Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why New Teachers Quit

Throughout my education coursework, I heard many a time how a significant number of teachers quit before they reach the three year mark. Causes are always cited as money, lack of resources, poor administration, and even the fact that the majority of teachers are women who might be quitting due to pregnancy. However, in all these plethora of reasons, I never heard the one that I think is the most significant: failure.

I want to be a teacher. I want to be a good teacher. And, the only way to improve, is with time, experience, and more time. So, right now, I am a crappy, crappy teacher. Day after day I face my class with the knowledge that I SUCK at this. And even when I manage to psych myself up into feeling excitement--I am always disappointed in some way. In my first real year, nothing has gone in a way that is satisfying. Because I don't just want to teach, I want to teach WELL. And I can't seem to grasp how to do that yet. Sure, with time and thought and reflection I will improve, but in the meantime, I start each day knowing I am some kind of failure.

And failure is a hard obstacle to overcome, because it beats you down, it exhausts you, it makes you feel worthless and hopeless. All that energy you need to create, engage, and impart wisdom becomes increasingly difficult to muster. All that time and energy you need to regroup, reassess, and even just relax is drained by trying to figure out just how not to FAIL. How to just get through the day.

I can't tell you how many times in the past few weeks that I have prayed to God to just get me through the day. That's all the hope I can muster. Get through the day. It's my mantra: get through the day.

You can throw more money at first year teachers. You can give them a positive environment. You can give them all the technology in the world, but it doesn't erase the soul crushing failure day after day. And, in my humble opinion, that is why so may teachers quit before the three year mark. And, in my humble opinion, nothing can change that (except possibly to lighten a new teacher's load, and ease them into teaching full time).

So, it becomes a waiting game for me, at this point. Can I make it long enough to start feeling the exhilaration of success? Or will failure break me down and force me out to try my hand at something else.


ms-teacher said...

I am probably much older than you. Teaching was not my first career and I had a wee bit of life experience behind me. That being said, I really do not feel like I was hitting my stride until my 5th and 6th year of teaching and I still have days where I don't feel that it was my best day.

Teaching is one of the hardest jobs. I wish I had something magical to tell you to make everything better. Just know that I'm reading your blog and hope that you don't give up on yourself too soon.

The Non Catholic said...

Thanks so much!