Recently, WeAreTeachers posted an infographic from the Learning Policy Institute which addressed many of the frustrations and issues teachers are dealing with in today’s education culture. The infographic illustrated the top reasons cited as to why teachers quit the profession.
The topic definitely struck a chord with our readers. We received an overwhelming amount of feedback to the post, with teachers sounding off on issues from challenging physical and emotional work conditions to health and personal reasons.
Here are some of the top reasons why teachers quit the jobs they once loved:
1. Challenging work conditions
According to one 2017 survey of nearly 5,000 teachers conducted by the AFT and BadassTeachers, nearly two-thirds feel their jobs are “always” or “often” stressful—roughly double the rates of stress experienced by the general workforce.
Cassandra M. tells us, “Educators are bombarded with paperwork, ridiculous curriculum, and lack of time along with unrealistic expectations.”
Joan F. agrees, citing a laundry list of complaints. “Unmanageable class size, lack of materials, crappy building conditions, working 10-15 hour days and weekends, ineffective administrators, frivolous meetings and regulations, no support for discipline problems, etc.”
Being a new teacher can be especially overwhelming. Without the proper support, it’s tough to make a go of it. Charissa S. quit her first teaching job after just two months. She blames the “inadequate preparation by administration and school board for the school year, the challenging working conditions and unrealistic expectations for first-year teachers.”
Another newcomer, Christine M., found herself frustrated working on contract and credited her departure to “difficulty securing permanent employment.”
2. Not enough support, not enough respect
Many teachers feel the negative effects of what they perceive as a lack of respect. A recent report from Penn State University and the non-profit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, claims among professional occupations, teachers rate lowest in feeling that their opinions count at work.
“There seems to be little or no old-fashioned respect for teachers today,” Ann D. tells us. Whether the perceived lack of respect comes from students, parents, or administrators, it takes a toll. “Stress, lack of respect, and support,” says Erin T., “It’s tough, even after 16 years.” Georgianne H. suggests, “How about nerves gone to bits as a reason why teachers are leaving?”
In addition, many teachers report feeling micro-managed by administrators and parents. “Admin just doesn’t respect teachers,” Rosanne O. claims. “We have little to NO say.” Carole R. is frustrated by “lawnmower parents, who expect their child to get an ‘A’ when they are only doing ‘C’ work.”
3. Testing and data collection
The demands teachers are feeling as a result of high-stakes standardized testing and the emphasis on data collection is definitely a hot button issue among teachers who are leaving. According to an NEA survey of classroom teachers, 72 percent replied that they felt “moderate” or “extreme” pressure to increase test scores from both school and district administrators.
Bonnie L. vehemently sums up her frustration with just two words, “Data collection!” and Kevin P. tells us he hates being part of what he characterizes as a “punitive and abusive test-and-punish system.”
Amy L. quit after just three years because of what she calls the “teach to the test” mentality. “My first year, my principal called me into his office and told me to only teach to the standards, not teach anything outside them, and to not tell my students I was trying to prepare them for the real world or college. I started looking for a way out right then.”
4. No longer looking out for kids’ best interests
Bonnie D. left after 30 years of teaching because she felt the system was no longer acting in the best interest of all students. “Everything became all about passing the ‘almighty test,'” she says. “Decisions were made by the administrators to concentrate only on those students who could perform well. Call me old fashioned, but I always did my best to reach and teach every student in my room, not simply the ones who had the best chance of passing a test.”
In addition, many teachers worry about the effect high-stakes testing has on kids. “Sometimes tests coincide with a bad day,” Michelle S. tells us, “or a day when a student is just not feeling it. That is an incredible amount of stress on kids—especially those classified as ‘bubble kids.'”
5. In the end, family takes priority
Teachers are a particularly tenacious lot, but some teachers are leaving because they have decided to invest their energy closer to home. “After eight years of teaching and 20 years of dreaming about teaching, I have left the profession,” says Cedar R. “Due to an overall lack of support, I found it very difficult to balance teaching and raising my two children.”
Heather A. expresses her disappointment this way, “I realized that the school system is broken beyond repair. Years and years of spackle and duct tape just can’t hold it together anymore. When you realize that you wouldn’t send your own children to your school … you quit and homeschool them!”
What do you say, educators? What do you think are the biggest reasons why teachers quit?