I know this topic has been discussed before, but I wanted to pass on
some articles about "teacher burnout" and "teachers who quit".
Along with these two links is my response to the "Why so many good
teachers quit" article.
How would you deal with these issues as an art teacher?
I just wanted to respond to your article in today's June 24th) IJ.
Here I sit writing you on my 54th birthday. I will be going into my 5th
year of teaching at Pinole Valley High School this coming year. Last
month I graduated with my MA in Education; Teaching, Learning and
Curriculum from SSU. As you can tell I made a mid-life career
change. I was first hired to teach photography (I was a commercial
photographer for 25 years). Then they dumped yearbook on me two days
before the start of my second year, then the third year they added
I work in a "dysfunctional professional support system". It's amazing
to see the "Peter Principle" alive and well in public education. In
observing many different professions through my career as a photography
I have come to realize that education is one of the most unprofessional
professional I have observed.
A classic example happened the week before school ended. I was telling
my principal that I did quite enough and that family, personal health
and well being came before teaching (she is always saying I could /
should do more, she's a workaholic). I told her I had 4 preps out of my
5 classes. Her response was "that's debatable". This comment and
attitude is not an isolated incident. I could go on with more stories
like this for a long time. Perhaps clueless administrators should be
required to take a sensitivity training seminar as to how to respect,
treat and retain teachers. The "Peter Principle" alive and well in
In their defense though... it seems like administration (these days at
my school at least) go from putting out one fire after another that is
many times politically charged. Between that and the "all mighty" test
scores" there is little time for actual attention to education
itself. Their job is that of crisis management.
My Dad was a Principal in the 70's to mid 80's. When he retired 13
other teachers retired at the same time. They waited for him to go out
and they went out with him. The end of an era. I think this is unlikely
to happen in todays public educational times and most certainly will
not happen in my school.
I too feel the pains of working in education, more so where I teach
than seeing what goes on in Marin. How I wish I could work here in
Marin. When I've gone to visit schools here and interviewed (so far
unsuccessfully) I feel a light airiness of mutual respect between
teachers students and administrators rather than the oppressive
environment of where I teach. In reading your article I think of the
mailing I got from my school the other day. It listed 5 teachers and a
clerical staffer who either retired or took another job. I'm sure for
the most part they would have stayed if the administration and school
environment were different. So many teachers say the school was so much
better ten years ago... ah the good old days.
What you wrote in your article is so true. If education is to improve
school, the district, administration needs to respect and support the
teaching staff. There was a strike this spring over pay by a
neighboring district and our district just authorized a strike
vote. The situation for me has become very demoralizing. I love the
kids, love to teach, hate the administration and bureaucracy. I didn't
switch careers at this stage of my life to become stressed out and be
demoralized. I'm starting to think perhaps I should rethink my career
change, even though this is what I really want to do.
I just thought you'd be interested in a response from the trenches of a
teacher. I don't mean to complain or vent, just support your argument
in your article.
Mark Phillips: Why so many good teachers quit
Article Launched: 06/23/2007 11:08:44 PM PDT
IT'S SUMMER break for teachers but, having read a report on the high
dropout rate of California teachers, I've been wondering how many of
our best ones won't return this fall. This should concern everyone
committed to quality public education.
The best elementary teacher I ever observed was Steve Kay, my son's
first-grade teacher in Santa Barbara. His classroom was a glorious
six-ring circus, well organized, stimulating, caring and challenging.
My son loved every day.
Despite being young, Steve was a legend among educators and parents. He
quit teaching two years later. With a wife and two children, he
couldn't afford to live in Santa Barbara on a teacher's salary and went
into his dad's construction business.
I wasn't nearly as legendary, but I was a good teacher. I, too, left
after a few years, in spite of loving the teens with whom I worked. My
decision wasn't primarily based on the low salary, although I took a
second job at a university and still ran up debts supporting a wife and
two children on $29,000. I left because I felt suffocated by having no
time between 8 and 4 to even collect my thoughts, frequently using the
38-minute lunch break to meet with students. And, spending hours at
weekends reading student papers and preparing lessons, I was neglecting
We all know there are teachers who should quit, some of whom don't
enjoy teaching. But 18,000 California teachers quit each year and a
large number of them are excellent teachers. One of the most critical
challenges in public education is this loss of first-rate teachers.
The most obvious reason is pay. Spending time and money on years of
education and training, knowing that you are doing excellent work in a
socially critical profession, and then making less than most blue
collar workers can eat away at your morale. Almost every teacher I know
in the Bay Area who has a family and whose spouse is not working full
time has a second job. Like Steve Kay, many finally decide they can't
Many good teachers quit for other reasons. They enter the profession
despite the pay because they enjoy working with kids, love their
subject and want to make a contribution to society.
They quit because they find the workload and working conditions
oppressive. They rarely have time for more than a five-minute break and
many use their lunch break to meet with students. They work with an
average of 125 students a day, many of whom are a continual challenge.
Increasingly, they spend much of their time preparing students for
state exams instead of focusing on what is most important and
Although they generally receive more administrative support than
teachers in most urban areas, Marin teachers are not immune from these
pressures. Many also report a high level of stress related to the
growing number of "at-risk" kids. More and more of these kids come from
dual working families that have little time to provide the support
children need. A far greater burden falls on teachers.
The combination of the increased needs of children and the increased
testing and paperwork pressures of No Child Left Behind is a lethal one
for many teachers. What started as exciting and meaningful work becomes
overwhelmingly stressful and unfulfilling.
Inadequate funding, across all school districts in California, still
places severe limitations on reducing class size and providing students
with emotional support services.
Additionally, many districts are more concerned with the stigma of low
test scores than they are with providing adequate support for teachers.
And while this may fall in the "so what else is new?" category, we all
have to keep the pressure on our policy makers to change the low
priority placed on money for public education and the high priority
placed on standardized tests. Until this happens, Marin too will
continue to lose many of its best teachers and the quality of education
will deteriorate rather than improve.
Mark Phillips of Woodacre is a professor of secondary education at San
Francisco State University.
By the way have you seen this article
Teachers not staying in the profession, report finds
Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
(06-20) 12:04 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- About 500,000 teachers across the
country give up on the profession every year -- a persistent churn and
burn that costs the public schools an estimated $7.3 billion annually,
according to a national report released today.
"Schools are able to hire enough teachers, but they just can't keep
them in the classroom," said Tom Carroll, president of the National
Commission on Teaching and America's Future, which conducted the study.
In San Francisco, the district spends an estimated $12 million to
recruit, hire and train new teachers each year to replace those who've
left, the researchers found.
The annual exodus is "draining resources, diminishing teaching quality,
and undermining our ability to close the student achievement gap,"
according to the report.
To stem the flow, districts must first determine the annual turnover
rate and then focus on hiring well-prepared teachers who have a clear
understanding of content, curriculum and how to manage a classroom,
And then, he added, they need mentoring and other support their first
The study analyzed five districts across the country, adding up all the
costs associated with replacing outgoing teachers, including staff time
spent interviewing, travel to recruitment fairs, professional
At the high end, Chicago spent nearly $18,000 on each of the 4,800
teachers who left every year.
Yet, in the much smaller community of Jemez Valley, N.M., the district
spent $4,366 on each departing teacher.