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Unhappy And Exhausted Teachers: How And Why Everyone Is Affected

Written By: Robyn Shulman, M.Ed.

“Teaching is not a profession. It is a never-ending entry-level vocation, divorced from foundational understandings of training, accountability, and advancement. If we are to enact meaningful reform, we must rescue teaching from its status as vocation and volunteerism, and recast it as a profession of rigor, creativity, and unlimited impact.”

-From “Teaching in the 408”

According to Google Analytics for this site, the 3 most common phrases typed in via Google that bring readers to ED News Daily are the following:

Why did I become a teacher?
Companies that hire teachers?
How teachers can make more money?
Combining these 3 simple phrases brings me to the conclusion that we have many teachers who are unhappy, looking for work outside the classroom, lacking funds, and are ready to leave the field all together. Having taught for 5 years, and choosing to leave the profession myself, I am personally aware of the reasons why effective educators move on. There are vast reasons across the scale, however, the bottom line is the following: if we have teachers all over America who are seriously unhappy in their roles, we have a bigger problem: the students are suffering in both academic and non-academic ways. Numbers, statistics, blue ribbons and test scores deem themselves meaningless and do not provide a true picture of what is taking place daily. As humans, we project our feelings, emotions, and behaviors in every situation, and if our students know we don’t want to be in the classroom, why should they want to be there?

As education leaders, we set the tone, the mood, and deliver the expectations in the classroom on a daily basis. From the minute our kids walk into the classroom, the energy shared from the teacher sets the tone of the day, either positive or negative. Our non-verbal language sends messages in which we are not aware, and thus, travels to each and every student. I remember when I first started teaching, and saw the cover of the book, The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher, by Harry Wong. Quite vividly, a few pages into the book, I remember the image of him standing at the front door of his classroom, stressing a power smile and a handshake with each student. His smile never left my mind. Could I smile like that daily? I wasn’t sure?!

Facts about the education profession:

Teacher job satisfaction has dropped 15 points since 2009, from 59% who were very satisfied to 44% who are very satisfied, the lowest level in over 20 years.
Teachers with lower job satisfaction are more likely to report that in the last year they have seen increases in: average class size (70% vs. 53%), students and families needing health or social services (70% vs. 56%), students coming to school hungry (40% vs. 30%), students leaving.
One third (33 percent) of current public school teachers do not expect to be teaching in K-12 schools five years from now.
Nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years.
Reasons why teachers leave the profession:

New teachers cannot afford to pay back loans and sustain a middle class lifestyle
Poor working conditions
School bureaucracy is too difficult to deal with
NCLB and required test scores are deemed impossible to meet
Lack of support to meet the various needs of students (ESL, special education, gifted, etc.)
Lack of collaboration among teachers; feeling isolated
Compounding discipline problems with students
Underpaid and underfunded for resources
Simply exhausted with the responsibilities, lack of respect, and feeling that their job is not considered a profession, but rather a volunteer type of vocation without growth
Did you leave the profession? Do you plan to stay? Why or why not?


National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF). Retrieved from http://www.nctaf.org/NCTAFWhoWillTeach.pdf.pdf

MetLife Survey of American Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/contributions/foundation/american-teacher/MetLife-Teacher-Survey-2011.pdf

National Center for Education Profile of Teachers 2011. Retrieved from http://www.ncei.com/Profile_Teachers_US_2011.pdf



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