About Alice Trosclair

Alice has been teaching for eleven years. She currently teaches English III, English Language and Composition AP, and English Literature and Composition AP. She lives with her husband and son in south Louisiana. She also has hundreds of "adopted" children.

On paper, teaching seems like the perfect job. Summers at home, the workday ends at three, you’re off when your kids are off, and we get to work with children all day long. I mean, what more could one possibly want? As with life, things are not always what they seem. Teaching is hard. Parenting is generally deemed the hardest job in the world. Well, teaching runs a close second. Teachers continue to leave the profession in droves because all of those “on paper” benefits aren’t actually the case in reality.  The kinds of educators leaving the profession include experienced retirees as well as new teachers who find the career is not sustainable for their lives. Why are teachers leaving what the public often assumes to be a dream job?

Problem 1: Reality.  This often happens to fresh out of college teachers who have a mistaken sense of what is waiting for them in the classroom. With idealistic professors and inspiring true stories motivating them, they set out to save every student and change the world. We all want to. Then we enter the classroom only to discover that not all students want to be saved and teaching is no longer standing on the desk top and yelling out “Oh captain, my captain!” Standards must be met and understood. Formal assessments and benchmark tests abound Data must be collected and analyzed. Parental phone calls must be made and not all of them are pleasant. Student abilities range from high, to low, and in between, and they all need individual attention, special plans, and guidance along the way. With changes in curriculum, many teachers are studying material days ahead of their students and trying to figure out how to teach it the night before. Balancing teaching, paperwork, and a personal life is difficult, and even with preparation, it can be overwhelming.

Teachers in training need more time in real classrooms. They need less theory and more “hands on” experience. Click To Tweet

Solution: Teachers in training need more time in real classrooms. They need less theory and more “hands on” experience. Do not send them to only the honors and AP classrooms. Let them plan lessons and deliver them. Give new teachers seasoned mentors. Let an experienced teacher help them their first three years. For most new teachers, content knowledge is not the problem; it is classroom management and balancing the reality with the fantasy of teaching that is the rub. An experienced teacher is priceless and their involvement will save the new teachers coming into the classroom. Develop a support system on campus and check on your experienced teachers. Discuss the challenges, offer solutions, just listen to them. Teaching is a lonely job and no one knows what we go through more than other teachers who have been there. A team of teachers who help other teachers is priceless.

Problem 2: Lack of Respect. In no other profession is a college educated individual questioned, second-guessed, and blamed as much as teachers are. The media continues to slam teachers, and parents, principals, and central office workers continue to question their abilities. There are surprise classroom visits which prove stressful even if you are doing what you are supposed to do. We work so hard, for so little, and it never seems to be enough. There are more expectations layered on every year and frankly, not enough time provided to do it all. There are no pay raises, but we are asked to stay for this or that or are asked to take on more responsibilities? Saying “no” is not in our nature because most of us would do anything for our students, including pushing ourselves to the breaking point. We continue to be left out of the loop when it comes to implementing a new curriculum or in making laws that affect us directly. We are just expected to do the job and to not have a say in the process. Why aren’t teachers allowed to have opinions on the laws affecting us? Why are we not allowed to have opinions on a curriculum’s impact on our students? Instead, society trusts men and women who have never taught or been in the school system to pass laws. Why?

Solution: Trust. Pure and simple. Trust that we want the best for our students and society. Trust that 95% of us are here for our students and want the best for them so in turn, we give them our best every day. Trust that we study pedagogy and spend our “off hours” searching for a fresh perspective or a new way of doing something. Only teachers would spend their meager paycheck on classroom supplies to make a lesson more exciting. Only a teacher would go back for a masters degree (which only increases our paycheck by a few hundred dollars a month if we stay in the classroom) to improve our teaching and understanding of content. Most of us will always keep learning because we want the best for our students. We are asked to take on more and more but are put down when we ask for a raise or when giving our input for a new law. Stop excluding us and stop attacking us when we are the ones who want more for our students and society.

Problem 3: Paperwork. Overwhelming paperwork is another reason teachers are leaving the profession. Grading is expected and if you are a high school English teacher, your days are filled with assessing stacks of essays that never seem to shrink, but it is not just the grading. It is the documentation of how the student was accommodated. It is the documentation of parent phone calls, behavior reports, and student-teacher conferences. It is the department meetings and analysis of data and the teacher evaluations and professional growth plans. Our time during school hours is spent filling out paperwork and documenting our attempts to make us better teachers and to help our students.As a result, all of those essays and tests come home with us for grading.

Solution: The reality is that paperwork will never go away. Sharing ideas on how to organize this paperwork and how to become more efficient is always welcomed. The most valuable resource the system could give us is more time in our day to get the work done. Giving teachers more planning time instead of having meetings during that time would be a huge help.

Problem 4: Professionalism. There seems to be a growing lack of professionalism in the teaching profession that makes teachers want to leave. Students are not what they used to be. As technology grows, our students’ attention span shrinks. We plan for an exciting lesson, and they say it is stupid or hard and refuse to work. Working with a person that refuses to pull their share in the process is frustrating. Imagine having ten to fifteen students in every classroom who blatantly refuse to do anything. And yet, their test scores can often comprise up to half of our evaluation as a teacher and their response to our lessons during observations make up the other half.

Solution: Including all stakeholders in finding new ways to engage students in their education.  Until teachers, parents, administrators, and society work together to make the school experience one where students not only respect their teachers but have relevant reasons to engage. Schools losing all of the elective reasons many children find reasons to engage, like music, industrial arts, theater, etc., is one reason school has become such a heavy weight for both students and teachers.  Creating schools that care for the whole student, rather than just test scores, can create an environment where once again students AND teachers are more engaged.
Problem 5: Will I have a job? Maybe. As school funding is cut, so are jobs. The first to go are teachers. The logic goes: “we can always add more students to a classroom,” or “a good teacher can take on a few more!”  More and more positions are cut every year and not knowing if one will have a job as each spring approaches is very distressing for professional educators. As teachers, we are not in a financial position to “hang out” until August and see if something comes up. We are trying to survive like everyone is in this economy.

Solution: A balanced budget? I am not a math teacher, but it seems the school systems are spending so much more than they are taking in. It does cost a fortune to run a school system, but it cannot be run like a business. Education is not a business. Packing the classrooms like packing the registers at Wal-Mart can only lead to disaster. School districts need to seriously look at budgets and cut the fluff – often the administrative fluff. Our students should not suffer in the classroom because of new football fields, inflated salaries of administrators or district employees, and private contracts with corporations that are out for profit only.

Teachers are leaving, and it is a harsh reality. It is a difficult job and not everyone can do it, but what will happen when no one wants to do it? We have to help the teachers we have and find a way to encourage more to enter the profession. The world without teachers is one without a future.

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