Monday, October 6, 2008

More Musings on Why Teachers Quit

I already discussed failure as being a big motivator in first year teachers quitting. I also touched a little on too much work being put on new teachers and I would like to expand on that a little bit today.

You see, at my school, (supposedly) every teacher is required to sponsor or coach a team or club (supposedly because I think I know a few who don't seem to have to follow that "rule"). New teachers come in to the mix with whatever is left over (unless they can coach a sport). New teachers who weren't coaching were given a list a couple weeks into school and asked to pick one. I picked one and then was told that, instead, I would be put in charge of a school event along with another new teacher. A school event in which I had no interest, background, or ability.

This event quickly became a source of increasing difficulty, stress, contention, and just downright awfulness. On top of my already difficult 3 preps, 2nd job, and extra supervisory duties, I now had this albatross on my shoulders--an albatross I was supposed to create in just about 4 weeks--at the beginning of our FIRST school year.

It was an event no one wanted a part of--but everyone wanted to complain about how it wasn't being done "correctly."

At the event itself, me and my co-sponsor sat watching the kids wondering if this was really what we wanted to do. We questioned our desire to be teachers, our desire to be in a high school, our abilities to handle all that was expected of us. We were overwhelmed, disgusted with the lack of help we were given, frustrated with our kids, and all in all disillusioned--our previous rose-colored look at our school and the people in it gone.

I think that if this event was in say April, not October, things would have been different. I think that if people had let US do it, rather than complain every step of the way things would have been different. I think if they had forced one veteran teacher to help a new teacher, things would have been WAY different.

I realize that people earn a certain amount of seniority, and I also realize when I have a certain amount of years under my belt I will want to be able to choose what I want to do. But, I also think that it is unfair to stick a new teacher in charge of something they know NOTHING about, that happens at the beginning of the year especially. To dump on new teachers simply because they have no say in the matter.

It's one thing to get last pick in when I will supervise detention--it's a whole other thing to be put in charge of a school wide event.

Another teacher realized this and stepped up and helped us out when she realized we were drowning and gathered a few people to help us out, but the people in power looked the other way, made it increasingly difficult on us, and ignored the fact that I was so far out of my element.

So, what did this experience do? It made us both question our careers. It made us both look at our administration differently. It made us both look at our students differently. It overwhelmed and frustrated us. It made my co-sponsor want nothing to do with an event she was excited about (I was never excited, so my dislike of the event was a pre-existing condition).

It's over now, and already I feel more in control, more hopeful about what I can accomplish now that it's over. Still, the whole ordeal left a bad taste in my mouth.

You want to get a new teacher to stick to their profession, you ease them into it. Less preps, less supervising duties. Give them a chance to ease into it, to focus on their teaching the first year and add duties as they step up the ladder.

On a happy note, I had a student from last year send me an email this weekend thanking me. She said what she learned in my class has helped her already in college. I needed that this weekend. I needed a reminder that they learn even when I think they don't. I needed a reminder that what I do and teach is important.

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