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

By Anthony Rebora — September 01, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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.

    Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


    This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
    Teaching Webinar
    6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
    As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
    Content provided by Instructure
    This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
    School & District Management Webinar
    Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
    Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
    Content provided by Class
    Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
    University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

    EdWeek Top School Jobs

    Teacher Jobs
    Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
    View Jobs
    Principal Jobs
    Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
    View Jobs
    Administrator Jobs
    Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
    View Jobs
    Support Staff Jobs
    Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
    View Jobs

    Read Next

    Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
    In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
    4 min read
    Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
    Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
    Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
    3 min read
    A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
    Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
    A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
    4 min read
    Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
    Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
    The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
    8 min read
    Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
    Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
    John Locher/AP