Well, the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher is out. Always an informative read, but this year shows some of the most disturbing statistics ever.
As I scanned the document this morning over coffee, I became more and more disheartened. There are many statistics presented in the survey and I have provided the link for anyone who would like to read any of the 120+ pages in the report. However, the one section that stood out the most for me is the fact that, apparently, the profession has become a kind of landing pad for teachers until they can find something else to do with their lives.
I suppose this was the one section that upset me the most because I am closing in on the end of my own career as a teacher. In 5 years, I will be gone from the classroom. I would like to think that a dedicated professional who sees teaching as his or her calling will be there to step into my position. At one point in time, I could be assured of this. Obviously that is not to be the case.
I have heard it from the young beginning teachers in my own building. Some of the first year teachers I have mentored have asked me how I have been able to “do it” day in and day out for over 30 years. I have always answered them honestly – I do it because I love it. I have always told them that if they don’t love it, they should get out before it is too late. Unfortunately, many stay when they shouldn’t.
One of my former students came back to our small community to teach. I was so pleased when she chose teaching as her path, and thrilled beyond belief when she chose to come home to do so. Anna is a phenomenal young lady and she was so excited and full of creativity when she walked into her very own classroom. She has been with us for only two years, but in that short time I have seen the passion and joy she had on that first day slowly drain from her.
I ran into her in the office before Easter and asked her how things were going. She told me that over the break she was going to be meeting with one of her friends who works in advertising. If things worked out, and she was sure they would, this would be her last year of teaching. Her. last. year.
There were two other young teachers with Anna at the time, and they shared that they, too, were looking for something as far away from the classroom as they could get. I was shocked, to say the least. These three girls were wonderful teachers!
I remember my first 5 years. Challenging? You bet. Frustrating? Without a doubt. Thrilling, satisfying, wonderful? Most assuredly, yes! I would have never considered leaving during those first years of a career I knew would be the only one I would ever love.
So, what is it? Did these young ladies not love the idea of teaching for the rest of their lives? I don’t think so. In Anna’s case, I know so. Therefore, it had to be something within the system that so soured them that they would be willing to throw away the chance at having the most rewarding and wonderful career I could imagine.
So why does this bother me so much? It is really very simple. When I leave my classroom for the last time, I want to hand it over to someone who will cherish it as much as I have for the last 3 decades. I want to know that the person who fills the position I leave will take care of the students who will be sitting at those desks, just as I have for so many years. I want to see the passion, and I want that passion to stay with them for the length of a career, not just a couple of years.
I don’t want to spend my hard-earned retirement years agonizing over this. I want to leave knowing that I did the right thing……