I’ve been a teacher for over fifteen years and in that time I’ve seen dozens and dozens of teachers start and end their careers. There is nothing better than listening to a teacher with over twenty-five years of experience talking about why they went into education and nothing worse than listening to someone new to the profession talking about why they are leaving it. I started thinking about what makes someone so successful as a teacher and what makes someone else struggle.
The amount of work that a teacher has on a daily and weekly basis can intimidate even the most organized person. Staying on top of planning and grading is only part of the challenge. Classroom management, behavior management, and parental communication also have to fit into a teacher’s routine. If a new teacher learns how to juggle all of these tasks successfully they will become a good educator.
A third to a half of new teachers are unprepared for this work-load and they struggle. Most of them will leave the profession and do something that pays more or is less stressful. Struggling teachers that do stay, either get help through a mentor or are denied tenure. At least this is what I hope.
Teachers work in urban schools, rural schools, suburban schools, and private schools and they discover that teaching and learning is different in every environment. Different teacher’s personalities are more successful in different surroundings. Someone who teaches honors classes will have to change techniques to work with a skills class and a skills teacher better be prepared for the challenges of honors students.
Some teachers who excel in one environment will struggle in another. High school is different than middle school, first grade is different than fourth grade, and every school building has its own personality. On occasion a teacher will be a good fit in one class and then be put in another class where they are less comfortable. This doesn’t mean they’re a bad teacher; they’re just not the best fit in all classes.
Unrealistic expectations and unfair evaluations are the final straw for many educators. With teachers being vilified by politicians and the media, many would-be teachers are rethinking the decision to teach and people who have been in the classroom for decades are looking to retire as soon as possible.
Teachers cannot control hunger, neglect, or abuse. They cannot make students do homework, classwork, or study for a test. They cannot make them take medication or stop taking illegal drugs. They can be prepared and give their heart and soul to a classroom and school. Despite what the media tells us, most teachers give 110% every day and are rarely thanked for it.