Why good teachers quit teaching

Today, my step-brother, who is a high school English teacher, told me he was thinking about leaving the profession. That his reasons for wanting to leave are a lack of support from administration and the new grading policies that make it almost impossible to fail kids who do nothing and are never in class.

What bothers me most is that he is not only a fantastic teacher, but that he is one of the few teachers left who refuses to lower his standards just because administrators, the district, and society tell him he should. This is why good teachers quit teaching.

Now, when this change in attitude occurs, it’s not always a quick, emotional knee-jerk reaction. Typically, it builds over time from a fizzle to a spark. By the time it’s a full-blown bonfire, one of two things will happen. 1) Said teacher will continue to remain in the profession, but since his/her passion no longer drives them, they are now submissive to the “system” and are ineffective teachers. Or, 2) the teacher leaves for another profession, taking with them a distaste for education.

Those negative feelings result in a lot of talk about the downfall of education, and their stories of bad teaching experiences are shared with people who are outside the education field. It’s one things when non-educators speak this way of our profession, but yet another entirely when it’s one of our own (or former) colleagues.

How do we fix it? Well, by now, it’s too late to change my step-brother’s distaste for education. This is a top-down problem, and the solution must be top-down as well. If superintendents and administrators aren’t willing to budge on restrictive grading policies or refuse to provide the support teachers need (and deserve) in and out of their classrooms, then we, as teachers, must stand together.

Most of us would agree that we’re not in it for the money, but society perceives that when we stand against the injustices of our profession that we are upset about wages. Because that’s what most working adults complain about. Unfortunately, society won’t change it’s perceptions of us on their own. We have to help them along. By standing up for ourselves, united, and with the determination of a people who have only the best for our students at heart.

Show me an administrator with a backbone, and I’ll show you a school in which teachers enjoy their jobs and students are learning.


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