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Responses wanted: Why do teachers stay?

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It gets a little depressing around this time of year when teachers talk about the last day to turn in resignation letters, when principals fret over having way too many openings, and the news media keeps up the chatter about why teachers quit. (This blog included.)

But as a fairly fresh newcomer to the education field, brimming with hope and optimism (although tempered with a taste of what teaching is really like), what I want to know is: Why do teachers stay? And what can schools really do to encourage teachers to stay?

My new-teacher friends and I have our theories and our personal experiences. Some of them are staying in the classroom while others are leaving. Regardless, everyone has their own theories about sustaining teachers in the classroom.

Why do teachers stay?

"I know that this sounds horribly hokey, but I have seen some teachers with 30 years of experience hate hate hate the principal, the school board, etc, but they simply bloom when they are with the students." -- Rachel Wieland, former teacher, current Teach For America program director

"The reality of why teacher stay is that they have found a school or community which has welcomed them, given them opportunities to grow, learn, and to use their talents to benefit those around them." -- former teacher

"I stay in teaching because I feel really good about the job I am doing. I know I am making a difference, I know I am doing what is right, and I go to sleep at night feeling really good about the work I've done." -- Scott Therkelsen, third-year math teacher

"They started because it was a job, a paycheck. When they started, there weren't so many stigmas being a teacher and the salary was good. Some of them realized they were good at their job and enjoyed it. Others realized they hated it, but had bills to pay." -- former literacy teacher

"In my case, once I got into teaching it became entirely about my students as I love working with them. It is for them that I am considering staying in the field for more than my required two years." -- Cristina Perez, second-year special education teacher

But what can make these fairly new and high-achieving teachers stay? This is where their responses really ranged. Some people said they would consider staying in the classroom long-term if they received greater support and coaching from their districts. Other people said they would remain if they really felt welcome and connected with their colleagues and community. They also said feeling appreciated would make them stay. It could be an acknowledgment of their hard work, a sincere thank you, a meaningful observation and discussion with their administrator.

What would make you stay?

"My decision to stay in teaching would be much easier if I felt that I was getting enough support from the district. I feel that in most cases the district acts more as an adversary than an advocate. I feel excessive paperwork, minimal training, poorly implemented programs (like PDSA, etc.) all get in the way of my teaching and prevent me from doing the work that I love to do." -- Cristina Perez

"[Offering] better/new opportunities... [This] is the hardest to combat. But afford staff the opportunity to assume leadership, new roles, and to grow and develop. This will help some staff feel that they are still moving forward and not stagnating in a position. While you cannot grant an instructor a six digit salary, you take steps to make sure that they feel like they are making it when they walk out the door."-- former Teach For America teacher

"Coach them. Teach them how to be successful. In any job, any profession, people simply want to know that they are successful. Those who feel unsupported and thus leave, are usually the ones who don’t know what they need to do better with the kids. I wish every school had a [Teach For America] program director for every 15-20 teachers. Eh." -- Rachel Wieland

"I think what causes a teacher to stay in his/her school is the depth of the relationships they build with their administration and colleagues. I think if a teacher really feels like they are apart of something larger than themselves in that school and everyone is really working together that is can be a reason why some stay." -- Alicia Bowman, former science teacher

Please share your responses. Whether you're a new or seasoned educator, what makes you stay in the classroom? Also, what does your school do to encourage you to stay? I'll be posting some on the blog throughout the week, so please check back!

41 Comments

I have been a teacher for many years because of three things:
1. Commitment to students (making sure they get the skills and info they need to follow their own dreams)
2. Commitment to the future (making sure the equity, democracy, peace and justice values I hold continue in future generations)
3. Commitment to community (making sure my students understand the needs of their community and develop the attitude that they can and must get involved - whether by service hours or whatever)

A group of elementary school teachers in Milwaukee decided to start their own school (Fratney Street School/La Escuela Fratney) as a whole language two-way bilingual school over twenty years ago (http://tinyurl.com/2oqd5k). Some of them also got involved in teacher union politics and started Rethinking Schools (a progressive ed journal).

To my mind, they are an example of how a few committed, visionary, hard-working teachers can transform a school, a community, and an education movement. They not only wanted to stay in the classroom, they saw it as their mission to do so.

I became a teacher because I was angry at the injustice I saw in our education system. I believe in education and see it as the key to addressing the inequality in our country and our world. Too often, however, our education system falls short of this potential and simply reinforces the status quo. And so armed with statistics about the disparity between the education levels of students growing up in low income communities and those in middle and higher income communities I became a teacher in an effort to make a difference in a piece of this problem.

I stay in education because those statistics quickly came to have faces, names and stories. They were the dynamic and creative young people I had the opportunity to teach on the Navajo Nation. They are the classes of students who consistently entered sixth grade reading on average at a third grade level. They were the products of system that had set them up to fail.

