Why Great Teachers Quit (book review)

March 14, 2011

in hot topics, new and noteworthy books

Teacher attrition is a topic that’s constantly on my mind. The primary reason I maintain my website and write books is because I’m passionate about helping teachers overcome energy-draining setbacks and actually enjoy the profession. So, when I read this post, I was immediately intrigued by the book’s title and asked the representatives at Corwin Press for two copies: one for me and one for a blog reader. I rarely do that because there’s no guarantee the book will be any good, and I don’t want to give away something I wouldn’t recommend. However, I could tell from the online reviews that this book was going to be a worthwhile read…and I wasn’t disappointed.

Why Great Teachers Quit And How We Might Stop the Exodus is written by Katy Farber, a classroom teacher currently grappling with this subject on a daily basis. She interviewed dozens of teachers and includes their experiences as she explains the various issues faced in the classroom. I found it simultaneously comforting and distressing to know that teachers all across the country are dealing with the same problems. In nearly every quote from classroom teachers (and there are hundreds), I found myself nodding along and thinking, Yes! Thank you! Yes! That’s it, exactly! The problems described in this book will undoubtedly ring true.

Farber organizes the book into eight primary reasons why great teachers quit:

  • Standardized Testing (including effects on students and the school climate)
  • Working Conditions in Today’s Schools (i.e. violence and small problems that add up, like not being able to use the bathroom)
  • Ever-Higher Expectations (including useless professional development on new mandates)
  • Bureaucracy (committees, closed budgets, and scheduling constraints)
  • Respect and Compensation (the martyr system and paying for supplies)
  • Parents (unrealistic demands and no limits)
  • Administrators (the pressure cooker of principalship)
  • School Boards (uses and abuses of power)

There was one reason I expected to see and did not: there is no section on students. As much as I’d like to assert that children are the reason why we teach, they’re also frequently the reason why we quit. Is Farber pretending that “it’s all about the kids” and that our little darlings are never a source of stress? Nope. Instead, she accurately assesses the root problem: teachers quit over their powerlessness to place students in an appropriate academic setting and enforce appropriate consequences. These problems fall under the categories of Respect and Compensation and Working Conditions (as well as Parents, to an extent.) The underlying assumption is that it’s NOT the students, it’s the system that has given teachers too little power to meet the needs of the students and maintain order in the learning environment.

After explaining each overarching reason why teachers quit, Farber includes Recommendations for Teacher Leaders and Administrators (practical, proven suggestions), Words of Wisdom From Veteran Teachers (advice from teachers to teachers), Success Stories and/or a Silver Lining (which keep the problems from seeming hopeless) and Additional Resources you can read online and in print to address the issues of that section.

I wish this was required reading for school board members and legislators…parents would benefit, too. Often educators complain that no one really knows what’s it’s really like to be a teacher, and this book does an excellent job summarizing the main challenges of the job and the type of solutions that are needed. Katy Farber has written a powerful resource for everyone who cares about education. It’s my hope, as well as hers, that this book will make a difference in teacher retention and help great teachers maintain their efficacy and enthusiasm.

WIN A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK! Simply leave a comment to this post that briefly shares your experience: why do you think great teachers quit, and/or what can be done to encourage them to stay in the classroom? On Sunday, March 20th, I’ll choose a comment randomly to win a free copy of the book, courtesy of Corwin Press.

3/20/11 Edited to add: CONTEST CLOSED.

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Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Subscribe via email for blog updates, exclusive tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ms_teacher March 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Teachers quit because of the daily demands placed on them and very little support from those who make decisions.

Case in point, our district raised class sizes last year for K-3 from 20 to 1 to 28 to 1. Nothing has been removed from their plate & in fact, our district is moving towards more push-in for special education students. Again, no support for the gen. ed. teacher who is now dealing with 8 additional students, one or two of whom are special needs.

Or the insanity of combo classes, which administrators seem to like to give to our teachers who have received unsatisfactory evaluations. How much sense does that make?

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2 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Hi, Ms_Teacher! Glad you stopped by (and glad Artist Girl got the apartment!) Rising class sizes are probably going to play an even bigger role in teacher attrition in the coming years. Thanks for bringing that into the discussion.

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3 Aimee March 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

While I am not a teacher myself and am new to the education system, the building where I am a school psychologist experiences a ton of transfers and teacher attrition. We are one of the poorest performing elementary schools in the district and entire state in terms of state ELA & Math assessments, and have a variety of difficult to manage behavior problems.

That being said, at least in my experience, teachers quit/transfer because they do not have the adequate time, resources, and supp0rt in order to meet the many needs of our students. Expectations and class sizes are rising, while financial resources, worthwhile training AND implementation assistance, and planning time are decreasing. I imagine it would be hard to not burnout when so many odds are stacked against teachers.

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4 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Hi, Aimee! You’ve nailed it–teachers don’t have the resources to meet their students’ needs, and that’s why they quit. Which makes it even more ironic that legislative discussions center around ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teachers and how to give teachers incentives to produce better results. As if any teacher doesn’t WANT to do more…but it’s simply not possible, in many cases.

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5 Tina March 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Wow I have seen this book and wanted to read it. For me a main reason is testing stress (in tx), little time in actual teaching, lack of patent support, and legislation from state regarding what we must teach and finacing. Finaces in Texas education is a big issue right now due to possible loss of jobs and increases in class sizes. I just feel we are testing these kids so much and not really getting to the meat of what the students need to go on to the next grade and school. When kids can no longer have fun and can’t do things that are developmentally appropriate it is vey sad.

Tina

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6 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Hi, Tina! I, too, found that testing pressure took away the fun of learning. When learning isn’t fun, teaching isn’t fun. How I dreaded having to pass out stacks of test-prep material to my kids, and having to convince them that the work would be somehow be meaningful and rewarding. That’s an emotionally exhausting experience.

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7 Megan March 14, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I am one of the teachers that did quit. I accepted a kindergarten leave position mid year after student teaching and I simply could not handle the class without any additional support. I had 23 students that didn’t have the greatest of home lives, and they fought each other on a daily basis. There were a couple that needed SPED referral but were refused. Some were on medication that made them have violent outbursts and my requests for help from administration went unanswered. While I admit that some of the issues might not have occurred had their been rules, procedures and structure in place from the start of the school year. My issue was that I felt as if I was walking blindly through a minefield with no guidance and to be honest, I’m a little afraid to step into a classroom now. I still have the passion to teach, but I’ve lost all my confidence to do it.

