I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but there is a veritable exodus of teachers from the classroom this year.
The internet is rife with Op Eds and YouTube videos from great teachers leaving the classroom, every one of them citing a laundry list of legitimate, infuriating reasons for pulling the ripcord. These often-teary confessions fill me with a contrarian happiness as I too contemplate ditching 20 years of battle-scarred high school teaching in Southern California.
I’m curious to hear other grizzled vets explain what drove them from the profession, but I’m pretty sure I know: Nobody cares if we go.
Of course, there will be the requisite misty-eyed hugs and “But why?” cries from colleagues who have long ago nested in their curricular ruts and so can’t understand the professional’s desperate need to escape the cognitive dissonance tied to delivering excellent instruction for your students while also knowing the system will stymie him at every turn.
On YouTube yesterday, I saw teachers share a veritable smorgasbord of mental health-destroying reasons for their resignations:
- Capricious administrators? Check.
- Blatant censorship of student publications? Check.
- Physical violence against teachers? Check.
- Abusive parents allowed to harangue teachers? Check.
- Airpods? Check.
- Out-of-control classroom behavior? Check.
- Total lack of administrative support in classroom discipline? MULTIPLE CHECKS.
- Students who don’t care? Check, double check, triple check, quadruple check.
- Administrators asking teachers to violate their ethical commitment to honest grading? Check.
- Teachers fearful that classroom management might be considered “racist” and thus avoid disciplining? Check.
- Violence on campus against students unaddressed? Check.
- Substance abuse by students being ignored? Check.
- Substance abuse by teachers being ignored? Check.
- Quiet transfers of staff accused of inappropriate relationships? Check.
- Ineffective teachers allowed to rob kids of years of their lives without any repercussions as long as the teacher keeps her head down and doesn’t annoy the wrong administrator? Check that too.
I could go on, obviously. I’ll stop here though. What I’d love for you to do, though, is recognize that most of these complaints stem from a total lack of leadership. Strong leadership could nip these issues in the bud by sending a clear message to the malefactors that such behavior will not be tolerated, regardless of any past “trauma” being worked through. Most importantly, it would tell students present in the classroom for an actual education that they are valued. That their education matters. That their focus and attention and work ethic will be rewarded with thoughtful attention, corrective feedback and, best of all, growth.
Instead, we lavish resources on families who have amply demonstrated little interest in public school except for its role as daycare.
Where does the buck stop? Well, it stops in the classroom, with the teacher, and however much outrage he or she can handle before they quit in disgust. What else could make someone with a 185-day-a-year job want to crawl into the open arms of corporate America?
There’s the blatantly obvious fact that when a teacher resigns, nobody says, “You’re integral to the function of this school. What’s missing for you? How can we make it better? Can we adjust your hours? Can we pay you more? Is there a benefit we can offer you?”
Let’s say a principal wanted to tell a departing teacher all that. She couldn’t. It is legally prohibited by the contract. Besides, new teachers are much less expensive and, now, since we’re grading for “equity” it’s no longer necessary that teachers actually be effective in the classroom. Grades, we are told, must be controlled for past trauma, socioeconomic status, and willingness of parents to scream at administrative staff.
Teachers now, more than ever, are interchangeable cogs. The teachers unions, with their all-animals-are-equal step-and-column pay scales have ensured that. And with colleges pumping out thousands of deeply-indebted, poorly-educated liberal arts majors, there’s no supply chain problem to overcome. And those good little college graduates with their monthly loan payments are very, very compliant.
So, bye-bye to the rockstar teachers, the National Board Certified veteran, the economic historian who was the Swiss Army knife in our master schedule. But hey, there are leftover cookies in the break room from the end-of-year party you were too busy grading essays to attend. Take some. But be sure to throw away the rest before you leave.