Half of new U.S. teachers are likely to quit the profession within the first five years, according to a 2006
study from the National Education Association. One-third of all public school teachers leave the profession within the first three years, states the documentary First Year Teaching. According to the NFLPA, the average career of an NFL player is three and a half seasons. We are replacing teachers faster than football teams are replacing linebackers!
In the new documentary, Waiting for “Superman,” Geoffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, says it took him three years to master his craft as a professional educator. What if he had given up and changed professions? Are we losing could-be Geoffrey Canada’s every year? Why are so many potential educators leaving in the infancy of their careers? One answer is burnout. This is the reason Sara Fine, former
educator, gives for leaving teaching after just four years in her Washington Post opinion piece, “Schools Need Teachers Like Me. I Just Can’t Stay.” Fine elaborates, citing long hours, little pay, and frustration as reasons for leaving.
Paul Apfel of Long Beach, N.Y. wrote a letter to the New York Times stating, “As any teacher can inform you, the poor pay, poor working conditions and unresponsive school administrations are only a part of the problem. The main problem, by far, stems from the huge number of disruptive students who make it impossible to teach and who turn many schools into areas of urban warfare.”
Both of these testimonies paint a bleak picture for the profession of teaching. What needs to change in order to help new teachers flourish in their positions? What does this mean for the future of education and the profession?