Why Some Educators Leave the Profession
It’s not always pleasant to talk about, but educators leave the teaching profession for many reasons.
Sometimes a teacher is forced to relocate for personal reasons and cannot find another teaching job; others leave for financial reasons. Despite recent efforts to improve teachers’ salaries, teacher pay still falls radically short of other professions. It is unlikely that teachers’ salaries will ever equal or exceed the salaries of other professionals, such as doctors or business employees. But many teachers decide to stay in the profession because of the extraordinary amount of satisfaction teaching brings them. The personal satisfaction of bringing meaning to the lives of younger members of society often overrides financial concerns.
Teachers as a group are highly mobile. They are constantly entering and leaving the teaching profession, and many move from one teaching position to another throughout their careers. The most commonly identified reasons teachers leave the profession are retirement (20%), family reasons (16%), pregnancy/child rearing (14%), wanting a better salary and benefits (14%), and wanting to pursue a different kind of career (13%).
Nevertheless, teacher attrition has been become an enormous problem, with estimates that up to half of teachers entering the field leave within 5 years. Many school districts are developing extensive induction and mentoring programs to support new teachers, in an effort to reduce the number of new teachers leaving the profession. In mentoring programs, new teachers are paired with more experienced teachers to help them inside and outside the classroom deal with demanding situations and challenging students. School districts are also paying closer attention to their overall professional development programs.
Ellen Moir, executive director of the New Teacher Center at the University of California at Santa Cruz, describes five essential stages of a comprehensive system of professional development:
- Recruitment: When a person considers becoming a teacher.
- Pre-service preparation: When a person studies to obtain a teaching license.
- Induction: When a person is hired. This phase includes the first critical year of teaching.
- Professional development: Continuing teaching, training, and receiving mentorship.
- Instructional leadership: When a person grows in experience, skills, and confidence, allowing the person to become a leader among peers.
As new teachers enter the teaching profession, it is very important for them to receive support in each stage. Studies show that teachers who receive helpful and thoughtful support in their earlier years, especially in the crucial first year, are less likely to quit teaching than those who do not receive such help.