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Blogwar: Why Teachers Leave

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In a long and fervent post, Mamacita of Scheiss Weekly argues that the reason so many teachers leave the profession is no mystery: Schools' coddling of "disruptive bratty obnoxious kids" makes their jobs impossible:

Until the bullies and the disrupters and the violent and the kids who have no respect for learning are removed from our schools, our schools cannot be what the free public schools were meant to be: places where all who wish to learn, may learn all they wish.

TMAO of the Teaching at the 408, however, doesn't appeciate the sentiment and responds harshly:

Generally, the flight of teachers concerns me, but if the teachers that leave schools are the ones who think it is not their job to motivate, not their job to convince, not their job to get their hands dirty, I got a couple of inches of Bushmills I'll raise in their honor, and applaud the decision to go sell insurance.
11 Comments

Every year school boards are faced with asking their governing bodies
for revenue they need to continue the services they provide and every
year they are short changed.
By giving school boards taxing authority, school boards would have
the authority to decide what is going to happen in their schools and
to generate the revenue necessary to make that happen.
Revenue for K-12 public schools comes primarily from state
governments, local school districts and the federal government.
The answer lies within the late Justice Thurgood Marshall’s descending opinion in U.S. Supreme Court SAN ANTONIO SCHOOL DISTRICT v. RODRIGUEZ, 411 U.S. 1 (1973)

I will not respond harshly to Anthony's post, but I think it is important to recognize that while "motivating" and "convincing" are important parts of teaching, "police work" is not. Some students need discipline; when it becomes a big part of what a teacher does, then it's understandable that they might look elsewhere for a job that provides more piece of mind and less aggravation. Unlike Anthony, I will miss them.

Motivate? Motivate? One does not motivate others. Motivation is intrinsic and cannot be extrinsically applied. Good teachers inspire. Plus it is not the job of a teacher to be constantly harassed by the "unmotivated". Certain students need to be removed from the educational setting when they interfere in the education of all because of their behavior. Stop coddling the ones who are misbehaving. Stop trying to save the world and teach the ones who want to be taught!

As a middle school classroom teacher who left her district to teach in higher education, the thing that was most responsible for my desire to leave was the lack of appreciation from administration and the lack of opportunity for advancement if one did not desire to be a principal. While I do not condone pay for test scores, a job well done gets the same pay raise as a job poorly done. Money is not everything, but it is needed to survive. Not to mention, a sincere thank you is worth more than money.
The students, motivated or not, were a fun and rewarding aspect of the classroom teacher job. While I agree that the "unmotivated" did need inspiration- they were often the students whom I most missed once the year was over and they began to love the subject of reading.
It is amazing that poor leadership can disrupt the entire climate of the school. My former school has had so much turn over in 10 years that most of the teachers that are there now were not the ones who were there whenI started.

As a middle school classroom teacher who left her district to teach in higher education, the thing that was most responsible for my desire to leave was the lack of appreciation from administration and the lack of opportunity for advancement if one did not desire to be a principal. While I do not condone pay for test scores, a job well done gets the same pay raise as a job poorly done. Money is not everything, but it is needed to survive. Not to mention, a sincere thank you is worth more than money.
The students, motivated or not, were a fun and rewarding aspect of the classroom teacher job. While I agree that the "unmotivated" did need inspiration- they were often the students whom I most missed once the year was over and they began to love the subject of reading.
It is amazing that poor leadership can disrupt the entire climate of the school. My former school has had so much turn over in 10 years that most of the teachers that are there now were not the ones who were there whenI started.

I responded to TMAO in part, as follows:

"I know the author of the post you refer to [Mamacita]. She has probably 'gotten her hands dirty' more than you have- or will.

Her legacy includes students who can read, write, have gone on to become university professors and include doctors, lawyers and community leaders. That legacy also includes one on one tutoring, long hours listening, helping, coaching and mentoring. She has cheered her students on from the sidelines. She has celebrated their victories and beat them back into shape after their losses.

The number of students who to this day attribute their success to her efforts and encouragement is remarkable.

The author of the post you refer to has never been afraid of teacher competency exams (and in fact, she is proponent of teachers competence. I hope you don't find that offensive). She received her teaching credentials before the profession became dominated with the lowest level of academic achievers...

She wants to empower teachers to teach. She wants children to excel and reach beyond what they believe they are capable of. She expects her students to build character by never allowing failure to box them in. She expects her students to achieve to the best of their abilities- usually way above what they and their parents think possible.