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8 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Hi, Megan. Your story makes me really sad. I hate to think that you’ve lost your confidence because of that experience. I really hope that you’ll give teaching another shot, this time maybe in a school where the students are not quite as needy and the administration can offer more support. I say this in the most encouraging way possible and in no way undermining what you went through or how tough it was for you to make the decision to quit mid-year. I’m hoping to inspire you a bit–if teaching is really your passion, don’t let a bad experience keep you from calling. Please feel free to email me if there is anything I can do to support you. :-)

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9 Vanna March 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm

I think teachers quit because there is so much pressure and scrutiny on what they do. It is like living in a glass house where everyone judges what you are doing and why you are doing it. A way to keep them…. less the standardized testing and pay them more!

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10 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Hi, Vanna! I totally agree about the glass house thing. It sometimes feels like every word you say and every decision you make as a teacher could come back to haunt you–a child misinterprets something and seeks revenge or tells a parent who gets angry, or someone higher up disapproves. It can leave teachers feeling on-edge and paranoid. Thanks for calling attention to this problem.

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11 Sunny March 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm

I think that teachers quit mostly because of things we can’t control. I actually quit last year (took a leave of absence) because I was being asked to do at least 3 full-time employees worth of work on top of being a grad student and mom and had a class that just could not get along, no matter what (sadly, even the strategies in The Cornerstone did *nothing* for this group). I asked for help, I pleaded for help and I admitted that I was weak (even though I wasn’t). I got zip from my administration. I had a principal tell me I couldn’t handle my classroom because I was *white*.

I think teachers most often quit because they feel demoralized and disrespected, not simply by unruly students and parents, but by administrators who do not step up to the plate and put sanctions on the children who prevent others from learning. In my opinion, a way to get teachers to want to stay teaching is to go back-to-basics. Discipline and upbringing start in the HOME and parents need to start being held accountable as much as teachers are, if not more.

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12 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Hey, Sunny! Excellent points you’ve made. Having that super-tough group that’s seemingly beyond help can make anyone want to quit. And being held responsible for factors beyond our control is a major source of burnout. It’s hard enough to deal with stressful situations that you are powerless to change, but when someone else is insisting that you somehow work a miracle and holds you accountable for not doing so, it can create almost insurmountable stress.

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13 Tami Shelley March 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Moving from teacher to principal in the last 2 1/2 years has enabled me to help realistically attack this problem. I do feel that the load a teacher is expected to carry must be realistic. For me, that starts with making sure that the number of children per classroom is not just manageable for teachers but is at a number whereby the teacher can dig deep in her teaching, integrate technology, and engage each student daily. An overwhelmed teacher will not be able to enjoy her calling for very long.

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14 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Hi, Tami! It’s wonderful to hear the perspective of a principal. You have wonderful insight on this issue. Thank you for sharing.

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15 Miss>Will March 15, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I’m currently student teaching in a third grade classroom. I have heard and heard of a few awesome teachers who say they are just burnt out on teaching. From their conversations I hear them being frustrated about not having enough time to get things done and about how much time they do spend on school work. I see them putting too much time into little things, and not enough time into making relationships meaningful in the classroom. Teachers are constantly told what to do while having tell 20-30 students what they need to do, its tough.
Every day I have some sort of struggle, but to see those two kids lift up another student, or that one kid say he finally gets it in math, makes every hard minute of being a teacher worthwhile. I love what I do!

I think that in order to keep teachers they need to see how important and influential they are. If a teacher can see the academic growth of a child in one year that should make them feel incredible to know they changed that students life. A teacher should remember how influential they can be to a child, they are a role model and guide the future leaders of our country.
Teachers are the backbone of the world, where would we be today without the help of a teacher?

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16 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Hi, Miss. Will! I love the idealism and sense of vision in your words. Very insightful of you to notice that “I see them putting too much time into little things, and not enough time into making relationships meaningful in the classroom.” This is an important point, because creating relationships with students counteracts burnout. I know this from my own experience–when I focus on all of the meaningless crap I have to do for the district, I ignore the kids and dislike my job. When I do the meaningless crap but keep my focus on the kids, I enjoy my job. Those light bulb moments like the one you describe are what energizes teachers to keep going. :-)

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17 Alba May 5, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I try to foster solid relationships based on trust, respect, and caring with my students and their parents. The issue here is that we do tend to focus on other things at times because of all the pressure. We are pressured to follow unrealistic pacing schedules to accommodate benchmark and state testing. We are expected to prep and plan and collaborate with very little time given. On top of that, we’re not supported when it comes to behavior management/discipline. And don’t forget that we are now responsible for making our own copies, preparing ALL materials, planning field trips, fundraising, attendance data entry, data entry of test results, etc., etc. Basically all the things that were taken care of by support personnel not so long ago (this is my 5th year, and teachers are doing more and more and more) are now our responsibility. This is on top of IEP requirements, SST requirements, and other responsibilities, with very little to no support. This has been the toughest year ever for many of us. The idealism that we bring to the job can only take us so far.

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18 Rebekah March 16, 2011 at 9:05 am

I am a second year teacher and I struggle every day with whether or not I made the right decision to enter the field of education. I love teaching and I love my students, but I am constantly hitting my head up against administrators who are tying my hands or who tell me that the student who is a behavior problem in my class is my problem that I need to deal with. I go home in tears most days hoping that maybe tomorrow will be better. I know that I am helping the majority of my students and they are the reason I stay.

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19 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Hi, Rebekah! You are smart to focus on the kids. Brush off the other stuff and keep your mind stayed on the things that really matter. It breaks my heart to hear that you go home crying each day. I have been there.

In June, I am releasing a new book that is aimed specifically at teachers who are experiencing that. It’s designed to help teachers change their perception of stressful situations so they can focus their energy on what creates meaning and joy. Please hang in there! Summer is near. Read the book, relax, rest, and go start the next year fresh. It WILL get better. :-)

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20 Paula March 16, 2011 at 9:49 am

I am a kindergarten teacher who recently went from public school to a private christian school. The amount of testing that was required in my school district was excessive and not appropriate for 5 year olds. The school I was in was a lower performing school, so was under the microscope of district officials constantly. The administrators on my campus were pressured into leaving mid-year and the district brought in a person who was known to “whip teachers into shape”. Needless to say, morale was low. Behavior disorders in students were viewed as a lack of classroom control on the teacher’s part. The first administrators offered as much help and support as possible. The new regime had no time for this……it was all about the test scores and campus ratings. I was left to deal with multiple students with extreme, disruptive behavior and also a special ed. student who was really not ready to be mainstreamed full time in the classroom. Going to private school was a difficult decision to make……the salary is about HALF the public school salary. However, I feel that teaching is my calling and talent and want to stay in the classroom. My husband and I have adjusted our budget and are managing. I have a maximum of 12 students…..all whose parents take responsibility for their children. Behavior issues are dealt with promptly. Testing is minimal, so I can focus on the real teaching….and take advantage of those “teachable moments” that arise periodically. When a student is struggling, I can give immediate intervention and feedback. I am relaxed and don’t come home crying anymore. I love the small class sizes! It is sad to feel that I gave up on the public school system that served me well when I was a child. However, some things are more important…..such as preserving my health and living in a less stressful environment. I am blessed to be able to make this change and still get by financially. My heart goes out to all my fellow teachers who can not consider this choice.

