Stop Crushing the Spirits of Young Teachers

Several years ago, a disturbing trend began to happen in education – teachers were leaving the field. Not the teachers that had reached retirement age, or who were offered early retirement packages, but young teachers, who were those enticed to enter the field because of the market. A little earlier in time, the media shed light on the story that there was a dire need for math and science teachers. Along comes the mid-2000’s and STEM education becomes the latest trend of where education needs to focus its resources.

But then in 2013, teachers started to leave the profession. The Guardian published this article – – in August of that year, and The Conversation followed it up with this article – – several months later.

Many of the articles which have been published in the past few years about teachers leaving the profession cite the development of standards, tying all educational activity back to the standards, and constant testing to ensure achievement at or above the standards as forces with compel teachers to reconcile their love of teaching and the reason they got into education in the first place with the dictate of a school board made up of volunteers who have no academic credentials nor classroom or administrative experience in the education vertical.

But in 2015, a roundtable meeting of principals of Catholic schools held at a educational leadership conference in the State of New York discussed the trend, and shared their belief that young teachers leave Catholic schools because they believe they have a voice that isn’t being heard.

That’s probably a more correct rationale than what’s being routinely published in the media.

And it’s not just Catholic schools…it’s every school, public and non-public.

Any job is work, and there’s always the administrative frustrations and details that go along with doing the “real” work of the profession.  And, while there is truth to the assertion that more and more administrative tasks are being placed upon teachers due to child safety concerns, potential threats to the school, classroom behavior, the current opioid epidemic, awareness and accommodation for Individual Education Programs (IEP) and other initiatives regarding students with special needs, and myriad other menu items that are continually piled upon the teacher’s plate, some newly-hired teachers also have to undergo “induction programs,” where they’re expected to complete a project within their first year that will have a “significant impact” on their ability to contribute to their educational effectiveness in the classroom.

Who came up with this?  Perhaps is was a Superintendent who was chided by the school board because third graders weren’t achieving as well as the standards dictate.  Therefore, EVERY new teacher must complete some type of program to demonstrate their effectiveness as a teacher.  Then someone – probably a board member who has never set foot in a classroom since they finished their degree 30 years ago – thought that was a good idea.

There could be a need for this program in some areas of the country – such as North Carolina, where every public school teacher is a State employee, and, because of the lack of quality teachers in the classroom, parents are choosing to home school their children, removing them from public school at a rate faster than any other state in the union.  Or Maryland, where teachers get a signing bonus for accepting a job.  One can’t say that for Virginia, however, where one must be certified to teach there, and therefore pass the state’s credentialing exam – even if the teacher has passed their certification exams in another state.

Put all these reasons together, however, and bind them with the fact the young teachers feel they have no voice, no input, and therefore, no effect on education in the school, and they’ll leave to start their online tutoring business or simply acquiesce and become one of those teachers that just simply show up and meet the minimum expectations.

Where does this type of attitude in today’s younger teachers start, since some have received counsel that, as in any other profession, it’s just a matter of “paying one’s dues” as one who’s just starting out.  Unfortunately, that’s not what today’s young people learn in college.  They have student teaching experiences in different countries; they participate in professional internships where they’re told they’re making a difference by their enthusiasm and expertise; they create new programs that have an impact on their local communities.  Young teachers graduating from college are told they are the leaders of tomorrow – and to them, tomorrow is, well, “tomorrow,” and not 10 to 15 years down the road.

There’s nothing worse than seeing the spark of enthusiasm in a young teacher doused by a frustrated administrator.  Want to have a significant impact on education in your community?  Tell your school administrators to stop crushing the spirit of their young teachers.  Here’s a recent article to prepare you for that battle: