For another look at quitting teaching, see my article 9 Reasons To Quit Teaching (And 10 Reasons To Stick).
One of the most popular search queries that has sent people to my blog lately has been “why do teachers quit?” Doing a quick search of my site tells me that I have a number of articles that reference this idea, but have not yet explored exactly why it is that many teachers choose to quit teaching. This weekend, I will write two articles on that very topic. Today, we’ll consider the question Why Do Teachers Quit? and explore some invalid reasons they do so. Tomorrow, we will consider the same question and explore some of the valid reasons for quitting. You won’t want to miss it. Next weekend, we will consider How Do We Keep Teachers From Quitting? which should be a great follow-up.Before entering this discussion, I think it would be a good idea to give you a little bit of background and point you to some articles I have previously written that address this concept.
- The Dip
- Where Have All The Good Teachers Gone
- Nine Reasons To Quit Teaching (And Ten Reasons To Stick)
At the outset, I would like to ask for as much audience participation as possible. This is a key issue that I think all educators should approach with great passion. You who are reading this — YES YOU — have thoughts on the issue. Share them. Just leave a comment below and let this be a conversation among professionals. With that out of the way, here we go.
Why Do Teachers Quit Teaching?
First of all, I think we need to break the reasons down into valid and invalid justifications for quitting. Thought I have previously listed some of the invalid reasons, I want to look at them all somewhat more in-depth.
Invalid Reasons To Quit Teaching
- Bad students/administrators/curriculum/demographics
This argument is simply an attempt to place the blame on someone other than the individual teacher. This is the most common reasons that teachers who have been teaching for quite a while retire. “Kids are different … Parents are different.” “No Child Left behind is a worthless program that does nothing but make public schools worse.” “Poor nonwhite parents don’t care about their kids.” These are all symptoms that point at something the teacher is doing ineffectively. Until we face the person in the mirror, we will keep finding excuses to not love our job.
- Too much paperwork/responsibility
Another way to say this is “I’m unorganized and don’t have a system to handle this much responsibility.” This is probably the most common complaint I have heard from new teachers. This is not initially the fault of the individual teacher, though if it persists, the blame shifts. Initially, it is the fault of the more experienced teachers around that teacher who don’t offer any help. After time, if the condition persists, it becomes solely the fault of the teacher. There are plenty of resources available online that can help you learn how to be more organized.
- Too much negativity
While this is a common state of many teachers in schools, we don’t have to hang around with negative people. I avoid the teachers lounge for this very reason. People who watch the news all the time tend to be negative about things much more frequently than people who don’t. One concept I picked up from The 4-Hour Workweek is to simply ask, “What’s new in the world?” when you meet people. If something major is happening, they’ll generally let you know. The information that is available right as an event is unfolding is generally not very accurate anyway. Go out of your way to find excellent educators to emulate, and you will discover that most of the time, they are very positive people.
- Not enough time
This ties back in with organization above. It is really a matter of priorities, though. It’s been said before, but is worth reiterating: Everybody has the same amount of time. Those who are effective have figured out how to organize their life more effectively. Some simple steps to handling this can be found in this article, but they are: (1) Declutter, (2) Prioritize, (3) Befriend the trash, and (4) Practice selective ignorance. It’s amazing how much time these simple concepts will free up in your life.
- Not enough respect/not enough pay
Here is another symptom of a much, much deeper problem. The deeper problem is a valid reason to quit teaching. If you quit teaching because of one or both of these two reasons, you are simply creating an excuse. You need to dig deeper and find out what the real reason is that you’re quitting!