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Factors That Cause Teachers To Leave The Profession Education Essay

ABSTRACT:

This paper presents the results of a study of teachers' perspectives on why do they leave the profession. Drawing on close-ended questionnaires, with a sample of 50 teachers (both permanent & visiting) of Bahria University of Management & Computer Sciences Islamabad, the study provides a portrait of their perspectives as related to leaving the field. Previous literature generated several categories related to leaving the profession. These include: financial issues, working conditions, lack of supportive administrators, inadequate resources and facilities, time scarcity, workload, societal attitude toward teachers, relationships with students and parents. Thus it has been drawn that teaching is construed as a "hard job" and that the needs of teachers must be addressed to encourage them to remain and excel in the teaching profession.

1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Broad problem area

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary successfully defines the word teacher as a noun with the meaning, one who instructs. The Merriam-Webster thesaurus however, was unsuccessful in presenting any synonyms for the noun. Could it be that the creator of this highly used thesaurus found that this word is powerful enough that it speaks for itself and therefore needs no synonym? Thesaurus.com quickly put this theory to rest by producing mentor, instructor, and coach along with forty-seven other terms as candidates for synonyms. Both thesauruses captured the word teacher correctly. Thesaurus.com captures the noun as being and meaning many things, while Merriam-Webster recognizes its magnitude (Gibson & Ryan, 2002 ).

You are the giver of a lifelong gift. An impulse; an enduring tool; a prolific engine called learning. The infectious transfer of enthusiasm. A glitter implosion…the exhilaration of thinking! And because the price can be so very high, there are few who risk the full cost of caring, genuinely caring, as you do. It is your commitment, your sacrifice, your courage through which many ultimately realize the fruits of your sterling sheer goodness, and your special talent for sharing. So please know, and remember always, that your priceless loving gift, boundless, limitless, you make their future…and ours. It is for this that forever, always, the world will be in your debt. For you are the giver of a lifelong gift. And we thank you; we salute you, teacher (Garcia & Harris, 1998).

After parents, teachers are the most influential people to touch a person’s life. It is through them that people learn to see the world, through them that they gain the ability to understand that world and through them that they obtain the ability to use their intelligence, imagination and talent. Teachers are the guides to the universe of knowledge, the pathfinders of their lives.

A teacher has a very important role in society. As a leader, a mentor, and an educator, good ones are hard to come by and ever harder to keep around for the long haul. The retention of these teachers is what is hurting the educational community. Hundreds of thousands of teachers leave this field every year to pursue another career whether it is because of money, stress, or other causes. Even though many people do not want to pursue a career in the field of teaching, it is one of the only professions we can count on for being around for a long time. Studies will always show that students will learn better in front of a confident and energetic teacher (Cavanaugh & Ryan, 2003).

There are few more noble professions than that of teaching.  There are few more demanding and less well paid professions as that of teaching also.  It takes a commitment to helping others rather than to obtaining credit for your self to be a good teacher. That is why more than half of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years. Research suggests that many of the difficulties beginners encounter are environmental in nature, grounded in the culture of the teaching profession and the conditions of the school as a workplace

(http://massteacher.org/career/new_members/pd/why_leave.cfm).

While many teachers find the profession challenging and rewarding enough to make up for low salaries and frustration, many leave the classroom for better pay--and better working conditions. After all, classroom-teaching conditions are a lot like those of blue-collar workers. Teachers rarely have their own offices and lack the services that other professionals have access to, such as a secretary, telephone, typewriter, fax machine, or copier. The teacher's workday is highly structured, with little or no time for intellectual interaction with colleagues (http://www.massteacher.org/).

Teaching is a field that loses many of its newly trained practitioners very early in their careers. Unfortunately, the profession has not done a good job of providing the support structures beginning teachers need to perform their vital work. Beginning teachers are leaving teaching in record numbers due to low pay, poor working conditions, unreasonable assignments and inadequate support from fellow teachers, administrators and the education community at large (http://www.massteacher.org/).

Given comparisons to fields such as medicine and law, which recognize the needs of new professionals, more fully and where new hires spend much of their first years learning from and interacting with veteran colleagues. In education, however, the predominant induction method for beginners has been "sink or swim," which has prompted many observers to dub the field "the profession that eats its young" (http://massteacher.org/career/new_members/pd/why_leave.cfm).