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21 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Hi, Paula! I’m so glad to hear that you found a way to follow your calling without having to deal with the bureaucracy of your local public school system. I love and support public education, but also find that the stresses of working in them are sometimes not worth the benefit. As a classroom teacher, I longed to teach in a Christian school where I could share my faith and teach with meaning, but couldn’t bear to take the gigantic pay cut you’ve described so well. Now as an instructional coach, I take as much work as possible in private schools (i.e. Christian, Catholic, and Jewish yeshivas) because I have so much more freedom to help teachers real change in their classrooms. It feels as if the chains have been lifted in many ways. So in short, I completely identify with your choice, and I’m happy to hear that you are making a difference where you’re at. :-)

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22 Rachel March 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

What an interesting topic!! I love all the comments and everyone is so spot on! The pressures of teaching keep growing. Things are constantly added to our plates and rarely is anything ever removed. We are expected to be miracle workers with very limited resources and many time we fail. I’m not really sure what can be done. I believe the only way to make effective changes are to totally reform the education system in America…and there is a whole lot that goes into that. Thanks Angela for this post!

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23 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Hi, Rachel, you’re very welcome! Good point about how things are added to our plates but never removed. Isn’t it funny how old mandates are rarely, if ever, officially lifted when new ones are put in place? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had informal conversations with teachers and they mention doing some vocabulary program or spelling exercise that they hate, not realizing that it’s something that was unofficially dropped years ago and no one cares about anymore! Many teachers continue to try to do everything they were ever taught to do, out of fear that they’ll be ‘caught’ not implementing some aspect of a program or meeting some goal. One of the things I learned to always ask a confidante when I transferred to a new school is, “Okay, so what actually HAS to be done? What are the things ‘they’ are checking on and care about, and what are the things that no one follows up on?” Teachers are told EVERYTHING is essential and everything MUST be completed, which adds a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress. Sorting through what’s critical vs. what’s beneficial is really important.

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24 Monica March 17, 2011 at 11:04 am

I’ve been a bilingual educator for 20 years, 11 in the classroom and 8 as coordinator and later principal. I am working now conducting professional development and technical assistance to schools and truthfully, I would not want to be back in a school site.

Every day I’m faced with teachers on the edge of giving up. Standardized testing and aseessment not related to instruction has created a culture of fear and teachers who have no sense of creativity or choice in their craft as teachers. Their principals are fearful and pressure teachers because they are pressured and they are not encouraged to lead with heart. No one seems to value the things that really work for kids: creative, engaging practices that build real thinking in students. It is as though the publishers have designed “teacher proof” programs that allow little room for the teachers to contribute their expertise.

One size all education doesn’t serve many kids and teachers have a tremendous task in trying to do the nearly impossible. I respect good teachers and administrators so much and try to support them by being inspiring and encouraging in our work together.

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25 Angela Watson March 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Hi, Monica. What a beautifully-worded comment. You are spot on about teachers and leadership operating from a place of fear rather than being led with their hearts. Many schools are just soul-crushing places to work (and learn.) I agree that testing pressure is at the root of this problem. It’s nothing short of tragic.

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26 stephanie March 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I am one who quit the teaching profession. I quit because it was such an overwhelming job. I taught in a Christian school. My last year I taught about 24 students in a tiny classroom where almost 1/3 of them had learning disabilities. The parents were not at all supportive. I totally had lost all joy in teaching. However, after about 5 yrs, I went back. Doing okay now. I am teaching high school and feel like I am more suited for that. I think teachers are expected to perform miracles, and when they don’t, they are berated.

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27 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Hi, Stephanie! I’m glad you found that taking a break and switching to another age group reinvigorated you. I agree that teachers are expected to be miracle workers…and we often expect that of ourselves, as well.

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28 Rebecca March 17, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Last year, after an incredibly difficult year trying everything possible (i.e.most of the Cornerstone strategies) I was ‘pink slipped’ without an explanation. I was so disheartened after dealing with really insane behavior issues all year and then kind of “kicked while I was down” by being let go without an explanation. Then I couldn’t find another job because of the flooded market and so I am subbing this year and finding crazy relaxation since I don’t have to deal with all the issues I had in the past.

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29 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Hi, Rebecca, I’m very sorry to hear that you were pink slipped. For many years, one of the greatest benefits of teaching was the job security; knowing now that all your hard work might result in having to start over with a job search is very tough. I’m glad you have found some time to relax. Keep us updated on what you decide to do next. :-)

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30 Michelle March 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I am amazed at all of the comments on here and Facebook that keep hitting the nail on the head about all the reasons teachers quit. While the kids are always the reason to continue teaching, there are those few that can make a teacher wonder if it’s worth staying in the profession. During my 2nd year of teaching (when I was pregnant), I had a special needs student who threw a chair at me in the middle of class, and a rock on a different day. The child was barely reprimanded, and sent back to class. When an IEP is used as justification or an excuse for bad choices on a student’s part instead of being used to support the student as it should be, it makes teachers realize that their safety isn’t a priority. I still love teaching most days, but it is hard not to remember incidents like these and to not be offended by administration’s response to them.

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31 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Hi, Michelle! I, too, find it amazing that we are all saying the same thing–urban and rural and suburban teachers, early childhood and high school teachers, newbies and veterans. There are so many differences between our schools yet our common core challenges are the same. I can relate to your experience of violent students that administration refuses to deal with. One year I had two of them and nearly quit because it just wasn’t safe for me or the kids. Very tough, indeed.

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32 Brandon March 1, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Angie you definitely hit nail on the head with this comment. Like you said, if we all are saying the same thing as educators regardless to the area that your teach, the grade level being taught, and the amount of experience that a person has, there is a serious problem in all 50 states. It is challenging to say the least, that staying in the profession when all you see is the light at the end of the tunnel getting dimmer and dimmer. This is my first time discovering this website and I’m glued to it’s content. I have been teaching 12 years now and it seems that I’m learning ideas and concepts (both bad and good) each day. Once again for this website and I can see that it is a breath of fresh air. Please continue to share your thoughts and ideas on both teaching practices and educational concerns with us on this website.

