Education

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now: Teachers’ Perspectives

By Anthony Rebora — September 01, 2003 2 min read

What do teachers hate most about their jobs? With many schools struggling to hang on to quality teachers, this is no idle question. While researchers have started to delve into the issue, recent writing by teachers themselves offers some key personal insights.

  • Kelly Maynard, a third-year teacher in Minneapolis, recently published a journal in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in part to provide some insight “into why over a third of teachers leave after only three years.” Maynard offers a troubling account of emotionally disturbed students, abusive parents, draining meetings, and, all in all, a workplace in near-constant crisis-mode.
  • But some of her strongest complaints are reserved for school administrators. Her entries are rife with examples of what she calls the “indifference and even ineptitude in the schools’ bureaucracy.” District officials erroneously inform her that her teaching license is about to expire. They leave her in limbo for months about her assignment for the next school year (offering only puzzling miscommunications in the meantime). They are unresponsive to teachers’ requests for assistance.

    “Once in a while, I ask myself,” Maynard writes, “How much do I want to work for a district that makes it so hard to stay?”

  • Brendan Halpin, a ten-year teaching veteran in Boston, has recently published a memoir of his teaching career called “Losing My Faculties.” The book provides a candid and often bitingly funny look at the day-to-day frustrations and rewards of teaching.
  • Halpin clearly experienced his greatest professional frustration during his tenure at a high- profile but faltering charter school. As the school struggled to survive, he recounts, the administration became increasingly controlling. They hired a professional development firm that Halpin dubs “the Buzzword Institute,” whose out-of-touch representative soon descended on the school. Halpin resented the arrogance of this approach. Reviewing his own respectable qualifications and track record, he remarks: “And this unctuous, car-salesmany guy is telling me how to do my job.”

    Halpin suggests that it is such lack of trust and autonomy that ultimately embitters and demoralizes many teachers. He left the school at the first chance he got.

  • Heather Migdon, a Teach for America member who kept an online diary for MiddleWeb on her first year teaching in Washington, D.C., offers a slightly different take. As the year progressed, she writes, she found herself frustrated with the “attitude” at her school. Her problem was not so much with the students or bureaucratic miscues as with the lack of “ideology and vision” on the part of the faculty. From her account, the teachers and administrators accepted the students’ poor performance with complacency. Expectations were low, and any sense of professional responsibility and self-scrutiny lacking. An aura of indifference reigned.
  • The last straw for Migdon was a further infringement on her professional ideals: Due to overcrowding, she was forced to hold her class in the school auditorium, while the principal failed to respond to her repeated phone calls. Even at the price of forfeiting her Teach for America membership, she promptly left for another opening.