Those who look to the profession as a career would need to nourish these perceptions in order to prevail over the negative aspects that surround the profession. The process of teaching goes far beyond the presentation of facts, it includes the dedication of both heart and time. While compensation and working conditions are the main downfalls in teaching, there are many other situations that cause individuals to turn away from the profession. Teaching is obviously a hard complex job and the individuals who answer the call, encounter many frustrations. They are required to first develop goals for classroom instruction and with these goals develop lesson plans, while implementing effective classroom management (appropriate discipline). They must also monitor and nourish the special needs of every child, and stay current on educational advancements and topic knowledge. Imagine trying to successfully carry out these tasks despite the surroundings of school violence, weak school discipline policies and little community and parental involvement (Gibson & Ryan, 2002).

When students enter the classroom on the first day of school, they are anxious and impatient. They have a million thoughts and fears. For new teachers, it's much the same. But while students can take their seats and settle in slowly, first-year teachers cannot. There are lessons to be taught, schedules to learn, supplies to be found, curricula to be followed, names to memorize (http://www.massteacher.org/).

Like those before them, first-year teachers are thrown into the profession with two jobs to do -- to teach and to learn to teach. How well they do both often times determines how long they will last in the profession. Teaching is the only profession in which entry-level individuals are expected from Day One to do the same job and perform at the same level of competence as experienced practitioners. Our schools, colleges and universities regularly put rookies in the starting lineup and are surprised when they strike out (http://massteacher.org/career/new_members/pd/why_leave.cfm).

Teaching is the only profession that expects its novices to fly solo; teachers need practical, ongoing support in the classroom (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996).

Society is currently experiencing a teacher shortage that is both a serious and growing problem. Studies suggest that teacher retirement, attrition rate of new teachers and the increase of student enrollment all contribute to this shortage.  Though teacher retirement and the increase in student enrollment are inevitable, teacher attrition is an area of deep concern for both educators and educational policy makers.  (Marshall& Marshall, 2003).

An in depth analysis of the factors that are causing teachers to leave the profession in alarming numbers is necessary for finding solutions for retaining them in the profession.

1.2 Problem statement

Evaluation of the factors that cause teachers to leave the profession.

1.3 Literature review

What is the cause of the alarming attrition rate in the early years of teaching? Some blame the quality of those who enter teaching; others point to the teacher education programs that prepare them. The literature, however, indicates that many of the difficulties beginners encounter are environmental in nature; they are grounded in the culture of the teaching profession and the conditions of the school as a workplace.

Individuals who enter the field of education reply to the question why teach with various answers. There is beauty, joy, and fulfillment in this profession, and these spirit-lifting emotions are the result of watching annually as a new group of children enters to learn and leave with the knowledge to achieve. Richard Dufour (2000), author of Why Teach expressed his views on the profession first by stating that teaching is not the career for everyone. He goes on to say, that the education profession has the ability to present the “unique opportunity” for individuals to cast a positive influence upon others (Why Teach, 2000). The smiles received from a room full of students when as a whole their individual needs, both educational and personal have been catered to, prompts a burst of passion in every teacher (Gibson & Ryan, 2002).

Teaching is one of the most needed professions in the world today. Retention rates have been dropping steadily for many reasons. The reasons include stress, low salary, and a lack of interest in the field. Some people are also staying away from this profession because available jobs are sometimes located in bad neighborhoods and the students there are generally harder to gain respect from.

Many researches have been conducted about the factors that cause teachers to leave the profession some of which are mentioned as follows:

Norton and Kelly (1997) identified the following factors that contribute to teachers leaving the profession:

Problems/frustrations with the variety of administrative routines and accompanying paperwork.

Concerns about evaluation of student performance and school grading practices.

Problems relating to student behavior and handling of student discipline.

Problems related to teacher load and expectations for assuming extra-curricular assignments.

Concerns about relationships with peers and administrative personnel, including supervisory relationships and communication channels.

Problems of finance; meeting the requirements of increased personal and professional expenditures on a first-year teacher’s salary.

Hope (1999) reported on the National Commission on Teaching study (1996) that indicated several factors for why new teachers leave teaching:

Little to no support

Assigned to the most-difficult-to-teach students

Inundated with extracurricular duties

Placement outside their fields of expertise

Isolation from colleagues

Research studies conducted during the past 20 years have found that 30%-50% of all teachers leave the profession within their first three to five years of teaching (Connoly, 2000; Grissmer & Kirby, 1991).

With approximately 30 percent of teachers leaving the profession within the first five years, it is necessary to analyze the factors that contribute to the exodus. Research indicates that low salaries, rampant student discipline problems, and little faculty input into school decision-making all contribute to teachers leaving their profession to choose other careers (Ingersoll, 1997).

