There is no sugar coating it, the last two years have been grueling! The pandemic made teaching even more stressful with added workload, constant changes, and uncertainty about what was coming next.
I hear it every day from friends who are veteran teachers. They are overwhelmed, overworked, underappreciated, and not supported. They don’t know how they are going to hang on to the end of the year. Many say they wish they could move on to an “easier” profession.
Every day there is a new headline, a new article highlighting the teacher shortage. In my home state of Texas, our governor has directed the Texas Education Agency to form a Teacher VacancyTask Force made up of school district superintendents, teachers, and district Human Resources specialists from all over the state to address staffing challenges facing Texas public schools. In Florida, the Florida Education Association and legislators are working to address the staffing shortage.
I did a quick Google search to discover WHY teachers stay or should WANT to stay, but even that revealed the reasons teachers are leaving. There are so many reasons to leave, way too many! I’m certain that now, more than ever, education needs you!
Why should you stay?
Let’s start by looking at why you chose to be a teacher in the first place. For me, teaching was my second career. My own child had learning difficulties and I found myself wanting to do more for him as I explored ways to help him. I found myself drawn to education as a way to help others like him.
I would venture to say that making a difference in the lives of children is the reason the majority of us choose teaching. We want to help them discover the world around them. We want to ignite a passion for learning and light the spark of curiosity that encourages them to grow. There’s no greater feeling than to see the glow in a student’s eyes or the smile on their face when they master a skill or discover something new.
Teachers rarely leave because of their students. Think about all the students in your classroom, all of them, not just the ones who are currently driving you crazy. Look at that grade book that I know you brought home. Where were they at the beginning of the year and where are they now? They’re growing and that was not a random coincidence, you planted the seeds, you created the environment for them to thrive. Some are still struggling, but they’ve made progress, they wouldn’t be where they are now without you. You are making a difference!
While your students are likely the driving force that gets you out of bed every day, is there something else important to you? Perhaps it’s the relationships you’ve formed. I know, for me, my grade level team, and other relationships on campus were important. My team and I planned together, created new experiences for our students together, and generally shared each other’s burdens. My team had my back and I had theirs. I learned a great deal from specialists on my campus. I was a better teacher because of these folks. They kept me centered, focused, and sane most of the time. You make a difference in the lives of your co-workers.
Is this the first year you’ve felt like you just don’t want to teach anymore or is this something that’s been brewing for several years? Teaching isn’t an easy job and the pandemic has tested the strongest among us. Before you walk away, consider changing grade levels, schools, or even districts. Maybe that’s all you need to regain your zest for teaching. I made a leap of faith and switched school districts a few years ago and it was a game-changer for me. A new environment with different challenges can open up new possibilities. If you have been considering leaving the profession for many years, perhaps it’s time to explore other options.
If you truly can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, then you are right where you need to be. Hang in there, stay and keep fighting to change the world for your students. Normal as you knew it might not ever return, but you can help chart the course for a new and improved future for yourself and your students.
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.