This is a controversial subject! There has been quite a bit in the media lately, even current affairs program 60 Minutes did an exposé on this topic recently here in Australia.
Let’s get something straight… Not all the good teachers are leaving. There are many amazing teachers still in our schools. However, we can’t ignore the fact that many of the good ones are leaving.
The question is… why are so many good teachers deciding to leave their chosen profession?
Well here are my 10 reasons why:
- Too much standardized testing
Based on my research this is the main reason, and that’s why it’s my number one. Every time a student learns about a particular topic within a curriculum, they complete a written test.
To add to this, there is the government standardized testing required for all students to take part in each year.
- Teachers can’t be creative anymore
One of the things that I enjoyed most about teaching was being able to add my own creative flair to a particular curriculum topic. Many teachers, choose to teach so they can be creative and put their own ‘spin’ or style on different topics in their classrooms.
When I was teaching, I was really creative and sometimes my creativity would be reined in by the private school I worked in, but now it seems there is no time for creativity. The curriculum is so jam-packed that there is an inability for teachers even to be creative.
- Teachers are sick of teaching to tests
Every country has their own standardized tests within schools, here in Australia it’s called NAPLAN. I’m sure you know the tests that are part of your country’s standardized testing program.
Today teachers seem to spend weeks, sometimes even months, preparing students to take these standardized tests. So, on top of a very jam-packed curriculum, teachers are trying to teach and prepare students so they can get their best results in this testing. There are simply too many tests and too much time focussed on teaching to tests.
- Too much time spent marking tests
Now I come from a family of teachers; my sister and sister-in-law are teachers, I’m a teacher, and my brother is a university lecturer. One thing we all found, is that we all spend a considerable amount of time marking tests in one form or another.
There is rarely time to mark these tests within our workday, so they are often done at home and with report writing thrown into the mix, it’s not much fun!
- Teachers don’t like causing their students’ emotional stress
Teachers know that tests and exams cause the children in their class anxiety. Just asking their students to take tests can make teaching stressful for teachers. Students tell their teachers how stressed they feel and some will just freeze or panic when it comes to sitting tests which can cause teachers emotional trauma over time.
- The curriculum is so jam-packed there isn’t time for incidental, spur-of-the-moment teaching
The school curriculum here in Australia is jam-packed with content, and I know this is the case in many other countries too. The problem this causes is there is no time to include incidental teaching when students raise an interesting question, an event occurs in the local or global community, or a curriculum area is relevant to the community or environment in which students live. This is incredibly frustrating for teachers who realize there just isn’t time to explore topic areas in meaningful ways to benefit their students.
Students are also coming to realize if they miss days of school, they risk falling behind in the curriculum and will have little time to catch up on topics covered before their teachers move on to another area of the curriculum.
- Teachers are now required to teach their own subject or subjects plus basic life skills
The school curriculum is not only jam-packed with academic content but is now also full of subjects about everyday life skills, things like; healthy eating, sex-education, social skills, resilience, community service and more. Slowly these subject areas have crept into the curriculum, whereas once these were taught by families and communities.
Teachers are also expected to participate in additional meetings and programs outside of regular work hours which can include weekends too.
- Teacher are tired of filling out paperwork and writing reports
This is a big one for teachers, and it comes up regularly in our conversations… it’s paperwork! With all the legal requirements, testing, reporting, accreditation, and administration involved in education these days, there are many forms to fill out, not to mention parent/guardian permission slips required every time a student takes part in an incursion or an excursion.
- Teachers are dealing with technologically advanced students
In a rapidly changing technological world, teachers are dealing with students who are invariably more technologically advanced than they are. Todays’ younger generations are quick to pick up on new technology, whether it’s mobile phones, tablets, software programs, computers, designing tools or animation software. Students have more time and are highly motivated to understand and make use of the technologies available to them in their everyday lives.
This phenomenon can make students disengage from traditional teaching practices in the classroom. Many students feel as though they can learn what they need to, quickly, using search engines on their computers or watching a YouTube video and may not value their textbooks and all teachers can provide. The classrooms and the school systems can appear outdated and irrelevant, with schools being slow to change their teaching and learning strategies to keep up with today’s technologically advanced students.