Teaching is a real way to impact this problem. Working with a child who struggles to read to develop the keys to become a better reader has a huge impact on that child’s future. I stay in teaching because of those success stories, because of the glimmer in a boy’s eye when he finally after years of schooling realized that he could break words into parts and sound them out, because of the excitement that students have when they realize that they can be successful and can enjoy reading, because of the doors this will open to them in the future.

And honestly, I stay in teaching because of my failures as a teacher, the ones that slipped through the cracks, that continued on to seventh grade years behind where they should be, or didn’t continue on and dropped out believing that they couldn’t or didn’t need to succeed. Looking back I can see what it would have taken to reach these students or have had a greater impact on my classes as a whole and so I stay because I know that I have a long way to go as an educator.

In order for more teachers to stay in the classroom I think that they need a purpose that they believe in and believe is possible and that they and their colleagues are working towards. They need to feel empowered to work towards that purpose and supported and challenged in their work. During the times I thought about leaving teaching I was thinking about leaving because I had lost sight of why I was a teacher and had stopped believing in my ability to truly have an impact. As an educator I have been truly lucky to find different supports that pulled me through those times and helped me see how I could have that impact and what I needed to change in order to do so.

I'm a first year teacher, teaching 5th grade in a struggling school. When I was doing my student teaching last year, I looked forward to coming to work every day, to seeing the kids' faces light up when they caught a concept, to watching them grow and learn and teach one another. I am scared to start my first paid teaching position, but everyone I've met at school so far has said that I will love it. I'll love the principal, the kids, the families, and my co-workers. And I feel it every time I walk into the school.

Even now, with 10 days left of my first summer vacation since I was in high school, I look forward to going into my almost empty classroom, thumbing through teacher editions of texts, putting sticky notes with ideas in them so I'll remember when I get to that lesson. I look forward to meeting my students and watching them grow.

I feel a little like a gardener--you plant seeds, and water them, keep them healthy, weed around them, and watch to see what they do, what they grow into.

I have never felt this good about a job. And this really isn't a job to me. It's a privilege to be able to teach my students, to help them find success, to put their minds to work so that they can achieve their dreams. I don't see my teaching career as a means to a paycheck. Rather, I see it as an opportunity to make a difference in the world, one student at a time.

Dear Teresa,
I'm so excited for your upcoming adventures in teaching! As a fairly new educator, I remember vividly the thrill of seeing my classroom for the first time and digging through the possible literature we'd read over the year. However, there were some days as a new teacher that I had to remind myself that teaching is a job with a paycheck, just so I wouldn't take the downsides too personally. But I think you already picked up the key to happiness in the classroom: It's about those A-ha! moments kids have when concepts and skills make sense and work for them. For me, those lit up faces are what make teaching addictive. Have a great year. (And make the most of your 10 days left!)

-- Jessica

So why teach? There may be no good reasons to teach unless you are a dreamer in love. Really good teachers are always in love. It really does not matter what they love. They may love their subject. They may love teaching, or they may love being around their students. Whatever it is, it’s that love that gets them up in the morning. It’s that love that gives them a level of excitement that lasts all day and leaves them drained in the evening. If that love dies, what is left is ugly, often bitter, somewhat cynical, and always damaging to students.
The master teachers I have known and watched loved all three: their subject, the act of teaching, and their students. When asked why they taught, many of these teachers answered with the old clichés, “I do not teach science, history, English, etc., I teach students. Yes, I love my subject but it is only the vehicle for change and growth in my kids. If I teach it right, I can see it happen in front of my eyes.” These may be clichés, but they are clichés precisely because they are true.
Some folks spend their lives perfecting, building, and selling gizmos. Some folks like stockbrokers spend their lives selling and, maybe, delivering dreams. And some folks spend their lives making everything else work. Any one of these, and many more, may be wonderful ways to pass a lifetime, but none of them can hold a candle to helping to build a really fine human being. Everybody has moments of success, but teachers see it every time the kids’ eyes light up when they see and understand something they never saw and never understood before. Does it happen every day? No, but it happens often enough to keep the teacher coming back for more, or the teacher leaves and does something else for a lifetime.
Every now and then on a slow news day, the local paper runs a story about someone with lots of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It’s all about heirs. How many heirs does a teacher have? Certainly when I was raising my child, I passed on to her many of the ideas and attitudes that I had learned from my teachers. Equally certain is the fact that she added to them and changed them when she made them her own, but still, my teachers are there in her life. It’s just like DNA; modified and diluted but passed on from generation to generation. By the time they retires, every good teacher has hundreds of heirs.
Perhaps this is the best reason to teach. Teachers dream a better world and have a capacity to achieve that dream not for just one generation but certainly two and possibly three generations. There are others who can make that claim. Certainly parents do, but parents are limited by biology. Teachers are not. Scientists can make the claim, but only a few succeed. Virtually any teacher, even those forgotten or those you wish you could forget, can make the claim and have it be true.

