Katie and I are the same age (29), and came into the teaching profession together in 2008. Throughout our time together we became close friends because we have a shared passion and commitment to the education of our students. Although I consider myself to be one of those teachers that gets to work early and leaves late, Katie almost always arrived before me and rarely left school before me. (She is even more hardcore.) I consider Katie to be one of the best teachers from my old school in Glen Ellyn. But with great success comes great sacrifice. I know that the last 2 years that I was still in the classroom, I felt myself burning out. I every day that I woke up and walked into the classroom seemed like a bit of a struggle. My long commute certainly did not help. This year, I’m in a new position as a technology specialist, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I get the best of both worlds: I get to be with students in the classroom and teach the kids fun and exciting things, but I don’t have the same type of paperwork, grading or day to day stresses that I felt as a teacher. Katie, chose to stay in the classroom and is still feeling the burnout, perhaps worse than ever before. During out time together, I posed the question:
Why do great teachers leave the classroom?
Katie said that she doesn’t know how people put in the same time of effort year after year. After about 3 she felt herself starting to become more and more stressed out and anxious about her job. I have known so many great teachers that left the profession most citing their unhappiness, stress, or overall dissatisfaction with the profession. According to an article that appeared in the Atlantic in 2013, Liz Riggs said the turnover rate for teachers is about 4% higher than other professions. According to interviews she conducted reasons for leaving varied, but one in particular stuck in my mind.
“It’s just a lack of respect…Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.”