Jan 21, 2012

The Many Reasons Why Good Teachers Leave the Classroom

A teacher friend invited me to Disneyland after my third year of teaching. His co-worker had won  tickets off the radio and they had a few extra to spare. Good times.

It just so happened that all the teacher friends on this Disneyland trips were on their way out. I was the only one returning for another go round. And, during dinner that night, a non-teacher friend of my teacher friend directed this question to me:

"So, he's going back for his PhD in education, she's going to back to school to study to become an administrator… Ian, what do YOU plan on doing next?"

Obviously, it rubbed me the wrong way. The tone sounded as if entering the teaching profession is only a temporary thing or as if it is  merely a stepping stone to something "bigger." Or as if a response of "Well, I just want to stay a teacher" would be inadequate.


I don't like when good teachers leave the classroom. But, it's not uncommon. For those who I've seen leave since they've started, here's what I've witnessed:

1. Teaching is a burnout profession. What's required is far too great to keep sustainable year-in and year-out. Hellish students, hellish co-workers, hellish administrators, hellish parents become far too much to juggle for far too little pay. 
2. Job opportunities that are more lucrative to someone holding multiple degrees are offered. It's too irresistible not to take. 
3. Good teachers are promoted to a higher position (as an administrator, a director, or a teacher on special assignment). 
4. Good teachers feel their talents are not being put to work since, at the very core, their responsibilities remain the same since their first day on the job when they were 23. They don't feel respected and want something more. 
5. Good teachers go back to school and seek out larger opportunities in education. 
6. Some good teachers become famous and go on lecture tours (Yes, I'm looking at you, Dan Meyer).


I'm currently being recruited to become a math coach for my district. The pros are obvious - The ability to stay involved in education and the classroom without experiencing the exhaustion & stress from the daily teaching grind.

But, the con, is far too large to overcome the pros - it would take me out of the classroom.


I will not leave the classroom to become a coach. Nor will I leave the classroom to become an administrator.The only way I'd ever consider such a position is if I become (as Dave Orphal calls it) a teacher-peneur.

We'll discuss, but I say let's save it for the next post...


Dave Orphal said...


You hit the nail on the head here and with a great sense of timing. My friends and colleagues Anna Martin and Barnett Berry prestented our joint paper "Many ways out and few ways up" about this very topic.

I wish I could have been in Sac yesterday to support them and speak myself.

I like to quote another colleague who said that we expect too much from our new teachers and not enough from our veterans.

I agree with you. I love doing ed leadership work, ed policy work, research, and write. But I will never do these instead of teaching.

I think too many folks leave the classroom to make too much money telling those of uswho remain how to do our jobs.

Better that classroom teachers get some release time to do leadership work. Better these reformers get back into the classroom to see where the rubber of their ideas meets the road of learning.

abril said...


abril said...