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33 Melanie March 17, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Teachers are sadly viewed as “non- professionals” by so many now, that you feel like your hands are tied in managing your own classroom. I can remember being in school, and having a teacher phone home would have brought ridiculously serious consequences. I have some parents on speed dial, and it doesn’t even matter- their child will still behave the same way, and still not get the support needed for them to be successful. I recently watched ” Waiting for Superman”, and was moved by a parent’s comment in the movie- Be the kind of teacher you want for your own children. That has always been my mantra, and the reason I work so hard to build relationships with my class from day one. It has been difficult to maintain that attitude this year with thirty plus fourth graders, unmotivated students, and a heavier workload with zero pay increase. I love my job, but I hate this year. I keep reminding myself this all cycles, but I fear the trend is less “cyclic” now- we are expected to be counselor, nurse, parent, teacher, administrative secretary, with no respect from the community and little financial support from our state. Thank goodness I work with an amazing staff, and solid administrators, or I would be facing more severe burnout than I am feeling now.

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34 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Hi, Melanie! I think you’re smart to remind yourself that each year will be different, and there’s no guarantee the same problems will exist next year. Though it’s easy for our minds to run rampant and start to anticipate problems, it’s much more helpful to remind ourselves that the future is impossible to predict and we’re only responsible for handling what’s before us in the present. Hang in there. :-)

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35 Rebecca March 17, 2011 at 9:19 pm

I’ve grown up in a family of teachers and graduated in May with a degree in Elementary Education. Although I have a passion, and I’ve been told a natural talent for teaching, my heart has strayed from the classroom. As a substitute, I see very little support given to teachers who have to reach the highest of expectations- many of which are unreasonable. I see (the good) teachers devote all their time to doing what they can for their students. My mother is a fourth grade teacher in New York and she acknowledges that our family has taken a back seat to her job.
I am disheartened that education is increasingly becoming about data and numbers, when students are losing out on a childhood full of experiences. What happened to learning about the solar system and dinosaurs? What happened to imagination, and letting them MAKE mistakes to learn from? There is no room for error in today’s classroom.
Hopefully I will return to the classroom with passion. For now though, I’m going to do something else that makes me happy- and not feel scrutinized and ridiculed for every single thing I do.

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36 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Hi, Rebecca! Your experiences are very relatable. Substitute teaching is extremely challenging. I hope you’ll find something in the field of education that taps into your passion and allows you to make a difference. :-)

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37 Meghan March 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm

The teachers who led the occupation of Wisconsin’s Capitol in February captured the spirit of educators who are fed up with being blamed for society’s problems. This is a quote from Kristine, who’s a graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin, who left teaching and spoke in Madison:
” I wish it was easier to stay in teaching. I feel like some of the best ones leave. Because as teachers, we feel like we want to take on everything, but we can’t. Those of us who want to actually do the job the way that it’s supposed to be done realize that we’re working under impossible circumstances.”

I’m a 1st year teacher at a title I school in North Carolina and I can relate directly to Kristine. There are so many impossible circumstances that we cannot control as teachers but we try so hard to overcome them that it breaks us down bit by bit. In addtion, we have been harassed over and over again from politicans, media, etc. as being overpaid workers that get to work from 8-3 and have our summers off. We need a national teachers movement that will grab hold and take control of the education we want for our students. Control of the curriculum based upon what is best for our students, control of testing, and teacher control of unions. I believe without this we will continue spiraling down into an abyss that will look completely different to the schooling we have today. Education based upon profits and business and not on educating students to become life long learners.

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38 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Hi, Meghan, I can relate to Kristine’s words, as well. Trying to do the job “the way it’s supposed to be” feels impossible at times. Many of the ‘lazy’ or ‘ineffective’ teachers I’ve seen have become that way because they realize that no matter how much they do, it’s never enough. Doing less becomes a coping strategy and the only way they can can survive.

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39 Tricia March 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I think the traditional answers of lack of support, testing, and the demands of our job are definitely a big part of why great teachers quit. Part of the reason these teachers are great is because they are people who want to go above and beyond to find methods to help the children. However, if they aren’t receiving support from parents/admin for their methods/philosophies, the job can’t be done well. I know a great teacher who would leave if she could because of one child. No one stood up for her and she lost some of the spark. Then when testing is taking away bits and pieces of time that could be added to exciting teaching, the job becomes less thrilling. Everyone wants us to do their proven method. There is never one true method. Finally, when my time is being spent doing pointless tasks, there isn’t as much time to develop awesome ideas. Awesome ideas take time, but when time is not available, those ideas can’t fly as much as you would like them, too.

While those three big reasons are the main reasons I believe teachers leave, I feel there is a growing problem that is killing the morale: the lack of respect for the teacher, especially in the media. As NCLB has grown, suddenly the teacher has been blamed for the failures of our children. The teacher has become the scapegoat. If you listen to the commentators on the news over the past 4-6 weeks with the issues in Wisconsin, you will hear nothing but negative comments about teachers. They have been ridiculing teachers for only working 9 months of the year and only working half days because we got off at 2:30. They have been calling teachers greedy and only reporting about the bad teachers. It is hard to show up to any job when you aren’t appreciated for the work that you do, much less one that requires the demands of our job, both financially and effort. I was very fortunate that my students actually thanked me for the job I do today and said the reason they were doing so well in their math competition was because I was their teacher. I will hold that comment near and dear to my heart. It is not too often that you hear that anymore. How sad is it that we can’t practice such common courtesy of saying “thank you”?

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40 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Hi, Tricia. Thanks for that comment–very powerful. Little things definitely add up and cause teachers to lose that spark, as you put it. Over time, the flame goes out completely unless we find ways to inspire ourselves. Increasingly, that encouragement MUST come from within us, because it’s not occurring on the outside.

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41 Frances Gonzalez March 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Angela,
I met you last year in San Antonio and you had dinner on the Riverwalk with a colleague and myself. I have been teaching for over 20 years and it seems there is little time in actual teaching and I am teaching to the test. The students are under stress to perform at an acceptable level. I have noticed an increase in disruptive behavior from some students over the years and I do feel exhausted sometimes from trying to find out what is causing a student or students to react in a negative manner. Some of them have such anger and they don’t know how to channel it. I wear many hats and I’m not just a teacher. A teacher’s job is rewarding, but it is exhausting work because I don’t punch out at 3:30. I still have paperwork to complete after I tutor and get ready for the next day or the following week. A teacher’s job is never finished. Teachers follow a curriculum guide and there are many skills that need to be taught in all subjects. It is exhaustive, but rewarding work.

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42 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Hi, Frances! I was just thinking about you guys the other day! Hope you are doing well! Sounds like the same challenges are still occurring in your school–I’m glad you feel that teaching is still rewarding work. Sometimes the angriest, hardest-to-reach students are the ones that make the whole year worthwhile; they end up appreciating you the most and making the most growth. I hope that will be the case for you. :-)

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43 Jodi March 18, 2011 at 8:04 am

I think students are a huge factor. Not that it’s all their fault. Students who are totally reliant upon teachers and can’t figure out if they can get a tissue by themselves drain my energy every day. (I’ve taught 3 before me, but we’re still practicing remembering to use it!) Students where I work are so reliant and require you to spoon-feed them everything. The result are a group of kids who can’t think for themselves, can’t critically think, and have no idea what they’ve read. (As fluency is pushed so much that comprehension gets lost.)

