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America is dealing with one of the worst education crises in history. As of right now, our country's ability to compete with others on an international level is in freefall.
Schools have lower standards than ever before. They are far less safe than they were in the days of yore. Students are committing suicide in record numbers. And despite the high demand for their skills and certifications, teachers are quitting education in droves.
Honestly, we can't blame our educators for leaving school systems. When you realize how much they have to put up with, it'll seem like a miracle that we have any left.
What can we do to help our schools out? Well, it's not easy. Unless we make these reasons for quitting teaching careers go away, our school systems will continue to suffer.
Teachers are no longer allowed to discipline students as they see fit—or even fairly grade them, in many cases.
Most parents remember having teachers who had every right to send kids to the principal's office, hand them detention, or even advocate for their expulsion. They also remember the fact that grades were pretty much immutable when they were growing up.
These days, it's not so simple.
Heavy parental complaints and administration-imposed graduation quotas mean that students often end up getting away with a lot more transgressions than before. If teachers won't look the other way, they could end up being fired due to the sheer amount of politics in the modern school system.
The most damning evidence of this happens with graduation quotas. Some students just won't learn. Back in the day, this meant that they would fail. Students that once would have failed out are no longer allowed to fail without serious paperwork being involved.
To keep their schools looking good and to keep the government funding they get, teachers and admins will bend to pressure and pass those students with a "D."
Imagine working in a system where your clients get worse and worse as years pass. Imagine being punished for properly doing your job. Wouldn't you want to leave? This alone is a primary reason why teachers are quitting education.
The pay is pretty terrible in many cases.
It's no secret that teachers are grossly underpaid in most school districts, but people don't actually realize how bad it can get. In Oklahoma, teachers had to protest in order to obtain a living wage—asnd that's not the only place in the country where this has happened, either.
Though the national average for public school teachers' salaries was a very decent $56,736, many districts don't have the kind of funding needed to support their educators. In many states, the average public school teacher salary tends to be under $40,000 a year.
The starting salary is a paltry $38,000 on average. It takes ten years of experience to get the respectable salaries that are advertised. What most people don't realize is that most teachers leave the teaching profession before they get that amount of experience.
That amount of money isn't always capable of supporting a family, or even a single person in certain situations. When you combine low wages with bad benefits that are now vanishing, it's an ugly look.
The administrative side of teaching is killing class time.
We now have the strictest, most rigid set of standards that teachers have to follow in order to do their job. This was done with the hope that children would benefit from a better education that would be even across the board.
What ended up happening was that teachers became increasingly burdened by paperwork and forced to teach around standardized tests. It pretty much ruined teachers' ability to teach children things the way that makes sense for their classroom.
The end result is an education standard that has become increasingly bare-bones and convoluted. This is all part of the struggles of teachers.
Schools are grossly underfunded in many major districts.
Anyone who has ever seen how politics work can tell you that most school districts have seen major budget cuts throughout the decades. People don't realize how bad it's gotten in many districts, though.
It's not uncommon for teachers to pay for school supplies that their students need, right out of their own pockets. As discussed previously, teachers are quitting education partly because they are too underpaid to make ends meet.
These costs aren't reimbursed in most cases. So, not only are they underpaid, but of the salary they do have to work with, they have to shell out cash to make classes happen. With all these things stacking up, it's no wonder they're leaving education and seeking out the best jobs for former teachers.
They work a lot more than you think they do.
Do you think a teacher's job is easy? Most people who have considered becoming teachers cite the luxury of having a three-month vacation and only working five hours or so a day. However, that's not the reality of what teachers actually experience in their careers.
Teaching doesn't just mean classtime. It means that you have to grade papers, deal with parent-teacher conferences, keep records of what you taught, deal with administrators, and prepare your lesson plans every single year.
It's a year-round job, really.
The working conditions are getting increasingly worse.
Every year that budgets are cut, classrooms get more cramped and teachers have to deal with more stress. In no places is this most visible than the public education sectors of cities with high poverty rates like Detroit or Trenton.
School systems that have been affected by urban blight are in serious peril and at times, don't even have safe buildings for children. For example, Detroit schools have unsafe drinking water simply because administrators can't afford to upgrade the basic necessities.
Health-conscious teachers are leaving public education because they simply are unable to cope with the dangerous conditions they are being forced to deal with.
There's a distinct lack of respect teachers are expected to "just deal with."
Teaching is, in theory, a highly respected profession. In practice, it's a whole 'nother story. One of the most commonly cited "soft" reasons teachers are quitting education is the lack of respect they receive from both administrators and parents alike.
Administrators and local officials, when asked to give teachers raises or even small benefits, tend to balk. Some even gave themselves raises while ignoring teachers' salaries that remained stagnant for a decade. That alone would make teachers feel unappreciated.
What really stings, though, is when they notice parents treating them like "glorified babysitters" and students that refuse to listen to them. After seeing so much disrespect, it'd be enough to make anyone feel fed up with the teaching profession.
The students themselves can be a factor.
Teaching, particularly when it comes to disadvantaged schools, is an emotionally taxing process. It only takes one too many bad experiences with kids, or one too many times when a teacher watches a child through a heartbreaking situation, to make teachers resign.
Every single school will have children with backstories that would break your heart. For some, it's children who were abused. Others could be children who are extremely emotionally disturbed. Even more may have children who are relentlessly bullied.
Whatever it is, teacher burnout happens.
In certain cases, mandatory reporters and whistleblowers get penalized for doing the right thing.
You might already know that teachers are mandated reporters, which means that they are legally required to report cases of child abuse, bullying (in some states), sexual abuse, as well as suicidal thoughts to the authorities.
This is required by law, and teachers can get sued for staying quiet. But, what happens when the child who's being abused is the son of a wealthy donor to the school? What happens if the person accused of raping a child is the gym teacher?
Well, in many districts, it gets brushed under the rug. That makes plenty of teachers just get disillusioned, depressed, or just unable to feel good with themselves after they have seen things as they are in their system.
Finally, there's also the fact that teachers just feel like they can't make a difference anymore.
With all the restrictions placed on them, the school budgets that are struggling to stay afloat, and the pressures that come at them from all sides, it's not surprising that teachers are quitting education in droves.
The money is better elsewhere, they can get more respect in similar professions, and frankly, it's a thankless job. If we want to see teachers return to schooling our youth, we need to show them a little more appreciation, don't you think?