A couple of days ago, Liz Riggs for TheAtlantic.com posted an article called, "Why Do Teachers Quit" Ms. Riggs at great length runs through the typical list of factors that contribute to the turnover rate in the teaching profession. These factors include pay, working conditions, family, hours, and performance pressures. She quotes a variety of studies about the percentage of retention and turnover in beginning teachers but really fails to get beyond those superficial numbers.
Even though the subtitle of her piece is "And Why do they Stay", only one veteran teacher is quoted in the 28 paragraph article. The only reason that Ms. Riggs gives for teacher's committing to the profession is dedication to students. While helping students succeed is a vital portion of the passion for great teachers, there are many other professional components that keep us in the game. And Ms. Riggs fails to get to them.
As Ms. Riggs points out that 40% to 50% of teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years, there is no mention to the quality of those exiting the profession. How did those individuals do in the teacher preparatory courses? There are doctors with medical licenses that graduated at the bottom of their class, would you want them to be your surgeon? My point is that if we want to elevate the profession the recruitment, selection, and preparation of teaching candidates needs to be greatly improved.
This is one of the major reasons I stay in the game. I feel like that not only can I benefit students, but I also feel a duty to give back to the profession. A caretaker so to speak and to maybe make it a bit better than when I found it. Much like doctors and lawyers have a responsibility to patients and clients, they also have a duty to future doctors and lawyers. In teaching, I don't know if we always think in this way. We mentor and share, but it's more than that. Do we innovate and seek better tools to help all teachers? Are we concerned with all students or just the ones in our classroom, school or district?
I stay in the game to keep making the world a better place. I could have done other things. I could have contributed in other ways, but when it comes down to it, the largest contribution I can make to society is to teach. How do you quantify that? How do you pay someone for that contribution?
So as Ms. Riggs says, "the revolving door of teacher turnover is a problem that affects students and entire schools", but that doesn't have to be the end of the story. Communities, individuals and schools can work together to fix these issues. Committed educators are out there. Don't give up searching. The right people will come. And the key to retention in any industry is "attract good people and you would keep them". I think we keep the good people; we just need more goods.