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44 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Hi, Jodi! Kids who can’t think for themselves have always driven me crazy…nothing pushes my buttons more than a child who relies on others to do everything for him/her and refuses to exert any effort. I’m working on getting over that! ;-) Your point about comprehension is a good one–I was required to spend so much of my class time on test prep (multiple choice questions) that it was no wonder the kids couldn’t create, collaborate, problem-solve, and think critically. There’s definitely a correlation between children who don’t know how to think and children who are tested to death.

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45 Stacey March 18, 2011 at 9:37 am

I believe teachers quit because of a variety of reasons all piled up together. There’s the state mandated tests that dictate exactly what will be taught in the classroom. There is funding which also involves politics. The funding is never enough for decent salaries or classroom supplies. Another issue is students and parents attitudes towards learning. It is just not a priority with some. All of these issues added together equal a quick burnout!

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46 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Hi, Stacey! I agree that there are a combination of issues at play. I remember budget problems being an issue all the way back to my first year of teaching (1999)–every year, they’d tell us we had less money than ever before. Every year, we’d wonder where we’d get paper for photocopies. It’s amazing that schools are still functioning after all this time.

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47 Angela Comer March 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

I feel that the politicians are calling all the shots and they are trying to make education one size fits all. The true teacher knows that this is not the case. I was talking with numerous teachers this week and the biggest thing that they all are upset about it the lack of motivation in the children . We are doing cartwheels to try to get the kids excited about learning. The children seem to feel that they are entitled to everything and the time when you worked for what you got has come to pass. I love teaching and am very sad to see so many new teachers that want to get higher and higher degrees just to get out of the classroom to make more money. They have chosen the wrong profession.

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48 Angela Watson March 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Hi, Angela. Lack of motivation in children is a major problem and increasingly so. It’s a huge factor in teacher burnout because we’re in the field *because* of the kids. If we don’t get satisfaction from knowing we’ve helped a child learn, what is left? What is the reason to stay in the field?

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49 mrs. margo March 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

How sad is it that we need a thread like this?? What other job out there is so scrutinized and yet so misunderstood by so many?? Parents, admin, politicians, general society– no one understands or WANTS to understand the plight of today’s teacher. It breaks my heart.

I am someone who is seriously considering quitting (possible leave of absence) at the end of this year. I am 35 and have been teaching for 10 years. I have put off having children of my own because of the stresses of the job. It is just getting worse and worse and I am to the point that I wonder why I am sacrificing my own family, health and sanity for a job.

I would type more right now, but it’s Friday evening, I just got home from work (6:00 being early to get home from work), and I’m exhausted!! =) All the best to all of you teachers out there– you are not alone!!

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50 Angela Watson March 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Hi, Mrs. Margo. Sounds like you’ve been faced with some tough decisions. I, too, am fascinated by how some people have the energy to teach all day and then care for their own children at night! I hope you are able to find a balance between your work and home life. It’s challenging, I know.

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51 Melissa March 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

You have hit the nail on the head. The thing that keeps me from quitting is that I feel like I’d be giving up on my students! I teach in a Title I school with 70% F&R lunch. I love my students, but feel powerless for all the above reasons.

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52 Angela Watson March 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Hi, Melissa. You’re managing to stay focused on the reason why you’re in the field–wonderful! Remember that it’s your calling, and you ARE making a difference! That’s a powerful way to prevent burnout. :-)

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53 Erica March 19, 2011 at 9:33 am

Very interesting discussion, especially since the community I live in has been hit very hard by the budgetary outlook and a “hate all teachers” mentality has become prevalent. Unfortunately my colleagues and I dread the question “What do you do?” The second the word “teacher” is used we are speeched on how selfish we are to have taxes pay for our health insurance. The district I work in also requested a pay freeze for all teachers. The union declined and this has nothing to do with me, it was not even put to a vote, so now the community is up in even more arms. On top of that parents are questing our every move. One of my students even came in this week and said she could not do homework anymore or she would get a spanking. When I asked her why she said it was because her Dad thinks her teacher is stupid to make her practice her math each night (of course other concerns were involved with this family and the school did take action.) Now…. has the idea stuck me to quit. Yes! This year has been the most difficult teaching year of my life. My prayer is that the Lord will give me the strength to endure so that I can confidently say that this too shall pass and there is hope. Unfortunately in the position I am in now, it is difficult to see.

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54 Angela Watson March 19, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Hi, Erica. I hope that the current anti-teacher sentiment subsides over time, and I have a feeling it will. It seems inevitable that another group of people will serve as a scapegoat, and hopefully we can begin to rebuild the reputation of our profession. Hang in there for these last few months of the school year, and keep your hope in the Lord. If He has called you to your position, then He will sustain you in it! Be encouraged. :-)

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55 Holly B. March 19, 2011 at 10:16 am

As a classroom teacher for 22 years I have seen the cycle of teaching styles come and go. The trend of adding more skills and not giving enough time for the students to master any of them, is enough to make any teacher feel like they are a failure as a teacher. The other thing that I have noticed as an Elementary teacher is that we are not giving students any time to play. My students are getting 10 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at lunch and that is it for the day. I feel that this is one of the reasons why we have so many discipline problems in the classroom. (which takes away from teaching time to handle discipline)!

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56 Angela Watson March 19, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Hi, Holly. I would love to see more time for play. When I taught in Florida, we were very fortunate to have 30 minutes of physical activity mandated into the school day. I always used that as a recess time and let my kids run and play freely, but there were some schools that required the time to be extremely structured, to the point where all the fun and freedom was taken out of it. I agree that more free time (especially outdoors) would do wonders for many of the behavior problems we encounter!

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57 Barbara November 13, 2011 at 10:30 am

It really is sad to read all these posts. I was hoping somewhere there would still be places that allow teachers to really teach. I teach in Texas. It is my 5th year and I really don’t like it. The stress is incredible. You rarely see a teacher walking down the hall with a smile on his/her face. I teach all 4th grade math (75 students). I have barely an hour and 5 minutes to teach. Take away the time dealing with my spec ed students (for whom I have little support. In fact I was told they really didn’t require classroom support.) and I don’t have much time to teach the skills needed. My kids are coming to me with absolutely no math facts skills. So in addition to teaching required skills, I also need to teach the facts. It seems that almost daily admin comes up with another sheet of paper to fill out. Now we have daily documentation on all our 504 and spec ed students that will be checked daily. As all good teachers I modify and accomadate all my students. I never have five minutes in the classroom to do this, so it means that I do it at night when I am exhausted from the day.
We are also facing the pressure of the new rigorous STAAR test. No easing in to the very difficult problems. Just jump in and make the kids and teachers feel like failures.
The worst part of all of this is my sadness at what has become of our education system and how we are failing our kids! I love to teach, I want to keep teaching, I want to feel the joy of teaching again!

