Where Have All The Good Teachers Gone? Why Teachers Quit by Joel Wagner - June 17, 2007July 5, 20109 There is a dearth of good teachers throughout the world. And I’m not just talking about those of us who make a living working with kids in schools, either. Teachers are everywhere. Bad teachers are almost everywhere. Great teachers are exceedingly difficult to find. That is why we, as potentially great teachers, need to seek out those teachers who have figured it out. To seek out great educators who truly aspire to inspire. John Carlton writes in his blog: I found ONE teacher who actually taught me something as a young man coming out of the public school system. I could’ve easily lumped her in with all the others who’d wasted my time… but I’m damned lucky I allowed her to shake me up. The “magic” in learning comes not from any secret way to master something without effort. That doesn’t exist. No. The magic is all about finding a relationship with a teacher who not only aces the facts… but also cares enough to metaphorically smack you around until you “get” it. The winners in life never stop learning, and never stop seeking the truth. They’ve learned to love the challenge of encountering something new, and mastering it. They don’t whine about how hard life is — they roll up their sleeves and dig in with gusto. As I think back on my schooling, even into college, I can really think of maybe seven teachers who did this for me. Perhaps that’s why I ended up going into education. As I read his article and looked at the comments, I realized that there really are many people who go through life without ever having a single teacher who cares about them. Then it struck me: Am I doing enough for my students? Sure I like to say that I am, but am I really? Am I really reaching out to my students? Not enough. I know that. That is one of the things that really didn’t work well this year. I didn’t have enough patience with the students. I inspire many of them. As a band director, one of the coolest things is actually getting to watch the same students grow up. I assist with the high school band, and this year have a group of freshmen who had me as their first beginning band director. How awesome to see them grow up and stick with it. And they play very well too. It’s exciting. But I know I could do better I know that there are always those who drop out at the end of each school year. Those who decide this year in band was simply so bad that they can’t envision themselves spending another year of their life doing it again. Granted those numbers get lower and lower as I go on in my teaching, and I understand they will never be zero. But I am concerned when even one students decides to call it quits. It means that I have failed in that area. Recognizing failure and taking responsibility allow us to grow more When I talk with students in the spring to find out what they are planning to do, I put a lot of energy into finding out just exactly why they choose to not be in it next year. Unlike other courses, electives give you feedback within a year of what kind of a job you are doing inspiring students. I want to know what I am doing wrong that I can improve in the future. Measure progress I do surveys at the end of each year, and often right before Christmas as well. Although some answers are always high-ranking (ie. more parties, more trips, play harder music, play easier music, less rules, etc.), it is interesting to track how the answers of substance have changed throughout the years. If you are a young teacher, or even if you are not, I would encourage you to do surveys from time to time. I do them formally as an added page to the semester exam, but I also informally ask questions. of those students whom I know to be both intelligent and directly honest. If you do this, you will be on your way to becoming one of those rare great teachers. One final piece of advice: don’t ask if you’re not ready to find out. Joel WagnerJoel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.