How much do you expect of me?
Teachers are human beings. No surprise there. Most teachers like their work and enjoy the interactions with the students and colleagues. So why are so many teachers leaving the field within the first few years? Teachers are happy to tell us why but those in authority just do not listen.
The Center on Education Policy did a poll across the country. What it found was that teachers are growing weary of the continuing demands being placed on them and their inability to have their voices heard. In fact 94% of those surveyed said their voices were not taken into account on the state or national level. They felt there was a hypocrisy at work. Teachers are expected to differentiate their teaching in the classroom. They are repeatedly told, one size does not fit all. But when it comes to the standardized testing requirements, all students take the same test. A majority of teachers feel students spend too much time taking these tests and preparing for them. There have been strikes and sick-outs in some of the nation’s largest school districts, Chicago, Detroit and even in higher education in the University System of Pennsylvania. The later strike has put over 100,000 of higher education students out of school.
Given the way the teachers feel, it is hugely to their credit that many are still in the classroom. Why is that?
Teachers who stay will tell you they love the work and the kids. They love being part of making a child’s future. Many have probably read Robert Fulghum’s “All I ever really needed to know I learned in kindergarten”. They have learned to hold hands and stick together, with their colleagues and with their students. They have tried to live a balanced life. They have tried to keep their eyes on what really counts day-to-day in what they do. Some of the older teachers remember the first words that Dick and Jane taught them: Look, Look. They have tried to keep that sense of wonder that comes from teaching children as you participate in the learning and that thrilling feeling when a child “gets it”.
Another lesson we learned in kindergarten is to clean up our own messes. If we were smart we would turn the problem of teacher retention over to the teachers. I’ll bet they could figure it out. They know how much should be expected of them and they would give the children even more.