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58 Florence December 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm

My principals, parents of my students, and my students all told me I was a great teacher. But I quit. When I was forced to teach to the test instead of teaching to the needs of the children, it was the last straw. Too much concern over test scores, not enough concern about how children learn and what is best for them developmentally, denying primary students recess, unreasonable, unrealistic expectations for students whose brains are still forming and developing, parents who blame teachers instead of making their child accountable, principles who are unsupportive, all these led to frustrations that I no longer could tolerate. So I quit. I now have time for myself. I not longer work 10 – 12 hours each weekday and 5-7 hours each day on the weekend preparing lessons , lesson plans, correcting papers, and justifying every single decision I make in the classroom to administrators and parents.

I really feel sorry for today’s children who feel all this pressure too. The joy is gone out of education. If I had stayed in the classroom I was in danger of becoming the kind of teacher I hate and would have hated having when I was a kid. The joy is gone for both the student and the teacher. It is a sad day for public education.

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59 Angela Watson December 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Hi, Florence! I feel the same way many times. It is very difficult to keep the joy in teaching and learning these days. I can especially relate to your statement about how we have unrealistic expectations for kids who are still growing. We need to have the freedom to let them progress at their own individual rates.

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60 Kim February 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Wow! I so needed this. I have been teaching for nine years and feel like a complete failure. I taught 3rd grade for 7 years and requested a move to 2nd grade this year. I just could not face “the test” one more year. I seriously thought this would re-spark my desire to teach. It hasn’t. The time restraints, the demands, the condemnation from parents/students is overwhelming. I am amazed at what comes out of my students’ mouths. I know it comes from home and breaks my heart that any parent would think I didn’t love their child or would do my best for them. Then, I have to sit back and look at myself. Did I do all I could? Some days yes, some days no. It is just too much. I start each day at 4:45 a.m. Not so I have time to go to the gym before school, but so I have time to make breakfast, 4 lunches, shower, get dressed and be at school in time to “calm down” and be ready for my students. I sit maybe 30 minutes/day. I get to go to the restroom maybe twice a day (that’s a good day) and only if I leave my class alone with a “listener”. At 3:00 my school dismisses most students. However, we are required to tutor any students failing or placed in Tier 2 or 3. So another 45 minutes of teaching and no I am not given the materials, I have to “find” whatever I can to help them. Very frustrating! After tutoring I work until 6:00 in my classroom. Go home, cook supper, help my own kids with their homework, get my daughter in bed and finally sit down for the day. BUT, I sit down with a mound of papers, books, etc….to go through before the next day. When I need help I am required to fill out three papers and ask for an appointment with an RtI committee. An observation must be done before I am allowed to attend the committee meeting. So basically, my opinion, my expertise counts for nothing. However, I am required to receive 30 hours of continuing education every year on my own time and my own money. So, I count for nothing. The sentiment of all of my fellow teachers. We mean nothing to parents, administration, and sometimes our students. Heart wrenching! I love my students and yes I want to be the teacher they remember forever and always love. I am finding that harder and harder to achieve each year. I do not want to become the “one that is there for summer vacation”. (And yes there are some but rare, contrary to popular belief.)

Teachers feel worthless. Teachers feel betrayed. Teachers feel ridiculed. Teachers feel abused. Teachers feel, well we just don’t feel any more. It is too painful.

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61 Superteacher February 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I feel good teachers quit because of unrealistic expectations, unreasonable parents who feel we need to be the “all” for their children and admin that doesn’t have a backbone

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62 Julie February 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I ordered this book based on what I read on your blog post. Although I am close to being able to retire (1 1/2 years to go) I would like to read the book to find out whether the reasons for teachers leaving the profession are common across the U.S. or are there differing reasons in large cities vs. small, rural cities. I’ll be passing this book along to my administrator when I’m finished with it in hopes that it can and will he helpful for her in hiring and retaining the wonderful professionals that have come and gone at my school due to a variety of reasons. Our profession is definately in need of changes and with those changes, the pay increase that we are sooooo deserving of. I read a quote that seems to sum up for me why our education system is failing: “You cannot fail to parent your child at home, then expect me to work miracles with them in the classroom”.

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63 Michelle February 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Just this week, two fabulous teachers that teach with me resigned their positions. They are wonderful teachers, but the stress has wore them down. I understand their reasons for leaving. If things don’t get better, it will be very difficult to get quality teachers!

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64 Mrs. Coleman February 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Several of those reasons were indeed my motivation to quit-instead of quitting the profession, though, I moved to a school in another county where I have found my enjoyment for the teaching profession fostered and appreciated. I had a student whose father wouldn’t allow his child to be discipline by the administration, and an administration who stopped handling said child when he was sent to the office for violent demonstrations. When I no longer felt safe in my own classroom, and neither did my students, I knew I needed to take action. Sadly, for me, that meant leaving the school. I have since regained the passion that had begun to fade, and feel like I’m in a school that acknowledges my talents and encourages growth, open communication, and positive interaction between school and community.

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65 Suzanne Fryer February 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I LOVE the quote Julie printed above! Teachers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the political take-over of the classroom. The emphasis is no longer on the child and his/her individual needs. Instead it is teaching to pass standardized tests, and testing, testing, testing! This is not what brought us to this profession! We can no longer meet the needs of children as individuals. Programs to help the struggling child are being dropped due to budget cuts. As we work to give more of ourselves to these children, the high ability children are getting less and less. I could go on and on….

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66 Aussie February 25, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I’m a graduate teacher in Australia, and after 4 weeks (yes….FOUR) I already feel like quitting, so disillusioned am I.

I am a career-change mature-aged teacher, who has worked as a casual relief teacher (CRT) for 2 years. For the most part, I loved it! I want/need to work part time (health, other commitments), and until a part time role came along, CRT suited me. There was no shortage of work, and I worked in a few schools constantly. Subsequently, both schools offered me a part time role on the same day, when they got funded for 2 year specialist roles. I had difficulty choosing, but I chose the school and was ecstatic. I knew the school, loved working there, and felt full of hope and enthusiasm.

And then I started. I found out that I am paid for 0.5. but it is impossible to manage the administration/meetings/behaviour issues as a part-timer. I only have 2.5 days over which to work through lunch/recess to get the extra stuff done. One night I’m expected to stay till 6pm at meetings, the other night has seen me partaking in PDs some weeks.

We are forced to do online testing by March 2, so I have half the class to do. I receive a half day CRT cover to do this. I get through 5 kids.

