Why do teachers leave the system

We hear a lot of talk about our education system, testing and teacher evaluation and how to fix problems.

6-25 Page 4A.inddHere’s a suggestion. Instead of listening to so-called experts who haven’t set foot in a classroom in years, go to the horse’s mouth. Ask teachers why they leave.

According to national data on the subject, about 50 percent of teachers leave the profession after five years.

Well, here’s what some of them have to say. Low pay is not first on the list, surprisingly. Lack of leadership and support of learning is the top answer.

Many teachers say they aren’t being allowed to help students learn. They say they are pressured to teach to the test. The recent debacle in Atlanta is a prime example of this.

Some teachers say they came into the profession to teach, and that is not what they’re being asked to do. One young teacher, who has been in the system for eight years, went to a new school and was given the most difficult group of students. She had no planning periods and didn’t even have time to eat lunch. In addition, she was expected to take on extracurricular activities for no additional pay. She was given no support when students lost control in the classroom.

This young woman, as have others, developed some serious health problems brought on by stress and has taken a leave of absence. She may not return. She is a gifted teacher.

Another teacher with 15 years of experience also says there’s no support from administration. She’s actively seeking other employment. She says there are problems in the classroom no teacher can solve.

She no longer assigns homework. She says there’s no point because none of the assignments are done.

Many of her students come from single-mother homes with no father in the picture. There are usually several children. Mothers often work two low-paying jobs to try to survive, and the children are left to their own devices.

These children come to school because they have to. Some sleep through classes. Some act out. Some of their home environments are unbelievable.

One teacher told me about visiting a student in the hospital who had tried to hang himself because his mother’s boyfriend was angry at him for accidentally dropping his cellphone into the lake. The child survived, but is brain damaged.

Instead of blaming teachers for all the shortcomings of society why don’t we listen to them, address the problems and respect the people we hold responsible for the futures of our children?

Responsibility without authority is always a recipe for failure.

Without teachers, we don’t have an education system. It’s teachers that make the difference. Not technology, not buildings, not a good football team and not mandated testing. Good teachers. And if we don’t take this seriously, we may find out how it feels to get along without them.