5 Less Talked About Reasons Why Teachers Quit

by | Teacher Inspiration, Learning

I quit teaching in 2010. I guess you can say I am a trial blazer. It’s not something I am particularly proud of. I mean it’s not something I wear as a badge of honor. It’s sad that teachers quit, but it’s also sad that they feel they have to stay even though they want to quit.

It’s complicated and it’s sad that teachers quit. It’s even sadder that people are still not listening.

I believe in school. More specifically I believe there is a need for public schools. I just don’t believe teachers should be subjected to what the profession has become for many teachers- even some of the ones in less traditional settings.  

I am not out here advocating teachers quit their careers. Please understand that.  I feel the need to make it clear, however, I am also not advocating for teachers to stay in situations where it does not serve them. Period!

For many teachers, their job as a teacher has become a liability to their health and/or way of life. As a result of that, I do want to help empower teachers who feel the need to leave the profession to do just that without shame and guilt. I wrote about that in a recent article entitled Quitting Teaching Hurts.

It is my goal to inspire those who feel like education is the only career for them to stay in the field by starting their own small schools. I wrote about how to do just that here.

In this blog, I want to chat a little about why teachers quit. I did it for all the reasons teachers are citing now. However, in all honesty, I don’t think teachers quit for just one reason. Often, we’re struggling with multiple challenges that lead to us finally walking away.

Another sad part about The Great Teacher Resignation is that I don’t think many people are stopping to understand the issues surrounding so many teachers leaving the teaching profession. Teaching can be so isolating. Often I think teachers themselves are just now seeing it’s not just “them,” but, many teachers, leaving for so many reasons.

I had the opportunity to ask a few thousand teachers why they quit teaching. Here are a few of the explanations that stuck out to me.

Why Teachers Quit Teaching

1. Lack of all the things. 

I love the way this teacher put it.

“I resigned at the end of last year with 16 years of experience. In all honesty, I don’t think that anyone who “walks away” from teaching leaves for just one reason. Often, we’re struggling with multiple challenges, and it becomes too much to take. I considered leaving for several years before I finally made the leap. Here were my top 5 reasons for taking a break:

  • Lack of accountability for student behavior. 
  • Lack of accountability for admin who doesn’t support their teachers. 
  • Lack of accountability for parents who refuse to parent their children.
  • Physical and mental health. 
  • And I’d like to know what it’s like to be treated like an adult at work because too often we are held to the same expectations as the kids- just wanna use the bathroom!”

If that isn’t painful to read, I don’t know what is. Some teachers feel like there is NO difference between themselves and their students when it comes down to it. 

There has been a running joke in the teaching profession for years that teachers have weakened bladders. That is because we often hold it because you can’t just up and leave your kids unattended.  It’s even harder for elementary teachers.

No lie!! I witnessed a teacher friend of mine pee herself right in the middle of the classroom we shared. She got tickled and couldn’t hold it. She told me that she would kill me if I ever said a word.

Moving on…

2. Teachers quit because there’s not enough of them to go around.

Reasons why teachers quit

“It’s never any one thing when someone leaves a career. But for me, it boiled down to the fact that the kids who call me “Mom” got the least of me.”

I have NEVER read something sadder and I can hold heartily relate. This was one of the main factors for my quitting teaching. I knew I couldn’t do the job the way I’ve always done it and be the mother that I wanted to be. 

So, I quit teaching!

3. Teachers quit because the breaks aren’t enough.

“I am still currently teaching but am considering leaving the profession after this school year if the right opportunity comes along. I like the breaks, but sometimes it’s just not worth the hassle. I am considering leaving because it’s all about numbers now – not the kids. We are told what and how to teach. The new rules, laws, and regulations placed on us are becoming increasingly difficult to follow. The pay is far too low. Teachers are not respected. School is a place to send kids so parents can work (at least in my district). kids are becoming more unruly (I teach high school). You can’t stand up for yourself….the list is very long.”

At the end of the day, we love the kids so we stay. I would have left this year but our district has a very very large shortage of teachers and I feel bad for the kids. Also, the holiday and summer breaks are awesome, but when it comes down to it they are not enough.

Even some of the most treasured benefits, summer and holiday breaks are simply not enough. Many teachers use that same time not to rest, but to get caught up or try to stay ahead of all they need to do. Really, it’s no longer a break. We are just working from home.

4. There is little opportunity for career advancement. 

“I didn’t want to be a principal and saw no path to career growth.”

Yikes! I never really thought about this one and never heard a teacher cite this. But it makes perfect sense. 

My husband is in the corporate world. When we were first married, for about two years I made more money than him and had a leadership title. After about two years, my husband climbed the corporate ladder pretty fast. And I will not compare how much he made five years into his career compared to what I would even max out at, but it’s sad. 

As much as I LOVE teaching and being a teacher before I ever stepped foot inside of a classroom I knew I would not spend my entire career in the classroom. At least I didn’t want to. I knew I eventually wanted to be the Director of a Special Education Program. 

However, I am sure that I am not the only teacher who has this goal. But, there is only one Director of Special Education position at any given school. Not everyone or even close to it can get that position. And not that it’s about money, however, the least that could be done for teachers is to ensure we are paid well. In this way, it will cut down on the number of people who pursue leadership because they need more money. 

reasons why teachers quit

5. Education has become a business.

“For me, the school has become more of a business where the customer is always right. I am tired of fighting for what kids need and then being told to do what parents want anyway. I miss the feeling of being in charge of how and what I teach. I taught for 26 years…at the end of this year, I left and have 4 weeks in on my new job. I have had more accolades in those 4 weeks than in many years of teaching. That isn’t why I was teaching, but it sure makes you want to do your best when people acknowledge your work. The last thing that made me want to leave is the lack of help we got with kids coming in 2 years behind because of COVID, but we were still expected to get them to where they should be in one year’s time. The expectations of being “on” 24-7 are also unsustainable. Now, I get to come home after work and do what I want to do instead of doing more work. Such a different feeling!”

Where do I start?! I don’t even know if I need to provide commentary here. “School has become… a business where the customer is always right.” Let that sit.

Parents play a vital part in their child’s education. However, why enlist the help of an “expert” if you are going to dictate what they do, how, and when they do it? If a parent wants that much control of their child’s education they should be homeschooling. Simple!

Teachers are not emotionless robots to be programmed to perform a script and be “on 24-7.” We are human and teaching is an art as much as it is a science and learning is as much about academic tasks as it is about socializing or taking a break and being free to do “off task” things. 

Wrap-up

Our education system, much like other institutions in our society, is in crisis. The sad part is that it’s not just in crisis because many devoted teachers are quitting. It is in crisis because it is literally falling apart.

I honestly believe teachers quitting is the only thing that can save it. But that is only if the powers-to-be listens and make the necessary adjustments needed.

The American education system is old and long outdated. We live in a different time and our education system has failed to grow and evolve with the times. It is now imploding. 

Instead of embracing this reality, the powers that be are fighting to keep it the same. People who once fought for public education, have to really rethink what they are fighting for. Public education was once seen as the place where a poor child could get the knowledge and academic skills needed to change her life. I can’t wholeheartedly say I believe that across the board anymore. I do, however, believe we need public education.

Teachers quit, but many like me also start their own smaller schools because we understand this to be a sad reality too. So we run small affordable schools to give options to those who have few options.

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