I have 3 ADHD kids in my class, with no aide. Two are severe learning difficulties, one is severe learning difficulties. Another new child to the school has serious behavour issues. We tee up formal meetings with parents, the principal, assistant principal.

I go home exhausted, I then have to plan lessons, since there is no/little time at school to plan.
Lessons go to pot most days due to behavioural issues. I don’t feel I’m teaching at all!

I was lured to the school because the school valued me highly as a teacher and really wanted me. I now feel like a shell of who I was, lacking confidence, lacking support, with no foreseeable improvement.

The system is the problem. As a graduate, I am in so deep, I cannot see out. I am not 21 years old, with no experience of the world or working conditions. I have worked in a corporate environment, where I did not clock watch. I did a good job, I was well paid, I had self-respect, and my work was valued.

Now, I work for very little, I have disappearing self-respect, I feel it’s impossible to do a good job, and my work does not seem to be valued.

So as I enter week 5, I am taking steps to improve things. But I am not hopeful. I see that a few weeks from now I will be throwing in the towel. Maybe I should try for longer, but with the class I’m in, I just see that affecting my health. I’m stressed to the eyeballs now, and tired. I know no aides will be forthcoming, no letup on meetings and mandated testing will happen, and constant management of ADHD children will leave me feeling I am failing the other children in the class. And they deserve better.

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67 Tiffani March 6, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I feel for you Aussie. I have been in the same situation all year long. My kids are crazy and only getting worse every day. They steal, bully and hurt eachother everyday and I have to deal with all that before I can even think about teaching. I have one SEVERE behavior problem who is hardly ever in my room for a full day let alone a full week, but he is in there long enough to wreak havoc and set all the others off before I can justifiably send him out. Otherwise administration sends him straight back. GRR

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68 Aussie February 25, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Oops, this “I have 3 ADHD kids in my class, with no aide. Two are severe learning difficulties, one is severe learning difficulties. ” should read “I have 3 ADHD kids in my class, with no aide. Two are severe learning difficulties, one is severe BEHAVIOUR difficulties. “

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69 Jeanne March 6, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I am so grateful I found your site. I’ve been teaching for 22 years and up until this year, I could honestly say I looked forward to the start of a new school. This year has changed all of that. The pressures I feel to continually “produce” students (as measured by state standardized testing) is beginning to take a toll on me as well as my students. I don’t feel as if I ever get a chance to let students explore a topic and really get to know it in detail. My daily lesson plans have simply become a checklist of things that have to “get done” in order for students to pass a standardized test. And with my state (Minnesota) considering becoming a “right to work” state and the general public coming down on public education, it is really just becoming too overwhelming. I really want to focus on the positive. I just don’t even know where to begin anymore. Thank your for your site!

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70 Angela Watson March 8, 2012 at 9:09 am

You are welcome! Glad you are here. I’m going to be reviewing (and giving away a copy of) a new book called “When Teaching Gets Tough” by Allen Mendler. I think you’ll really enjoy it!

You might also want to check out Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching: I share my story of how I went from overwhelmed, exhausted, and burned out to having contentment and enthusiasm again. :-)

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71 Alba May 5, 2012 at 11:14 pm

I’m right there with you Jeanne! I got a pink slip for the fifth year in a row, and this in itself is enough of a reason to quit the career and move on to something else. We appear to be disposable and replaceable now. It’s not going to get any better. I’m trying to focus on the students and making them individuals who can think for themselves when I get the chance. They’re the reason I go to work every day…but it’s getting to the point where sometimes it’s not enough of a reason. Too many demands on us, not enough support or materials or time! I have read your replies Angela, and maybe the answer is going to another place to teach. I will consider it this summer. Thank you for your kind words and advice.

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72 Tiffani March 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I’m a first year teacher and miserable. All the demands and pulling apart the data leaves no time for me to actually use the information to help my students learn. Plus all the unrealistic demands, paying for supplies out of my own pocket and the push, push, push from administration with no help in meeting the out of reach goals and demands.

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73 Marta Karnes March 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I am an RN and I became so burned out in nursing that I went back to school and am nearly finished with BSed degree. I will student teach in the fall and after reading all these posts I hope I’m not jumping out of the frying pan and into the fryer. I love working with the kids!! I am doing an internship in a kindegarten class right now and I’ll admit it has its stresses but for now–I look forward to going in there. I hope it never changes.

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74 Shellie May 5, 2012 at 12:37 am

I am tired of having the finger pointed at me when students don’t make progress. It’s always “what are you doing in the classroom?” “How are you differentiating your lessons?” “Try this…, try that…” Blah, blah, blah. I felt i was being slapped in the face when my district MANDATED that all teachers attend the LETRS training. It made me feel like the curriculum dept. in my district doesn’t think i know how to teach reading!!! These trainings aren’t really teaching me anything i don’t already know or do – and it’s a waste of thousands of dollars!!!!!! Why don’t we point the finger where it really needs to be pointed…but no….they don’t have the guts for that.

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75 Amanda May 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm

This topic may be old, but I thought I would add:

Today I was handed a rag and disinfectant spray. The head custodian says “they’ll email you about it later.” So I turn to one of my students (as I usually have to in order to find out what is going on in the school since administration decides we (the teachers) are useless and thus do not need to be in the loop) and the child tells me “it’s to clean up the puke because the custodians don’t have time.”

Check, please. This table is finished!

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76 Al May 11, 2012 at 1:01 am

Hey! That happened to me recently too, except that the administrator sent some sort of crystal stuff to put on the throw up. I put it next to the throw up (which I covered with paper towels) and went on with my teaching. When the custodian came to clean up (2 hours later), it was still there, and I continued teaching. I REFUSE to do that kind of work….I may end up getting in trouble for not being where I’m supposed to be according to my lesson plans. :o)

It’s all so RIDICULOUS!

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77 Aussie May 11, 2012 at 11:06 am

Tiffani, I hear you! I”m a first year teacher and also fed up. I did emergency teaching for 2 years, and really enjoyed it. I looked forward to my own class, but only wanted to work part time. I have alot of other things in my life that take up time. Part time relates to how much they pay you ONLY. The workload is ridiculous. I do so many different tests and spend time analysing data, but there’s no time to do anything with the data, plan interesting things.

I am at a “good” school but have a tough class. I’ve been hit and headbutted by a kid in my class. Endless time in meetings either with staff or parents of the special needs kids in my class (none of whom are entitled to an aide).

I see alot of staff who appear to accept that this ‘is just how it is’, but for me, I cannot accept it.