I became a teacher because I wanted to give something back to a system that contributed to my personal development.I wanted to pass on what I learnt from my GREAT teachers.

I have been teaching for 33 years. It has just been in the last 10 that I feel I have reached into myself and used my potential. I have been fortunate to have opportunities that have made me more determined than ever to do all I can do while I am in education and to give my students the best that I have to offer. Good days or bad days, teacher need to look within themselves and make changes if they feel burned out. Something as simple as a new grade level can make a difference in your school year and your level of enthusiasm. Those of us who have been doing this for as long as I have do not necessarily see the need for traditional retirment.I hope I have 10 more good years. I would advise all teachers to look for travel opportunities, quality inservices,seminars and institutes to refresh and renew yorself by meeting other teachers, sharing your ideas and unburdening about those areas that frustrate you. Talking is a good thing!!Sharing is a good thing and who could understand better about anxieties and enthusiasms than a colleague!

I had great teachers and probably never appreciated their efforts more than I do today. I hope someone out there that was a student of mine will appreciate what I try to do each day and in turn become an educator who will want to do for their students.

It's nice to hear why people stay. My feelings are that if the superintendent isn't any good, then the principal won't back the teachers. You send a student to the office to be disciplined for something and if they come back smiling, you might as well pack your bags right there. Also, there are too many teachers who get into cliques. You go into the teacher's room at lunchtime, and there are only a few teachers. That is because other teachers know that those teachers gossip, and will definitely talk about you and others. And there are teachers who decide to get real comfy with the principal so they will have it easier. Unfortunately, it makes it harder on the other teachers. I have had both kinds of principals, and when they are bad, they are really bad. A teacher has it difficult enough without someone not backing them. I have taught in Japan, and the educational system is entirely different. In other words, it works. The students are respectful of the teacher and of other students, and when I taught adults for a company, the same feeling came through. Not to put a damper on things, but I do not really enjoy teaching in this country for the reasons mentioned above.

This upcoming school year will be my sixth year teaching and I was excited to have completed the fifth. Staying in this difficult, but enjoyably challenging field is not for administration; it's for the charismatic students that walk daily into the classroom not knowing what else they will learn on that day. I love to touch their minds and fill it with new knowledge. Districts help in giving us staff developments that enrich us with new ideas or help us think of different ways to modify what we have been doing all along. Speakers who sincerely support and praise our efforts help me stay another year to challenge and conquer all that comes with teaching successfully.

Barry's comments are very meaningful in terms of the general staffing problems that schools face. While the sentiments of those ultra-committed teachers who posted above are admirable (i.e.- "loving your content", doing something for the community, saving the kids), it is unrealistic to expect that we can find millions of highly qualified people who possess these traits. Instead, given the existing parameters of public schools, the change that would get more people to come to teaching and stay would be a dramatic change in student accountability. While higher pay would help (and I'm all for it:)), most honest people cite student behavior problems directly or indirectly as the source of their displeasure with teaching. People stay in teaching either because they don't face these issues to nearly the same degree because of grade level, content area, or school demographics, or because they need the money, or because they have the ability to function in this very challenging environment, or because they are simply very virtuous people. Having taught at several different schools, I have seen a direct correlation between student behavior and staff turnover. Unfortunately, most research and reports on this fail to address the need to address student accountability, and most people who quit teaching give politically correct reasons like "it's the bureaocracy" or "it's the paperwork", etc. But all of these issues pale in comparison to the stress that comes from having to deal with kids who won't behave or being held responsible for the academic failures of kids who aren't working very hard. As a person who is a student-advocate, while I agree that better teaching methods and classroom management skills are important and can help address some behavioral issues, schools could attract and keep many more teachers if they simply enforced meaningful consequences for inadequate student effort and behavior.

ps- see reports on KIPP charter schools. While these schools have unnecessarily harsh punishments, their ability to hold students accountable has created striking achievement gains and reduced teacher turnover.

I came to teaching as a second career after my children had left for college. I began teaching first grade in the first public Waldorf school and nearly quit when the class reached third grade. My principal helped me by combining my class for a few months with another class and I managed to stay through the fifth grade commitment. I then moved to the private school, teaching 7th and 8th grade for three years. I loved it and found out that I was a good teacher. In the public school I was constantly being told that I was lacking in teaching ability. No one cared that out of 25 kids 12 were special ed, many severely handicapped. I also realize now that little kids were not a good match for me and I am back in public school in a Gates funded small high school charter that is a teacher coop. No principal to tell you you did everything wrong and send the kid back to your classroom with a smile on their face as someone else mentioned. We handle the discipline and parents and students know there is noone to override us. It is really great. It is also extra work but worth it to have cohesion among the entire staff. I stay now because I love teaching and I love the group of dedicated teachers I work with. I feel like I am able to help my students learn and move on in the world. This post is a great idea.

