on 3 December 2013 - 4:42pm.

Couldn't disagree more.

In districts that have added more time (like mine in Chicago) we have not seen a decrease in the attrition rate, but rather, the opposite. More teachers are quitting at a higher rate than every before. So what IS actually different that makes us want to quit?

1) Less autonomy. We have more of our time controlled than ever before with meetings and requirements as with the Common Core and other hops to jump through just to keep our certificate. We have always done this, but increasingly, we are mandated to do things that do not relate back to teaching and learning OUR students in OUR classrooms. Why we THINK we need more time is because one teacher is doing the workload of what three did just 15 yrs ago.

2) Less support than ever before. Principal's primary task has changed over the past thirty years from "lead teacher" to building manager, and with it, we get less direct and indirect support. Add to this universal cuts in state and local funding, national attacks on collective bargaining, tenure (due process rights) and seniority (experience) in the workplace, and we're building to a boiling point very personally that makes teaching an unstable profession to be in.

And that is by design. There is much profit to be made in the de-professionalization of education, and the profit isn't just monetary, but includes of an increased level of compliance of teachers who will be both willing to instituter bad policies in the classroom, and unwilling to stand up against them.

It is interesting that what

Submitted by Toni N on 21 March 2014 - 10:51am.

It is interesting that what we all end up talking about is what Daniel Pink has identified - mastery, autonomy and purpose. Most teachers don't embark on the "educational path" to make money...we are motivated by personal passions and these vary widely: subject matter interest, child advocacy, etc. To me, all teachers have purpose: what we need is autonomy and to achieve mastery. In my case, I need more time to achieve mastery. In your district, the problem is autonomy (we had that problem in the past, depending on admin, it changes).

Just some musings after reading further comments.

I agree with TIME!

Submitted by Toni Neubacher on 3 December 2013 - 3:09pm.

I agree with TIME!

I second the "more time"!!!

Submitted by CJ Little on 3 December 2013 - 9:17pm.

I second the "more time"!!!

There is never enough TIME in

Submitted by Katie on 3 December 2013 - 7:34pm.

There is never enough TIME in my day. I have one prep and it inevitably is interrupted due to my absence from my self-contained classroom or meetings on my students. I am often called in to collaborate for other teachers students. I cannot keep up and am forever behind in my paper work. I am sure the State questions my ability to maintain records. I need at least 2 preps which would also provide me a break from the students. They are extremely needy and I cannot be everthing to everyone anymore. More help and more time. TIRED

You're telling my story. I am

Submitted by asleep by 8 on 4 December 2013 - 12:07pm.

You're telling my story. I am an old woman in a 54 year old body. I love what I do but it's killing me.