Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Teachers Quit

***Disclaimer: I have a lot of respect for the many wonderful people I know (and those I don't) that give their all as a school teacher, to make a difference in children's lives. This is in no way an attack on them, but rather a sympathetic understanding of why they are frustrated with the confines of "the system."  

 Before we ever considered home schooling, I asked a good teacher friend of mine how to choose the best school district to live in for our children. She couldn't really answer that question. What I started to gather from her response was that finding a "good district" wasn't the problem- school was the problem. What she did tell me was that most of her time was spent trying to rein in rebellious children and establish her authority over a classroom, rather then actually teaching anything. She had no real means of discipline, and the students knew it. The administration was very poor and totally unhelpful to her. Much of her time was wasted with pointless paperwork to appease the "system" rather then coming up with new creative lessons for her class. Her biggest pressure was ensuring that her class performed well on standardized tests. The students even used this as a bargaining tool with teachers- threatening to purposefully test poorly so their teachers suffer the consequences.

Did you know that half of new teachers quit in five years? This would have surprised me before I had the conversation described above with my teacher friend. I googled "why teachers quit" received the same basic answers over and over again (scattered among newspaper articles, magazines, and the like):

 The system & the people (both administration & students) 
  • "The crippling inflexibility of administrators"(1) 
  • "The constant battle with the administration"(9)
  • "I wouldn't hire the administrators in any school that I have taught or worked in to run a Kool-Aid stand, much less a school."(2) 
  • "Frustrated by bureaucracy and exhausted by the struggle to control their students"(3)
  • "Fed up with student insolence and administrative impotence"(4)
  • "Classroom interruptions, student discipline, increasing demands, insufficient supplies, overcrowding, unnecessary meetings, lack of support... unmotivated students" (4)
  • "Disrespectful, rude, cruel students... students lacked basic skills"(2) 

Restrained from really teaching

  • "Innovative curriculum ideas and field trips to engage students were shot down"(1) 
  • "Pressure of teaching to test and finding ways for every student to pass standardized testing regardless of ability"(5) 
  • "Being directed to teach to test with only memorization of facts instead of active learning"(9)
  • "Standardized testing accountability... students did not know how to use or apply the facts they memorized. Critical thinking as a skill was bypassed"(9)
  • "The school stood in my way of doing a good job."(2) 
  • "Constant stream of paper work... waste of time"(2)
  • "Your creativity is no longer of value, and there is no outlet for your input... new teachers are stifled and frustrated at being told what to do, when, and how"(2)


  • "The system handcuffs the school from really punishing kids"(2)
  • (this was repeated over and over)

Working Conditions

  • "Poor working conditions, lack of resources and low salaries"(4,6,7,8) 
  • "Unreasonable, much-too-heavy workloads and poor general working conditions"(9) 
  • "Before quitting, nearly all.. time was spent on such things as rewriting lesson plans, purchasing their own supplies, and working unpaid overtime hours..."(9)

  There's a reason teachers have the highest burnout and dropout rate of any major occupational group. They are subject to a failing system. Their individual efforts, no matter now noble, are held back if not overshadowed by the system they're a part of. If you read about the many reasons teachers don't want to be in school, does it really sound like the place you want to send your children? (For the specifics of how schools are academically inadequate, see also: "Deficiencies in Public Education.")


Works Cited:
1. Palmer, Kimberly. Why Teachers Quit. Teacher Magazine. 1 May 2007. <>. 10 Sept. 2009.
2. Griffin, Shannon. Why New Teachers Quit. 13 Aug. 2003. <> 10 Sept. 2009.
3. Jacobs, Joanne. Why Teachers Quit. 28 Ap. 2007. <> 10 Sept. 2009.
4. Los Angeles Times. 27 Ap. 2007. <> 10 Sept. 2009.
5. Wagaman, Jennifer. Why Teachers Quit. 15 Jan. 2009. <> 10 Sept. 2009.
6. Lambert, Lisa. Half of Teachers Quit in Five Years. The Washington Post. 9 May 2006. <> 10 Sept. 2009.
7. Asimov, Nanette. Emam, Amr. The Future of Education: Survey shows frustration among teachers, parents. San Francisco Chronicle. 26 Ap. 2007. <> 10 Sept. 2009.
8. Skirble, Rosanne. Fifty Percent of New Teachers Quit Profession Within Five Years. Voice of America. 20 Mar. 2008. <> 10 Sept. 2009.
9. Inglish, Patty. Top 5 Reasons Many Teachers Quit. <> 9 Nov. 2009.

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