- THERE IS TOO MUCH TESTING
Yes, I know this is the same as my number one. I simply can’t emphasize enough that there are too many timed, written tests being given to students in our schools today.
Now I know some fantastic teachers are teaching in our schools today, but there are also many great teachers leaving too. It’s a serious problem. We need to keep these great teachers in our schools because kids like ours need them.
The entire workplace culture of a school is determined by the principal in charge. Good effective leadership will determine if the environment is a positive or a toxic one. Leaders who care about their teachers well-being will ensure teachers views are considered and staff are supported not forced to pay lip service to a Department that is overloading their staff with unnecessary assessment that is pointless and not achieving anything but costing valuable time in the classroom. Teachers also have a life and that does not include working evenings and weekends having to cope with admin demands
Great comment Sheriden and I totally agree. A good principal can really support their teaching team and ensure that the teachers and children’s welfare comes first.
I am not sure that over testing is a big part of my wanting to leave teaching. I actually feel that it is more down to the fact that teaching is such a face to face, talking, interacting, guiding, mediating job, that I am burning out from lack of quiet time. Some jobs you can go and sit at a desk on your own and work for part of the day. Teaching is not like that. We are always talking, interacting. I feel so burnt out from it. I would love some days to come to work and not have to face to face teach. My husband works as an electrician in the M5 East tunnel, and he has times where he doesn’t have to talk to people or be telling young children how to behave. That is the type of job I want. Plus, he leaves his work at work.
Hi Kirsten, teaching is definitely a full on in your face job. I can totally understand what you are saying and I am guessing most teachers will. I remember coming home from school after a day of teaching and meditate for 30 minutes every day just to get my head straight. Kind regards Liz D
I have left teaching but gone back in a number of times. There is an ethos of bullying going on in the UK school system. This is based on the pressure on schools to achieve in the standardised tests compared to the other schools in the area.
The children in your catchment may be weaker, poorer and less supported at home but not much of this is taken into account. Your children’s parents may be sending them to school eating sherbet as breakfast and with no lunch but this doesn’t matter. You are under pressure to get these kids to concentrate in class, when they are not even expected to listen to a short story from a carer at home, ever.
And yet…. you are still expected to get the same level of grades from them as the next school with no such problems.
If you are not naturally a big disciplinarian you may struggle in such class rooms or perhaps you are the only one who tries to maintain the discipline in a school where most of the others have just given up. Either way you can find your ability to teach called into question and you can find your self being over monitored and being expected to jump through hoops such as ‘you must teach what is set in the scheme of work for every lesson’ and then the next time you see you mentor you find they say ‘you must be more creative and come up with your own lessons’. Hence you find confusion reigns.
While this didn’t happen to me in my last post, I watched while it was employed on two close friends in the same department. I tried to help them cope with the stress it caused them but failed and they both left the school for health reasons.
Thanks Kate for this great insight into the teaching profession today. The majority of today’s teachers are pre-programmed to do the best for their students. It is why they chose teaching in the first place. To hear of teachers leaving due to this type of toxic culture is very disheartening. It is great that you are aware of it. Kind regards Liz D
It’s not just teachers but parents who are voting with their feet, too, when they can. Home schooling. I feel forever grateful there was a Montessori school in our area, so my son didn’t have to endure what I did. He grew up to marry a gorgeous Danish woman and lives in Europe. It was his kindergarten teacher at a state school who encouraged me to send him to Montessori. I can’t thank her enough for NOT leaving teaching and being there for us.
Yes that is so true Clare. There has been a massive influx of homeschooling across all developed nations and it’s because our education system is not providing what is needed for children today.
I have heard wonderful things about Montessori over the years and even did a teaching practice at a Montessori school during my training. It had such a calm and nurturing vibe. The key for me is the teacher you mentioned, she was your champion teacher and we need more of those. Kind regards Liz D