Dear Chris Collier,
I'm sitting in my office in Texas right now, fretting over the materials/presentations I need to facilitate to 30+ new teachers in two weeks. It's all centered around effective visions, assessments and planning. At the center of it is continuously improving your practice. It was so inspiring to read what you wrote regarding teachers needing to look within themselves and make changes. That is exactly what I hope to convey to our new teachers: That the trick to success in anything is in being able to reflect back, identify the underlying factors, make the necessary changes, and then try again.

Thanks for the optimistic reminder.

Jessica

I have to comment on what Barry said. As a teacher, I agreed with everything you wrote. But your statements reflect the adults in education (teachers, parents, administrators) more than the kids. As a still-new administrator, I understand that the kid sent to the office has driven his/her teacher to the breaking point. But we forget that, especially at the elementary level, this kid is just that: a kid. Remember back to school night? At the elementary level, the problem kid shows up at Back to School with his parents and you realize the kid is doing pretty well all things considered. The parents are a bigger mess than their child. Our society is not Japan, although it might be good for our culture if it was.
Adminstrators don't mind being the tough guy. But we're here for the kids as well. Sometimes "one more chance" is the correct result of our disciplinary actions. At least it shows to the family that we want to be fair. We adults spend lots of time with these little people and I can't think of a better way to spend a day. And we get paid, too! We in education are the luckiest people. Why do we stay? It has been said before: we love the kids. If that love is gone, this will be a tough job indeed. Time to look for another.

I stay because it is interesting to work with the material and figure out how to make it understandable and memorable to the students, because it is who I am. I am a born teacher. Even when I wasn't in a classroom, I was always teaching things to people. There are some people who stay and shouldn't because if they worked anywhere else they would actually have to do real work. They use the same handouts they've had for 20 or more years without even tweaking them. (They're still made with that weird purple ink that you don't even see any more.

Teresa has learned early what usually takes much more time to learn!
1. It's the response from students that makes it your career.

Also, in agreement and gleaned from other responses:

2. You learn how to use your personality to the greatest advantage.
3. Discipline is an individual technique - you learn how to handle students most effectively as a matter of survival and respect for your students. Once you have a reputation for rarely sending kids to the office, you know you've reached this point.
4. If you ever feel in a rut, like it's a 'routine,' you work harder to make it better and find a new, fun way.
5. You accept that every year the problems will be the same. It's the nature of the beast (or age group).
6. You share anything with other teachers; you don't hoard great lessons OR materials.
7. You remember why we are all there: not to compete, not to be 'superteacher'. You are there for kids and you know you have the talent to reach them.
8. And most important: you realize you are actually 'contributing'!

I'm in a second career after retiring and I miss the kids and the belly laughs. You never laugh the same way as you do with kids.


I am a "new" teacher and my motivation for becoming an educator after building a successful 12-year long investment banking career stems from an intrinsic desire to see other people, particularly children and young adults, have opportunities for success in their own lives. No industry is without its struggles, but I genuinely feel that my primary objective is to help others learn, help them love to learn, and to continue learning myself. If I find that I have helped even just a handful of students, then I'm committed to the ride, no matter how bumpy it may be at times!

Despite a difficult first year last year, I'm coming back. I heard comments such as, "If I'd been through what you have this year I don't think I'd be back." Besides the fact that I love teaching, I'll give three reasons as to why I plan on continue teaching. One, I expected that it would be difficult. Two, I had great support from my administration and other staff at my school. And three, I followed the advice of many experienced teachers - I took time out for myself and my family.

Everything revolves around attitude. Teachers must feel like the choices they made to bring them into a classroom were the right ones. It takes years to acquire the education to be certified to teach, and when teachers go into schools where the negative attitudes of administrators, parents, and many students devalue their choice and their commitment, it makes many educators reflect to see if the "positives" outweigh the "negatives." We need enthusiastic teachers who have a passion for education, and we need adults, whether that be administrators, other teachers, or parents, to support our vision and our desire to help children achieve their dreams. By helping students do this, teachers achieve their dreams. Without dreams and goals, one loses the desire to continue down the same path, and it is only natural to want to switch paths in order to feel like your life's work is worth something and valued by others.

I was a secondary teacher for almost 38 years. My philosophy was to treat each student fairly and assist them in receiving the best quality education. I was passionate about the subject matter and each student's success. I know I made a difference in so many young people's lives. The reward - a thank you. I now teach at the post-secondary level two classes for new teachers. I still love to teach with the same passion and excitement.

There are many reasons I stay in teaching today, though that was not always the case. My first year of teaching was such a nightmare it took me nearly 10 years to get the courage to step back into the classroom, and my second year wasn't much better. Reasons I were miserable can be boiled down to a few points: student behavior problems, lack of administrative support, lack of curriculum materials, etc. Most of it boiled down to lack of confidence in my own abilities.

