Readers Respond to "Why They Leave"
The April cover story, "Why They Leave," struck a chord with NEA Today readers, and the responses have been flooding in.
Here's a sampling:
Adversarial Relationship Between Teachers and District
You addressed the problem of teacher retention very well, and I hope to use the article in my own efforts to educate our school board members in Martin County, Florida, about why the adversarial relationship between teachers and the district is causing a problem here. We have been battling for months and still, the district is planning to impose its contract on us, now using our retroactive backpay as leverage to ensure ratification of the contract we've been opposed to all along. It is a matter of respect, or lack thereof, that is fueling the teachers here to voice their discontent and raise public awareness before the election this fall when we hope to elect a new superintendent and two new board members. Thanks again for your article and voicing a nationwide epidemic.
--Amy Robertson, Language Arts, Martin County, Florida
The Heart of Teaching Hijacked by Tests
Over my career, I have experienced many of the scenarios depicted in your article. Yet, somehow I had the "juice" to ride over those hurdles in the past, because I believed in what was happening once I was able to close the door and teach my classes. That is no longer the case, because the heart of our teaching has been hijacked by the standardized tests, the increasingly impossible standard of achievement that is required of our students, and our administrators' fear in response to this. Gone are the moments when we can pursue an idea down a new road for a week or two, or sit for an hour and talk about a social issue that has arisen in our classroom. Each moment is strung with expectations that are directly connected to the curriculum - which, by the way, has been totally rewritten to align directly with the Mastery Tests.
--Cory Kern, Sixth-grade teacher, Manchester, Connecticut
Counselors Also Get Short End of Stick
I completely and sadly agree with all the reasons teachers leave the profession. I wanted to add, however, that teachers are not the only ones getting the short end of the stick. I am a high school counselor and we are absolutely overwhelmed with the NCLB testing responsibilities. In our District the counselors have all of the testing responsibilities. At the high school level all of those tests come in the spring (6 of them) when we are also responsibility for pre-registration, graduation, summer school registration and inputting registration data into the computer so the principal can do the master schedule. We just wanted to know who will do our job while we are testing?
--Debbie Stanchak, Jacksonville, Arkansas
Decline in Morale
As a teacher of 12 years, I found myself nodding as I read the article silently. I have definitely noticed a decline in morale for our profession over the last 5 years. As stated in the article, the public often thinks teachers complain unnecessarily or that our main problem is money. We all know the real problems go far beyond that to a sense of worth, respect, and professionalism. Although many people say, "every job has it's problems", teaching is not like "every job". What other job is constantly under public scrutiny without practical support (not just nice words)? What other job treats highly educated individuals like children?
--Regina Johnson, Bonanza High School-English/AP Language, Las Vegas, Nevada
Working Years Longer Than I Planned
The Welfare Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset are impacting my own potential retirement profoundly. I am working years longer than I had planned because of the devastating effect of those two provisions upon my retirement income, so I'm actually STAYING longer than I had hoped. New hires in Alaska no longer have a defined benefit for their eventual retirement, so new people are not entering the profession in Alaska. The solution in my district seems to be to give all of us older, and very tired, workers far more responsibilities than we can reasonably handle. When the occasional new person does appear, he or she is invariably amazed at the heavy workload and soon looks for other employment.
--Terry Wilson, Speech-Language Pathologist, High School and Middle School, Fairbanks AK
I Stuck it Out -- But Wouldn't Ask Others to do the Same
When I started teaching, in August of 1989, I was fresh out of college with a general Special Education degree. The majority of my courses focused on Mentally Handicapped and Learning Disabled students and strategies; my student teaching was done with primary-aged children. My first job? Working with Intermediate Emotionally Handicapped/Behavior Disordered students in a self-contained setting. On teacher workday, my "mentor" introduced herself, showed me to my classroom, and walked away. I was faced with an empty room (literally nothing inside, except student and teacher desks) and a looming time-out room in the corner, which I had no idea what to do with. My first day of teaching, I got a student freshly released from an institution. He was in my classroom for about an hour before he lost control and trashed everything I had worked hard to create. Eventually, he was taken away on a stretcher in a straight jacket. A lot of the teachers expected me to walk away. Yet I stuck it out, teaching in that classroom for almost six years...Would I ask anyone else to do the same? Never. Nor would I, given the opportunity, leave a new teacher to fend for herself in that environment. But it appears that my experience is not entirely unusual, nor is it new. The lack of support and true "mentoring" has been an ongoing problem, which clearly needs addressing. No one should be left behind.
--Lin Steele, Pahrump, Nevada