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3 Reasons Teachers in the US are leaving the profession
Teaching is an incredibly rewarding profession. Every day you get to help further a student's knowledge of the world, introduce new ideas to broaden their minds, and learn new things yourself. Some students come back to express their gratitude for that one random thing you said on that one random Tuesday that changed their lives. They become like your children. You cry tears of joy over their accomplishments, dole out hugs like candy, scream the loudest at their graduation. It’s one of the most rewarding professions out there. So why are people in the United States leaving this profession in droves? The reasons might surprise you.
1. The most obvious and most cliche reason, which is probably the lowest on the list, is teacher pay.
Many teachers in the United States are severely underpaid for the amount of work they put in. Many people claim that they are paid enough since they get the summers off. However, teachers are not paid for the countless hours they put in grading papers at home, writing up lesson plans, meeting students after school hours for tutoring, or for attending professional development workshops. Many teachers start planning their next school year over the summer, working countless unpaid hours. Many arrive at school hours before the students and stay hours after they have gone, working to provide the best education possible. It’s easy to feel under-appreciated when you are paid barely a living wage when most, if not all, of your free time is dedicated to your career.
Teachers also fund a lot of their own classrooms. Classroom decorations, which may seem trivial, provide a welcoming environment, making learning more enjoyable for everyone. Many teachers also provide pencils and paper, tissues, snacks, markers, art supplies, and more. In impoverished areas it's not uncommon for teachers to bring their students food, book bags, hygiene items, and other life necessities. It’s a wonder they struggle to make ends meet themselves.
2. I think this cartoon explains one of the bigger issues in education.
Where children and parents were once responsible for completing homework, asking about missed work, following the syllabus, and approaching the teacher, people seem to expect the teacher to take care of these things now. If a student is missing work, even with all the online resources allowing parents and students to check on this themselves, the teacher seems to be expected to approach each student individually, remind them of what they are missing. Extra credit runs rampant, with little regard to the idea of doing one's work the first time, of showing up and taking pride in one's work. This is a learned trait for students. They get it from their parents. They blame anyone but themselves for their failures, and the parents seem to do the same. The complete apathy surrounding taking pride in one's work is astounding.
3. The third reason teachers are leaving in droves is the working conditions they are put in.
The schools that are vastly underfunded don’t just need teachers to fund the daily things like paper, pencils, markers, and their entire classroom, they also need someone to fund the basic functions of the buildings. Heat and AC rarely work. Mice run around like they own the place. Very rarely are new schools built, and when they are, the upkeep is difficult to find funding for. Band Aids are used in place of new infrastructure. Water is sometimes unsafe to drink, the bathrooms are full of mold, and some teachers leave just because of the health concerns.
We need to do better. There is a cyclical nature of poverty, and a lack of education in this country that is simply astounding. The simple answers just aren’t there, but a good step would be funneling funding into our education system, adding incentives for educators to stay, paying for their higher education and professional development, and actually giving a damn about the systematic failure of the US education system.