Winston Churchill once said “Kites rise highest against the wind (1942).” Teachers must find enough determination to overcome the adversity, stress, and other factors that might be sending them the message to leave their job, and stick with it. A teaching profession has some positive benefits, but the negative aspects are enough to push people away from a career in this field.

Looking in from the outside, a job as a teacher seems ideal. In what other profession do you have every weekend, holiday, and the whole summer off? This is enough to draw a lot of people to the job, but it is not glamorous enough to keep these new teachers around for long and this creates a shortage. There are many reasons causing this shortage of teachers. Among others, stress, lack of respect, and salary are what a lot of the fleeing teachers point to for their early departure from the field.

Workload is an issue for many new teachers. Quoting references from many previous research studies can support this statement.

Teaching appears to be an exceptionally difficult field to master, with the first year of teaching a particular challenge. Beginning teachers commonly receive the most difficult teaching and advising assignments yet are expected to perform as expertly as experienced teachers. As a result, education scholars theorize, beginning teachers leave the field at higher rates than beginning workers in other careers (Bremer, University of Minnesota).

For new teachers, the workload is even more demanding. They often must create lessons from scratch for several different classes, and feel heavy pressure to perform well (www.Newsobserver.com).

Talk to almost any teacher about his or her first years in the classroom, and you are likely to hear a similar story. The first few years are consumed with keeping their head above water: struggling to learn a new curriculum, develop lesson plans, deal with behavioral issues, track down supplies, and respond to the various needs of students, parents, fellow faculty members, and administrators (Moskowitz & Stephens, 1997). Lacking the seniority of veteran educators, most new teachers also start with the most difficult assignments: remedial classes, multiple preps, and the students with the most diverse and challenging needs (Brewster & Railsback, May 2001).

When students enter the classroom on the first day of school, they are anxious and impatient. They have a million thoughts and fears. For new teachers, it's much the same. But while students can take their seats and settle in slowly, first-year teachers cannot. There are lessons to be taught, schedules to learn, supplies to be found, curricula to be followed, names to memorize (www.massteacher.org/).

Novice teachers entering schools for the first time face many challenges, ranging from beginner’s nervous anticipation to the responsibility of taking on the same duties shouldered by experienced teachers (Becker, 2003).

According to a survey by the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) excessive workload is damaging morale and pushing more teachers out of the profession.

Other professions gradually increase the novice's work responsibilities over time. In the teaching profession, beginners often start out with more responsibilities than veteran teachers and are expected to perform all of their duties with the same expertise as experienced professionals. Returning teachers usually choose to teach the best courses, leaving the least interesting and most difficult courses to beginners (Kurtz, 1983). New teachers are often given assignments like lunch duty, bus duty, monitoring after school detentions, and coordinating the less popular extracurricular activities (Gordon & Maxey).

Another important variable causing teachers to leave the profession which came across during research was the working conditions. This can be proved by abstracts from various researches on the same topic.

Almost two-thirds of beginning teachers are younger than 27-years-old. As a group, they seek careers that will bring personal development, growth and experience. They value being part of decision-making processes, working in teams, having variety in their routines, being praised and rewarded for work well done, and having the freedom to be creative, not stymied, in their jobs. Unfortunately, that climate is too often not present in schools (www.massteacher.org/).

National and state research studies and reports find several key factors that can influence a beginning teacher’s decision to leave one of them is conditions in the school and classroom.

New teachers cited “working conditions” as a principal factor when asked to describe their reasons for leaving. (Weinglinsky, 2002).

Another variable mentioned in many of the studies conducted on teacher attrition was financial issues. Extracts from some of the studies are as follows:

Teacher compensation is a significant deterrent to recruitment. Teachers are still paid less than professions that require comparable education and skills (www.massteacher.org/).

They are not paid as professionals, if they are going to do the amount of work that they do, they need to be paid more. They keep long hours. The job is continuous" (www.Newsobserver.com).

According to a study conducted by a Wake Forest University education professor a key issue raised by novice teachers was money. The majority of the participants in the study said they were simply not paid enough to live comfortably. One high school science teacher said, “I love teaching, but I don’t know if I love it enough to deprive my family and myself of necessities. I can’t see how I can ever save enough to make a down payment on a house, even with a second job in the summer.” In addition to better pay, many teachers in the study favored a merit pay system to provide better incentives for the teachers.

According to the statistics from “Beginning Now Resources for Organizers of Beginning Teachers, 1999” one of the main factors which discourages new teachers is low pay.

National and state research studies and reports find several key factors that can influence a beginning teacher’s decision to leave one of them is salaries and benefits.

National studies of former teachers revealed that 7 percent left for better salaries and 7 percent left for better benefits.