My husband convinced me to give teaching one more year before quitting, and it is the best thing anyone has ever done for me. I was determined that I would not fail again. I took a teaching position at a new school near my house. The school was a charter school and offered me many opportunities to grow professionally. I was allowed to attend a number of professional development trainings, to participate in committees, to work with mentor teachers, etc. I was able to take the areas I was weakest in and turn them around, particularly in the area of discipline. I am now considered one of the best teachers in my school and am a behavior specialist who assists other teachers in managing classroom and individual student behaviors.

Entering into my 8th year of teaching, I cannot imagine doing anything else. I will likely end up being one of those teachers who say, "You'll have to pry the chalk from my cold, dead hands before I give up teaching." Like some of the previous people who posted here, it has not only been my successes (many of my special education students now have better grade point averages and standardized test scores than their general education peers)nthat keep me coming back. I come back for my failures and the opportunities to be a better teacher, to reach that student that no one else wants and that I haven't quite won over yet. I also changed grade levels and moved from elementary school to teaching middle school and high school (the advantages of being a special education teacher with a K-12 credential) to ward off burn out and to make sure I had new challenges to face. I got involved with committees and got to know the administration and school board in order to help bring about change in the areas that needed change (or at least to try). I got to know the other teachers, the parents, the students and developed personal relationships which has increased my satisfaction.

Today, I am one of those teachers that needs teaching as much as I need to breathe. I lie awake at night thinking about my classroom and my students. I had my year-long plan for next year done 2 weeks after school let out. I have already been in contact with my paraprofessional to discuss changes we want to make in the class next year. Several of my students have called me over the summer. I can't wait for this year to begin, or the next, or the next....

Reading all these comments about why teachers stay has been very educational for me. I am a senior working towards my bachelor's degree in early childhood who will graduate in 2008. I am also 54 years old and currently teach prek under Head Start and Bright from the Start. Although I am not in a public school setting yet, I understand most of the comments made. I have seen that light turn on in younger students when they finally "got it" or when they have reached a milestone in their learning and are now ready to move on to the next goal. I am also very familiar with behavior problems that can wreck a well-planned lesson and administrators who really don't have a clue about what takes place in the classroom on a daily basis and those who are not supportive of their teachers. I too get discouraged when I think about the other problems--- accountability, too much paperwork/testing, not enough time, and most importantly, knowing there were some I could not reach. I've seen all this and I haven't reached public school yet!

But even with that being said, I still get excited when I think about "my kids and my classroom." There is no other job I can think of that gives me more satisfaction, that keeps me on my toes-thinking, reflecting, debating, discussing, and agonizing over what my next move is. It's not a job for the faint at heart because to be a teacher is an estimable goal, but to be an "effective" teacher means dealing with all the "baggage" previously discussed and so much more. As a soon-to-be-graduate entering the public school domain, I chose to enter teaching at this stage in my life because I finally found something that gives my life meaning and purpose. I understand that the need is great, the rewards are limitless (the students' learning) and that recognition often comes too little, too late. I also understand that it must be done if there is to be a future for our children.

For all the teachers who have gone home to rest, I say thank you for your efforts and we, new teachers (young and old) will pick up the baton and move forward. Thanks to your insight, we will be better prepared for what lies ahead. And also thanks to all of you who took the time to respond. Your feelings about why you stay are invaluable to me reminding me of the highs and lows of teaching. Please do not stop sharing your experiences. Something great is already happening as a result---others are listening, learning and reflecting!

I'm entering my 14th year of teaching, having begun teaching at the preschool level. I returned to college in my late 40s, and finished my BA a month before I turned 50. I am an elementary teacher, having taught third and fifth grade. Every year is like a brand new job. Every day is different. The A-HA moments are priceless, and they happen often. I absolutely love my profession, even though I could be earning much more money had I stayed with the newspaper where I was a feature writer. Few people enter the profession expecting to get rich.
Anyhow, teachers are worth so much more than what we are paid, especially in preschool and elementary school. We provide consistency for many students who have disjointed homes; we provide meals for many students whose families cannot afford three square meals a day. We educate our students, grow with them, and love them. Every year, at least one student, embarassingly covering his or her mouth, say "Oops. I forgot and called you Mom [or Grandma]." A shy smile, a tentative giggle, and a twinkle or two in each eye, the student will look around to see if anyone else noticed. Those are beautiful moments. What other profession can give so much satisfaction?
On the more difficult days, I often think about the end "product" ... our kids. Most of my preschool students are out of college, married, and have started a family. Some of them are now my colleagues because they, too, are teachers in my district. I could be teaching the next president, the next explorer, the next great artist, the next great author, the next doctor in my town, or my next "boss," (principal, superintendent).
Of course there are some who do not make it and it hurts to see my former 5th graders make poor choices in later years. Yet, I know that my influence on them, at least for a time, could be enough to help them change their ways. I'll probably never know for sure, but when a former daycare student or preschool student sends me a wedding invitation, I realize I did something right. And, I will come back for another year as long as I can stay a step ahead of my little cherubs.

