Teacher Burnout and Dropout

March 6, 2009 at 8:06 pm Leave a comment

I read an interesting article about teacher burnout/dropout rates the other day and thought I’d share. It’s not earth-shattering stuff, by any means, but it illustrates a problem in the current education system.

One of the statistics mentioned in the article is a familiar refrain in the “how to be a teacher” classes I took: almost half of all teachers will leave the profession within five years. (I remember also being told that of those who quit, something like 3/5 do it after their first year. That seems indicative to me of a problem in teacher training and support/mentoring for teachers, not necessarily teaching itself.)

A contributing factor to this attrition rate, particularly in the current economic state, is the fact that many first-year teachers don’t have renewing contracts. When funding shortages force the districts to not offer new contracts to those teachers, the teachers end up back on the job hunt. We hear a lot about people seeking alternative certification to become teachers when unemployment rises, but this is the unpleasant flip side of that coin – qualified teachers who lose their positions and have to start over in another industry.

This article cites NCLB – or more specifically, its “stricter-than-ever accountability laws” and paperwork – as a significant cause of teacher burnout. Instead of being fueled by their passion for teaching children, educators are motivated by statistics and personal competition. It’s not enough to love children and your subject matter; now your kids have to out-perform the next teacher’s kids if you want job security. That’s an extreme case, but it weighs on teachers’ minds.

Of course, money is always an issue. We always hear/say that teachers don’t go into it for the money, but it is also true that financial compensation can go a long way toward neutralizing the negative effects of burnout.

I particularly liked what one of the article’s sources had to say on the subject:

“The bottom line is that, as teachers, we have the opportunity to change lives, and literally, in some cases, save lives,” he said. “A teacher’s attitude toward the kids can, and has, saved lives. The voice of those kids who behave badly can’t become the dominant voice in the teacher’s mind.”

The solution to teacher burnout won’t come through a “business as usual” approach, McMahon said. And he stresses the importance of keeping great teachers, no matter what it takes.

“We need innovative, new incentives for teachers to remain in education,” he said. “Government can’t do this alone – the private sector also needs to play a role.”

And finally, a quick primer to help us all recognize the symptoms of teacher burnout in time to do something to help:

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Entry filed under: BRAINCLOUDS, CLIPPINGS.

Folded Up New Literary Term

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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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