Most of us have heard the dire statistics regarding teacher attrition. Perhaps as you sat in your teacher education courses, you were even asked to look to the left and right — of the three of you, one would quit within the first three years in the profession and another would quit within five. Teacher attrition is blamed on many factors: NCLB, difficult students, lack of support from administration, and lack of adequate preparation or mentoring. Of course, all of these problems exist. I left public school teaching for all of the above reasons. I was ready to quit teaching for good after four years because of all of the above reasons. One of the things I still find difficult about being an educator is that I don’t feel as if I am trusted to do my job — to make educational and curricular decisions in the best interest of my students, evaluate them fairly, and plan and execute meaningful lessons and assignments. I’m not sure this feeling ever leaves a teacher because I have had colleagues who were near retirement who still felt this way.
Some days, I think teachers get a great deal of satisfaction out of their jobs — because truly no feeling can top working with a class when everyone’s really getting it and engaged in learning — and those days are worth the days when we don’t feel appreciated or satisfied, but it’s difficult, and I don’t think a lot of people are willing to or may even be capable of the endurance it takes to make a career of teaching these days.
I think positive feedback is important. I think teachers need to feel less alone, and I think it is critical that that feedback come not only from mentors or peers, but also from administrators.