The author you find so easy to malign can tolerate failure from her students. What she will not abide is her students capitulating and giving up. One way or another, she has led her students to success.

Nor will she abide a system that will encourage the capitulation to children who understand that failure is a lot easier than success.

Pretend 'principled stands' are easy to take when there are no consequences, or when the intended audience is really a mirror. Mamacita has been nothing less than an outstanding teacher for a very long time. He has earned the right to call em as she sees 'em. She has been in the foxholes and on the mountaintops.

Mamacita is the kind of teacher parents pray for and simply waving her off or dismissing her only highlights the shallowness of her critics. That no one bothered to actually engage her or ask her to clarify her remarks, speaks more about her critics than it does about her.

If she says there are problems retaining teachers because of a tsunami of front line problems that teachers no longer have a say in how they are dealt with, take it as gospel.

Those who really care about educating children, ought to ask, engage and listen to her. It will prove to be a most informative, thoughtful, provocative and worthy endeavor.

While you might not always agree, you won't question her integrity, commitment to teaching or capabilities as a first class educator.

Just to clarify in connection with tim's post: I was excerpting from Mamacita's and TMAO's blogs. The opinions expressed are theirs. Teacher Magazine takes no editorial positions.

Despite sigmund, carl and alfred's defense, I find a disturbing thread of something like classism in the snippet that Rebora referred to. It seems to invite the kind of response posted by dgsos, who assumes that motivation to do whatever is required by the school is innate--and some kind of biological phenomenon that there appears to be less of it now than what we remember in days gone by.

My opinions are easy for educators to discount, since I have more time in social work than in education, more experience in homes and neighborhoods than in classrooms and identify more strongly as a parent than a teacher. But from the depth of my experience and professional and personal education, I disagree.

It is too easy for the lazy or ignorant to latch on to the view that students who are not learning don't want to learn, or that somehow teaching should only include what is in the book--not how to build a learning community and behaviorally support one another's learning. Somehow, if Mamacita has held on this long, I suspect that she is a strong example of teaching expected behaviors and motivating students--but perhaps not.

Hello All,

I have been hanging around educaiton at several levels and in many positions for 30 years. I have seen and been a part of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have initiated a non-profit wher I want to serve peace and delover it as best as I can to our studenbts. The hope is that they learn it, use it, and spread it far and wide. L am looking for folks who might want to joing in this cahllenge. Let's have our students create power points, poetry, art works of all sorts and I will post them on my site: Power: Points of Peace, Inc. http://www.powerpointsofpeace.org. If I can raise money, I will offer kids, options for books and savings bonds for education.

Carol

ps. working on the site ans getting it up and running.

Also, collecting stories for teaching by the Tao.

Teachers all - employees of a government gone mad. There have been over a thousand suspensions in one school district alone already this year here. I say, "you created that brood with your ritalin and your pampering so deal with it." It is only going to get worse. I have never seen an entity, such as public school, (or any business) have such a poor track record with so many "patches" or "fixes" applied year after year that didn't finally go under. Keep on doing what you have always done and the results will keep being bad. We have learned nothing from history.

Teachers leave teaching for any number of reasons, but the three that stand out for me are money, safety and testing.
Money: There is a basic problem when the people we entrust to prepare our children for the future must work 2 jobs to make ends meet. Several counties in my area are working on housing subsidies for teachers. If we value things based on their cost, what does that say about the value of education?
Safety: Students will always push the limits of the rules - it's the nature of the beast - but too often we make excuses for behavior and give students a second chance where one is not deserved. Students lose respect for authority and when that is gone, so is control. I've been bumped into, talked back to and threatened and I'm in an upper middle class school.
Parents are the other side of this coin. It's the ones you can't get to come in for a parent conference that are the first scream in protest when their child gets a detention. When maintaining class discipline becomes a daily battle on all fronts even the summer break is not enough to recharge.
Testing: The end of the year, see how much you've memorized, sink or swim on this one shot, standardize tests have become the focus of teaching. When new teachers come into the classroom with wonderful ideas and creative lessons they run up against The Test and the accompanying pacing guides and there is no time to cover anything but what will be tested. If you are a true teacher you stay and do what you can, but when teaching becomes reciting facts for peanuts with one hand on the panic button you have to wonder if it's worth it.
(Yes, it is.)

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