I have been in the field of Education for 29 years. The most rewarding part of teaching is the opportunity to develop strong relationships with students; to work with them through their struggles and celebrate with them in their accomplishments.

I also love the profession because it offers so much variety and so many opportunities. I have taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, and have experience in both special education: LD/EBD, and regular education. I have had opportunities to teach in the Caribbean and for a summer in Taiwan. I have been involved with professional development for teachers in my state for 20 years, and teach graduate classes as an adjunct for two universities. I have worked for a number of principals who, in my opinion, set the tone for the school. My most satisfying, energizing, and challenging years have been those in buildings where there were not only good relationships with students, but also with staff and administration. If you do not have staff cohesiveness and administrative support, teaching can be a pretty grueling experience.

This year, after three years in such a high school, I have decided to transfer to another school in the same urban district. I am pumped and ready to go!

Hello everyone,
I subscribe to this newsletter because i read everything about teaching I possibly can. I graduated a year and a half ago, I studied economics and loved it, but I always wanted to be a math teacher. I sort of messed up and had some life lessons to learn while in college. As a result, I never had the GPA to be an education major until my final semester when I graduated. Ive always known I belong in a classroom. I have since been in "the real world" since graduating, and I believe I will not like any other professional career in the world aside from teaching. I am now researching colleges and alternative licensure programs to finally be a teacher in a few years or so. After reading all these comments about why teachers stay, I have to say that I am truly inspired. Those of you who simply do it for the love of it, and feel it is your purpose in your life--could bring tears to my eyes. I feel that same calling. I always thought that no one can be taught how to be a teacher. I think if you have it in you, you know it all along. It is teachers like you that made me love school so much and develop a passion for learning. It is also teachers like you that made me want to do the same in the world.

It is truely inspiring to read the comments of so many teachers about why they stay in the teaching field. I've been teaching for 17 years and I still LOVE it! I get antsy every summer about 2-3 weeks before heading back to school, looking forward to being back in the classroom. I think my classroom is the place I feel most at home (ok, maybe the classroom is 2nd place to my home with my husband and children). There are several teachers in my building close to retirement age. It gets discouraging hearing them talk about how glad they will be to leave the profession. I understand working hard at something (teaching) and looking forward to a change, but I don't think I will ever look so forward to leaving education. I'm almost 47 now, just finished a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development, and am not working on a Principal's License. I hope to make a difference in education for many years to come.

I agree with everyone who mentioned that it has been the failures as well as the successes that keep us in the classroom. I am going into my 10th year of teaching and almost left after five years. I started in a one-year volunteer program (not TFA) and decided to teach for a few years afterwards because I had learned so much in the first year that I wanted a chance to do it better. Also, I was happier than I had ever been (although also more exhausted). After a few years I moved to public school because it was more in line with my values of equity, justice, and democracy, and to change levels and subjects. But at the end of five years I was frustrated by what I didn't know how to do--teach students to read--and I found that I completely disagreed with the lived goals of my dept--to teach information. I had some great PD but no one to go to to really help me figure out what to do to improve and teach the curriculum in a way that I believed made a difference. Isolation kills. What saved me then was a wonderful summers-only grad program that gave me those skills and opened up a new world, and let me keep putting it into practice during the year. Of course, through it all, I was happy in the classroom and loved the challenge of improving instruction and connecting with kids. Now I am starting another grad program--the point is that for me (and I believe I am not alone) continuous education and improvement is what I need so that I can keep getting better and living those values of equity, justice, and democracy--both feeling successful and getting new tools to address the failures. As a second point, refering to the previous comment, this program *will* lead to a Principal's license, and I wish that didn't have the stigma among teachers that it does. Is it so hard to believe that some people do it for "good" reasons? The people in my program and I want to pursue leadership to support teachers AND students in communities of learning where people want to be--I see schools as an incredible luxury of advanced civilization--for adults who want to earn a living teaching as well as for everyone who has a chance to get an education. Wanting to give that gift my best response has kept me in education, but my own personality and way of seeing things is leading me to a different role. I throw it out there that teachers who want their students to become lifelong learners might consider that is what their colleagues who seek further education and perhaps enter administration might be doing. Live and let live!

I'm entering my 5th year of teaching, but I already know this won't be the last, despite the odds not being in my favor. There is nothing better than the relationships I have developed with my students over the years. This year, the first class of students I ever taught will be graduating from high school, and I will be there in the front row when they do. I don't think there's any job as important as this one--what else could you do and still have such a far reaching and long lasting impact? I hope my students read this some day, because as much as I have been given thanks, it is I who am truly humbled to say thank you to them.

People teach because they have a desire to make a positive change in the lives of all those they come in contact with. If a teacher has "issues" with their colleagues then the children suffer, but those of us who go to work each morning for the right reasons, to make a positive difference, then all the other petty garbage doesn't matter. So if you're all caught up in district politics and you participate in the local gossip, find another job! Teaching is the most fullfilling,rewarding job there is and if you feel passionate about what you're doing then you're one of the chosen few! God Bless the Educators of America!!!