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78 Julia May 12, 2012 at 7:40 am

Teachers leave because of lack of support from administration when dealing with parents. A parent recently met with my principal without being told to meet with me first. Not only was it unprofessional for admin to allow the parent to go behind my back to meet with them, but I had no input and no way to defend myself. Then I was told the complaint was that I “care too much” about the students. Wait it gets better: my principal had me send an apology letter to the parent! When i expressed my outrage, i eas tild that “this was not a hill to die on”. This is my 10th year of teaching and I am blowing up the world wide web nightly as I apply for jobs outside of education. Sad story but even sadder because it is true.

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79 reena May 17, 2012 at 12:21 am

Hi angella, wanted to know if you have any questionnaire for teachers self evaluation/reflection on how good am i as a teacher..

thanks.

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80 Angela Watson May 31, 2012 at 9:40 am
81 Jane October 7, 2012 at 9:14 am

This book looks very intriguing to me, being a career status teacher with a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction K-6. I have been teaching for six years and am applying for non-classroom positions left and right. My dilemma is that I have loved every minute spent teaching my students and watching them learn and grow, but I am not given time, resources, or support to do it to the best of my ability. I came home sobbing about a month ago and my fiance was able to shed light on the situation for me. He said, “You are a perfectionist, you are always trying to teach better than you did the year before, the week before, the day before…but right now, you are like a man with no legs trying to run a race. The way in which you see yourself teaching is impossible given the time and resources afforded to you.” It was true…I am the man with no legs trying to run, however I am expected to win first place in the race, running with no legs.

I met with my former administrator last week to discuss potential directions in which I could take my career (out of the classroom, but still in education in some capacity given that it is my passion). He has recenetly taken a job at the county office and told me that he feels guilty. Of course this surprised me a little and when I asked why his response was, “I have a nice desk job where I get to work at 8am and leave every day at 5:30pm. I can leave and go to lunch whenever I want, I have no one to answer to, I don’t have to worry about what is happening when I’m away from the school, and I don’t do nearly the amount of work that I did as a principal and am making quite a lot more money for doing far less work.” He was able to confirm what everyone in education already knows. Teachers are compensated on a top down scale…Superintendents make gracious six figure salaries, along with other county workers (associate superintendents, curriculum developers, etc) while teachers are working far longer hours, and doing much, MUCH more work than they ever dreamed of and living paycheck to paycheck. Far worse than a sad little paycheck, but there is no respect from administrators or parents and we are being told from people in the state department how to teach, when the majority of them have never even stepped foot inside of a classroom.

I could write for days on this topic, but won’t because I have about three hours worth of lesson plans to write in order to prepare to teach my 23 little friends tomorrow morning at 7:40am.

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82 Angela Watson October 7, 2012 at 9:36 pm

I’m nodding along to everything you wrote, Jane! Teaching is exhausting and all-consuming at times. (Did you see my latest blog post, How to Work a 40 Hour Week as a Teacher? It might help a bit.)

I can relate to the story about the man who works at your county’s ed office. I, too, feel guilty at times for doing less work and making more money now that I am out of the classroom. However, I know this is best for me and my family, and I feel like I am impacting education on a larger scale, and that makes me feel good about what I’m doing.

That said, I hope you can find work that gives you the satisfaction of feeling like you are making a difference, but that still allows you to have a personal life. Maybe it will be a classroom position–some are MUCH lower stress than others. Maybe it will be outside the classroom. There are a lot of possibilities. All the best to you!

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83 Maple October 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I don’t have a comment. Just the first thing that popped up on my facebook after I just got home at 10 pm after another 12 hours at school. Again.

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84 wendy October 8, 2012 at 10:59 pm

It seems that with each passing year, there are more unimaginable issues facing us in the classrooms. I am at a Title 1 public school and more so every year, there just aren’t enough corners in my room to separate the behaviors just so the class can get ready to learn. Just today, I had to call a parent who responded, ” Who are you? the Substitute? You don’t know my ‘kid’. They don’t do that.” Funny, I’m the one who greeted the class and their parents on the first day of school, and most every morning unless I have parking lot duty, and they still don’t know who I am? Parents constantly say we aren’t doing enough… eventhough I spend my own money on classroom supplies consumed by my students because they don’t even come to school with a pencil box or backpack. I pay for my own classroom library, hand soap and sanitizer, registration for conferences and trainings, clean my own room (janitorial duties) AND teach 31 second graders of which most have little idea of how to be at school because they never went to kindergarten and parents provide little structure at home. Who is getting the short end of the stick? The kids at school or the child I pick up at 4:30 from daycare because her mother is busy working with other children whose parents don’t bother to teach them manners. Give me an illiterate, well behaved child and I can/want to do wonders – if they want to throw things and yell … that’s another story. My desire to teach diminishes greatly.

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85 Farrah November 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I am very interested in this book, because I’m on my third year of wanting to quit. I keep looking for a compelling argument to get me to stay, because I know I am a talented teacher and am not sure where else to place my efforts. I read your blog on creating a 40-hour workweek; I have had that goal for the last seven years, have implemented all of the tips you suggested during that time, but I still work at least 50 hours a week.
Why do I want to quit? Because this year is just as hard as my first year. I have worked in other professions; you get better at what you do because of consistency and the building of routines. My district is constantly changing their policies and curriculum materials, adding to our workload, and no one in charge ever gives you a straight answer about “real” problems. The things I mastered in years past are all useless now because I am expected to make fresh investments in time, energy, money, and materials every year. I am given support for all of these changes in the form of numerous, mostly unpaid trainings, and I am supposed to be grateful for this because other districts hand out changes without any guidance whatsoever.
I do love being with kiddos. I can’t stand working for the public school system. I got into this profession because I wanted to make a difference for poor kids. I can’t even tell if I’m making a difference anymore. In the current climate, doing what you know is best for kids is a subversive act. I approach each day grateful that I have a job. I try to have compassion for administrators who feel overburdened, such that they can’t interact with us as people anymore. I know most parents these days are more stressed and busier than ever, and it’s just not possible to get them as involved as it once was.
Still, I can’t accept martyrdom as a profession. I know teaching has been changed to be less sustainable, so that governments can successfully cut budgets and avoid paying those of us with years in and advanced degrees. I am sad that what has brought me so much joy has become so frustrating.

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86 Elsa Victoria June 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Angela, why did you quit teaching? Hope you don’t mind me asking.

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87 Angela Watson June 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Hi, Elsa! No, I don’t mind sharing at all. I wrote a little about it here: http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2009/08/what-ill-miss-when-i-leave-classroom.html and http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2010/02/my-resignation-is-now-official.html, but the gist of the story is that I got married and my husband was living in New York. It’s notoriously difficult to find jobs in the NYC-area school systems, and that was 2008-2009 when teachers were getting laid off in large numbers so things were even worse. I had already started doing PD and published my first book, and since I wanted to do more work teaching teachers, it was a natural time to pursue that. If it weren’t for those circumstances, I probably would still be in the classroom.

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