As with every beginning of the school year, I sit and reflect on my time as a teacher. For the longest time, I wanted to be a high school English teacher, and maybe even a college professor one day. I had big dreams of sharing my love of literature and writing with my students. I could see my interactive lesson plans laid out, my warm and inviting classroom, and I could see the positive relationships I would cultivate with my students. I could see it all so clearly it hurt. If only I knew how quickly the true heartbreak and hurt would come….
Did you know that about one in every four new teachers quit and move on within the first five years of teaching? When I first heard this statistic, I thought that it had to be an exaggeration. But what is that saying? Only time will tell? Out of the dozen or so that graduated from my English Education program, I can only think of a few that are still teaching. Most have moved on to different careers or life paths, myself included.
I spent 6+ years in school, obtaining my undergraduate and graduate degrees, to teach an estimated, combined three years. Over the course of 10 years, between having kids and life, I have taught at two brick and mortar high schools, and a local community college. The community college, I loved. If not for poor pay, and lack of full-time positions, I would probably still be there. When it came to the high schools, the same issues replayed themselves over and over again-lack of personal time, mental and physical exhaustion, lack of support from parents and administration, and the list could go on……
When it came to the second and last high school I taught at, I didn’t even make it to the end of the first semester before I said enough was enough.
It’s so easy to ONLY blame lack of pay when teachers quit. If we focus on just one issue, it’s easier to ignore the hundreds of others that plague our education system. People see teachers marching at the capitol for more pay, but it’s only a very small part of the very big issues they are fighting for. Would it have been nice to be paid more? Absolutely. The truth of the matter is, we didn’t get into the profession to get rich. We entered the profession because we love kids, because we wanted to make a difference, because we love our subject area…..and so, so, so much more.
Parents sometimes ask me what they can do to help with the influx of teachers leaving, and the scope of that answer is huge and I could certainly write a whole series on the subject. And sadly, the parents asking this question aren’t usually the ones who need to be asking that question. I have been blessed with so many great parents who hold their children accountable for their grades and actions, who talk to both the teacher and the child before making assumptions about disagreements in the classroom, and who have reached out to see if there was anything they could do at home to help their child when that child was struggling-versus blaming the teacher. Supporting your child’s teacher, and backing up their rules and expectations are the biggest things parents can do to help, in my opinion. That isn’t always the case though.
I hope a day comes when going back to teaching might be a valid option. My heart breaks as I watch so many wonderful teachers leave the profession-because it’s such an important profession! A good teacher is irreplaceable and hard to come by. They are oftentimes the biggest adult influences after a child’s parents, and they are responsible for educating all other professions. Take that away, and what are we left with?
To all the teachers still out there-THANK YOU! You are the real MVP’s!
***I know there are times when there is truly a teacher issue that needs to be addressed-and in those times-please, please, please advocate for your child. 99.9% of the time though, teachers want to see your child succeed, just as much as you do.