Another important variable cited during research was the lack of supportive administrators which causes many teachers to leave the profession. The major reason which causes lack of administrative support and mentoring to lead to teacher attrition is unclear expectations. This concept becomes clearer by putting some light on previous researches regarding the same topic.

Many of a school's formal rules and procedures are unclear to beginning teachers. A study of first-year teachers revealed that a common complaint of novice teachers was: "I never knew what was expected of me." This complaint was most common among those who left teaching early (Kurtz, 1983).

Conflicting expectations of administrators, other teachers, students, and parents contribute to what can be referred to as the "condition of not knowing" (Corcoran, 1981).

Why do new teachers leave? They say they feel overwhelmed by the expectations and scope of the job. Many say they feel isolated and unsupported in their classrooms, or that expectations are unclear (www.massteacher.com).

New teachers say they often feel isolated, unprepared and unsuccessful. They leave when they don't get the help they need for a job that proves harder than many of them expect (www.newsobserver.com).

What's the No. 1 problem new teacher’s face? While salaries are a big issue, the fact is that new teachers cite "lack of support" as their top concern. Teaching is the only profession that expects its novices to fly solo. New teachers need practical, ongoing support in the classroom http://massteacher.org/career/new_members/pd/why_leave.cfm).

Administrators and veterans must invest significant time and resources to foster a new teacher's development into a dynamic educator. This investment helps faculty develop a positive, professional attitude, which ultimately creates a better learning environment for students (Heidkamp & Shapiro).

Like those before them, first-year teachers are thrown into the profession with two jobs to do to teach and to learn to teach. How well they do both often times determines how long they will last in the profession. In professions such as medicine and law, new hires spend much of their first years learning from and interacting with veteran colleagues. In education, however, the predominant induction method for beginners has been "sink or swim," which has prompted many observers to dub the field "the profession that eats its young" (www.massteacher.com).

"The beginning teacher must perform the full complement of teaching duties while trying to learn the duties at the same time, that's like asking a pilot to learn how to fly while taking passengers up for the first time (Wong, The First Days of School).

The life of novice teacher is made more difficult by a lack of support from the districts, the schools, and the administration. In addition, novice teachers frequently aren’t informed about school policies, procedures, evaluation processes, or how to assess students (Becker, 2003).

In real life teachers are usually the only adult in a room of children during the instructional day. The discrepancy between these two environments causes feelings of isolation and desertion. Emotional isolation is intensified when new teachers are assigned to physically isolated classrooms. And research suggests that few experienced teachers proactively offer help to beginning teachers, viewing the first year as a "if I could do it, you can do it" rite of passage. Other veterans may want to help, but feel their efforts would be viewed as interference. Many beginning teachers consider seeking help on their own as an admission of failure and incompetence (www.massteacher.com).

Educators, administrators, and policymakers must understand the culture of teaching and respond to the voices of novice teachers in order to support and retain a quality teacher in every classroom (Mc Coy, 2003).

According to a study conducted by a Wake Forest University education professor efforts need to be made not to give new teachers a schedule filled with “worst” classes all day long, said one teacher. Another suggested first-year teachers should have one less class to teach than veteran educators to give them the same sort of “breaking-in” period that other professions allow for new employees. Smaller class sizes and more clerical assistance would also be helpful study participants said.

According to the statistics from “Beginning Now Resources for Organizers of Beginning Teachers, 1999” one of the main factors which discourages new teachers is lack of opportunities for collaboration and cooperative teaching, peer mentoring, discussing their teaching with other teachers, feedback about their performance and knowledge of what to expect.

According to national studies, 16 percent of the teachers who said they left the profession because of “dissatisfaction with teaching” listed inadequate support from administrators as the primary reason. Thirteen percent listed the primary reason as lack of respect from administrators.

New teachers cited “lack of peer and administrative support” as a principal factor when asked to describe their reasons for leaving (Weinglinsky, 2002).

Another important variable which came across during the research on teacher attrition was societal attitudes towards teachers. Extracts from various researches, articles etc will throw some light on what role this variable plays in making teachers leave the field. Teachers still are not valued and respected to the extent of their actual contributions to society (www.massteacher.com).

The public sees teachers as people who get their summers off from the outside; it seems much easier than it is (Silberman, 2002).

Too little respect is among the factors most likely to make new teachers leave teaching, says a new study by a Wake Forest University education professor. The participants in the study believed that the attitude of society toward the teaching profession was unfair and detrimental to their overall functioning. They did not believe that they were respected or valued, despite their advanced levels of education.


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