What set of recommendations would you justify to those teachers who stay?

Emelda,
Are you wondering what sort of recommendations we would have for teachers who decide to stay? Or do you mean what schools/administrators should do to make teachers stay? Looking forward to posing your question to the community!
Jessica

I am wondering what sort of recommendations we would have for teachers who decide to stay.

Jessica:

Glad to see you are continuing with the blog. I will encourage our new teachers to refer to it. Always contains valuable insights and useful information for those new to the profession. Best of luck with your new challenges.

This month I celebrate 40 years as a teacher. The journey has been varied - 8 countries, primary and secondary, teacher/administrator/teacher educator/consultant, but there has never been a year where I did not spend real time with real kids in real classrooms.

Trying to explain why I "stayed" would involve a more lengthy response but I can mention a couple of things that are foremost in my mind.

1. To see authentic learning take place and to have played a role in helping to construct that learning is one of the most exciting, self-fulfilling experiences in life. You get out of most experiences an amount proportionate to what you put into them. Teaching is one of those rare areas where you get so much more.

2. Teaching requires passion and life is infinitely more full when there is a healthy supply of passion. Teaching not only requires it, but daily provides the lesson that passion (or lack of it) cannot be faked. It is communicated automatically in body language, voice inflection, gestures, and chosen words. (Students of any age are incredibly perceptive.)

Thinking back on 40 years is scary in some respects, but I am not done yet. Hopefully, I've got a long way to 'stay'!

I am conducting a research study for a nationally renowned educational speaker on teacher retention. His question for me, as the researcher, is "Why do teachers stay?" - specifically 3rd-5th year teachers. Since the dropout rate among new teachers is so high after the 3rd year of teaching and more after the 5th year. I would appreciate any 3rd-5th year teachers out there to tell me why you stay. Also, any teachers with more experience, why you stayed after completing your 3rd or 5th year of teaching.

Thank you for your responses! I'll be following the blog!

Next Thursday will represent my 17th year in yet another 'low performing' school. Yes the children are very naughty,(disrespectful yada, yada). We are a small school so we struggle with funding. We are waiting for appropriate and cultrally relivant staff development. We continually search to find ways to encourage parents to participate in their children's educational journey.
I tutor after school, I make home visits, I work 10 -12 hours just to crank out the days and weeks. Urban schools are NO JOKE!! My paycheck is enough to pay the housenote and buy the playdoh that the children love so much. I have friends who say they would never do this job and co-workers who can't wait to get out.
Yet, for the rest of my life, I will teach! I can not understand yet why mucus on my skirt is a part of the educational forum, but it is!! I am perplexed yearly by kinder students who talk about sex. I laugh and cry DAILY about the things the 21st children think and are never ashamed to say!!
This job has never yielded me one boring day. I am challenged daily to use all of my brain, all of my heart and all of my soul to help a younger nation grow and succeed on ANY level.
I stay in this profession because at Open House my ex-kinder student who is 9th grade, came by to see "if the rocking chair he sat in was still in my class." It was a reaffirmation of sorts (I guess) for him to say, "I was here" and you're still here, Teacher!! He spoke of all the things he had done and all that he intended to do, and I retold his Kinder story to him, as he smiled a 'big boy's' smile.
He is the pride of my success. His visit and sharing of his success makes the mucus on my skirt worthwhile; the paycheck a fortune and hurls me to the stratisphere as the most powerful person among a group of the worlds most powerful and passionate people. Teachers!!!
I stay for all of the reasons listed by all of the other teachers. I have learned to live on a little and beg big!! I know how to discipline little people without the rod of correction! I care when the world rapes and hurts our babies because the world often times doesn't care, especially when it comes to children of color and poor children.
I have learned after 17 years that the reasons for staying come in the visits of those who have left my classroom; from parents who have said,"if it weren't for you"; from the lipstick (used of course) that came to me as a Christmas gift; from the hugs after the children have left the restroom and did not wash their hands like I told them to. It is these things that fill my life, my heart, and my conversations. My teaching is my purpose in this life and there are times when I feel I was created to nothing but TEACH. There will never be enough money to replace what only the children can give to us as teachers.
Let the rest of world sit behind that desk and look at the computer screen. The kids and I will be on the city bus headed for the zoo by November!!!
I am staying!!!

I am a 21 year teacher that loves the classroom. Although I have the training and have had opportunities to be out of the classroom, I know that is where I make a difference. I did not, however, encourage either of my own children to go into teaching. There is not the respect for us as there was once and the pay is not what it should be.( It has been a great 2nd income) There are dangers now that were not there when I began and there are more hoops to jump through.I now teach to a test more than I did before.Much of the creativity and flexibility of the classroom has changed. I do feel I was "called" as corny as that sounds. I went into this with a background of a B.a. in Social work and feel it served me well.A good teacher touches lives more than books. I would not trade my experiences for the world yet I am glad I can see retirement in the next few years.

