Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?

I’ve read, met and listened to Edutronic speak now on a number of occasions and am inspired by his drive and innovative ideas to develop his students. In that light I have chosen to contribute to #blogsync.

2013 marks my 25th year full time in my chosen profession of teaching. Always happy and fulfilled? No definitely not, yet I’m still here – how is that? To be honest I’m really not always sure how. My wife identifies that I love working with the pupils – surely all teachers do? No I fear that is not always the case.

So what have been the moments where I’ve considered departing from teaching?

There have been periods in my career like many colleagues where my life has been subsumed by work to the detriment of myself and others around me. Physical health has been neglected leading to years of steroid treatment for my asthma. Mental health has fluctuated and been balanced at times by exercise, talking therapies, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and through the use of anti- depressants. like Robert Crampton who writes in The Times, that input has become a constant that provides the cushioning when life threatens to bottom out.

Pressures have been multi faceted and have not just come from work, transitions,changes, have all affected me. But, outside school I have had my own pressures. These have combined on a number of occasions to make me question my competence, ability to change and whether I am cut out to perform in this demanding role. When others suggest I leave teaching however I fight tooth and nail to remain. It completes me, I get to learn new things most days, I challenge myself to keep up to date. The last two years have been strengthened by Twitter and the attendance at Teachmeets. I am one of the lucky few that have discovered this mass of keen and supportive people.

But enough of me, why train then leave?

Fellow PGCE students back in the 1980s left the profession after training – too much to take on. Burn out on a personal level. Lives subsumed and spat out if they could not adjust to the pace and demands of change. Support for new staff has always varied and it is having the freedom to seek support and often to admit weaknesses openly that many find very hard, or even safe to do so without being judged and condemned. They withdraw into themselves. Alcohol provides a nice crutch but one that can destroy as well.

The teachers life is multi – faceted, demands come in many forms from the marking, the behaviour of challenging individuals – staff and pupils. The demands of employers, parents, communities which overlap.

Our governmental support – woefully lacking for teachers – we are often accused of incompetence, not ambitious enough for our charges, too liberal…friends who criticise the holidays, yet where are these people when it comes to stepping up to do the job in this improved version? I’ve yet to meet them.

Why train and leave within five years? Because sadly the profession is a target to beat for many outside it and some within it. While that continues turnover shall remain high – is this the future we want for our pupils? Really??

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3 responses to “Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?

  1. In Australia we have similar teacher retention problems. Research shows that many teachers leave within their first 5 years of teaching. Down under a person on average has to study 5 years full time to become a teacher so it does seem strange that many choose to leave in under 5 years in the job.

    I think one of the main challenges of teaching is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Ask any partner of a teacher and they will tell you teaching is a passion and also an obsession. It is one of the few professions that can consume your whole life (the endless marking, the nights and weekends of lesson preparation, when you let a challenging class get the better of you and you take the anger and frustration home with you, etc).

    It will be interesting to find out in what circumstances the teachers leaving are working in. Are they working in hard-to-staff areas or is it spread uniformly across all schools?

    As a profession we need to come up with solutions and strategies with how to support each other. We do support each other now but how can we do this better?

  2. Pingback: March 2013 #blogsync: Teacher Attrition EDUTRONIC | Share

  3. Pingback: 3. March 2013 #blogsync: Teacher Attrition | EDUTRONIC | #blogsync

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