About Tracie Happel

Ms. Happel has been teaching for 25 years, specializing in special education/deaf and hard of hearing students and students with specific learning disabilities. She has also worked with regular education students at the elementary level. Ms. Happel worked for three years as a governor-appointed education commissioner, bringing the most pressing and recent research in national education to state stakeholders. When not working hard to inspire and educate her students, or collaborate closely with colleagues, Ms. Happel trains for and races in Ironman triathlons. She has two beautiful children who are beginning their lives as young adults in college, and in mission work. Ms. Happel is available for consultation services and presentations on a variety of educational topics. She can be contacted at traciehappel@gmail.com.

Often it can seem the perceived view of teachers is we are fun, loving, organized, caring, sweet, innocent people because we love children. We spend hours creating lessons that engage our students and develop their passion to grow as people, and learners. What is more fun, caring, organized, loving, sweet, and innocent than that? We never raise our voices, we speak at eye level with children, calmly and rationally discussing better choices and ways to treat others. Our classrooms are colorful, student-centered, and engaging. We teach our students to “read the room” because resources are everywhere, and when our students combine their learned knowledge with the resources around them, they will be incredible learners, adept at using a variety of knowledge bases to increase their own learning. I suppose this utopia comes from the teacher rules of a by-gone era:

-Women teachers are to never be married.

-Women teachers are to never have company with men.

-To be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless at a school function.

-Not to loiter downtown in ice cream stores.

-Not to smoke cigarettes.

-Not to drink beer, wine, or whiskey.

-Not to ride in a carriage or automobile with anyone except a father or brother.

-Not to wear bright colors, dye hair, and wear at least two petticoats.

It seems much of our mainstream TV and movies portray teachers like this, as well. Little House on the Prairie, a TV show many of us grew up on, was set in the time period of these rules, but it gave viewers a reminder of how school used to be, and therefore, set the expectations of what it should be now. Then came movies like “Kindergarten Cop” (1990) and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995), and “Billy Madison” (1995). The teacher’s in those movies were caring, sweet, and full of hugs and love for their students. And most teachers ARE this way. Because they love their job, they love the people they work with, they have nothing but care and concern and understanding of children and they want to do well. They chose their profession because of what they could do, and because of their personality traits.

But what happens when teachers get tired? Click To Tweet

When they don’t see the fire any more? When they decide to marry, or ride in buggy with a man friend? Or, horror of all horrors, wear one petticoat?

What happens…when a teacher…no longer wants to teach? Click To Tweet

Just like probably every other job, teachers get burned out. And, according to Forbes (2011) citing a study by NCTAF, the teacher turnover rate is hovering around 20%. What kind of cost does this mean for districts, states, taxpayers? Even more importantly, what kind of cost does it mean for students? When a teacher leaves even at the end of the year, the students know they will have to learn a new face next year, new expectations, new everything even if that teacher is not theirs. They are still an adult in their world. Teachers teach because of the kids, yet they are the ones most affected when a teacher leaves.

But teaching when there is no more passion is not what teachers should do. Kids need to be motivated, loved, and challenged every day; that’s what school is for most kids. When a teacher comes in just as bored and disillusioned as the students themselves, learning is hated. School is hated. And self may be hated. It’s not good for anyone. Teachers who decide to leave often leave because of the emotional toll teaching has taken on them (Graziano, 2005). The constant care-taking of very needy students, not enough resources, low pay, contributing our own resources at our own cost, threats and rough teaching conditions all take a toll. Constantly thinking and worrying about other peoples’ children all while trying to care for our own families takes a toll. Some teachers find ways to deal with it, others decide to leave.

Staying in the field may not be the best option when teachers are burned out. Not only does the teacher suffer, but the students suffer more. They know when teachers are no longer “there.” Despite the pay, the lack of leadership, making a difference, or any other reasons 46% of the teaching force cite for leaving within the first five years (Kain, 2011), teachers should leave when they no longer love their job. When they no longer are willing to live by the high expectations society puts on us; it’s time to go and that’s the best thing we can do for our students in that moment.


teacher burnout


Kain, E. (2011). High teacher turn over rates are a big problem for America’s public schools. Forbes Education.

Graziano, C. (2005). Public education faces a crisis in teacher retention. Edutopia. Retreived on March 27, 2016 from http://www.edutopia.org/new-teacher-burnout-retention

Print Friendly, PDF & Email