I've been a teacher for a total of 10 years over the course of 17 years. I've also done other work. I've been a printer and I've also owned my own business doing check cashing and wire transfers. I even went to law school for about 1 year.

I've come back to teaching at least twice after having done other work because it is a dependable source for employment. It is very tiring work, but it also has its advantages.

The students can be a lot of fun. Sometimes the subject can be a lot of fun. The independence in the classroom to choose how I will do my job is something I enjoy very much. The vacation breaks are really nice. Even though about 1/3 of vacation is recuperation time from school and another 1/3 is preparation time for upcoming classes, it's still nice to be able to plan my own time.

I think that if a person wants to remain in teaching for a long time there are some things you can do to help yourself make it.

1. Don't take it all too seriously. Understand that while you can certainly help lots of students, you can't save them all. I think that if you have a messiah complex as a teacher, you will burn out very fast because you’ll get depressed by much of what you see going on around you that you cannot control. And it’s OK to not feel guilty about not being the “messiah” type teacher.

2. Learn to be a good classroom manager. Nothing makes it more difficult to teach well than to be constantly having to be attending to discipline problems.

3. Learn to be organized and learn to set priorities. You will realize the virtue of this at the end of each grading period.

4. Maintain appropriate boundaries. Keep your work life at work at much as possible and keep your home life at home as much possible. Remember that while you may be a role model for students, you are NOT their parent. Respect that boundary and don’t cross it. You can’t save every student, but you can certainly help many of them.

5. Learn to ignore and remain unaffected by faculty gossip, complaining, and negative comments. At every school I have ever taught at (2 middle schools, 3 high schools, 1 semester of substitute teaching) there was always an abundance of this. Stay out of it. Most comments of this type only distract you from your job, which is teaching, and drains your energy. Sometimes, it’s tough to do and you have to work at it every day, but it’s worth it.

6. If you love your subject matter, learn as much as you can about it, because that’s how you will best be able to help your students.

7. If you don’t love your subject matter, admit that to yourself. Then work on getting endorsed in a subject matter you will love.

8. Don’t worry too much or get too upset about unsupportive principals or administrators. I’ve found that unsupportive or incompetent administrators are common. Many are people who are fleeing the classroom or who wanted to increase their salaries or whose primary interest is climbing the career ladder. And if you work in schools in low-income neighborhoods, unsupportive administrators are even more common. Sometimes, the principal will move on before you do.

9. Make a regular habit of questioning the educational fad and the educational jargon of the moment. Many ideas that have not been well thought out and that lack scientific evidence get shoved on teachers on a regular basis. Having to incorporate much of this nonsense only makes your job harder and unsettles students. Listen, but question, and ask for evidence before you completely revamp all your lessons.

10. Develop your own personal philosophy of teaching. Think about and decide what being a teacher means to you. Then live by your philosophy. That will help sustain you in the trying times no matter what is going on around you.

11. Define clearly for yourself why you are a teacher. Be brutally honest with yourself. If you’re there for the paycheck, admit that and learn to forgive yourself for not being the virtuous, “I’m only here for the kids,” savior type of teacher. Not all people can or want to be that. And don’t pretend that you are if you aren’t. Understand that it’s still possible to be a very good teacher even if you’re not the teacher who lives his/her entire life for the students and the school.

12. Take a break when you need it. Maybe you just need an extra 2 or 3 minutes to catch your breath. Maybe you need an unexpected one-day mental health break. Make you need a one-year sabbatical. Only you’ll know. But take the break when you need it. Rest.

13. Let students learn from their mistakes. Don’t save them. Allow them to live with the consequences of their actions. Be there, but don’t shield them from results of their choices. Many times, this is the best instruction you can offer because many students don’t seem to have the opportunity for this experience at home.

14. Always work at improving how you teach.

15. Know yourself. Know your boundaries and limits. Know your own values. Know where your boundaries, limits and values coincide with the ones in teaching and which ones don’t. Then, adjust and adapt accordingly.

16. Finally, understand that you really don’t have control over anyone except yourself. You can’t make anyone do anything they really don’t want to do.

Sometimes what we perceive as unsupportive administration is a result of society not being willing to fund a first-class education system. This is why some programs are poorly implemented and why sufficient training is lacking. There just aren't enough funds to do it all the way we would like it to be done. Also, excessive paperwork is a product of our litigous society. If we want a better system, we need to get parents (and ourselves) to pay more taxes!

I have taken some time off right now to continue my studies but when I enter the the classroom I will keep in mind the comments of the teachers that I have read. It truly is important to remember that children are counting on us to make a difference in their life. We prepare ourselves with education and ideas. We enter the classroom ready to make a difference because we are ready for the challenge ahead.

Now you make it straightforward for me to understand and this.

Hehe, gonna try this out. Yeah, helped me alot, really. Thank you for the post., RSS upped.

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