I adopted a word at Save the Words: magistricide.

magistricide: noun; the killing of one’s master or teacher

Etymology: Latin, magister, teacher or master + –cide from caedere, to kill.

Usage: If Mrs. Huff doesn’t quit assigning so much work, I’m entertaining magistricide as a viable option.


I have vowed to use this word as much as possible, but I chose it not just because I have a dark sense of humor (sometimes), but also because it makes me think about so much of what I read about in reference to education.

New teachers are a lot like young students.  They’re excited to begin teaching.  They have lots of ideas.  In my experience, they work like the dickens to help students.  But there is an epidemic of metaphorical magistricide.  The state of so many of our schools today kills that desire to teach, and teachers leave the profession in droves in their first few years.  I feel very sad for some of my colleagues in the edublogosphere when I read about their experiences, and I feel sad sometimes when I reflect on my own experiences in other schools.  I am so happy to be teaching where I teach right now.  I love my students and colleagues.  I feel invigorated by teaching.  I am given so many opportunities to try new things, like Web 2.0 tools, when other teachers are being cut off with irrational blocking or fearful administrators who don’t trust their teachers.

So many of my colleagues don’t have the kind of support I have, either (from either parents or administrators).  I know I can count on my administrators, but what do you do if you work in a place where students do not have to meet expectations for behavior?  I tried teaching in a needy school with a poor administration in my first year.  I was so depressed.  I used to cry on my way to work because I didn’t want to be there.  At best, all I could manage was crowd control, and even if I was able to manage that, I felt successful given the odds.  My students didn’t really learn because I was not given the support to really teach.

Teacher attrition is a big concern of mine because after my first four years, feeling beleagured and unsupported, I wanted to quit.  I did quit.  I came back, had two more years in a failing school with no discipline and finally lucked into my present position.  I wonder if I’d be teaching now if I hadn’t found a job at my current school.  I can’t say with certainty that I would be.  I am not one to toot my own horn, but I think I’m a pretty good teacher.  I am passionate about my teaching.  How many really potentially good teachers are lost every year to this form of magistricide?

8 thoughts on “Magistricide”

  1. Over the years I've had a few classes with students that actually allowed me to teach, and I felt like I was a true professional. They worked hard, they were respectful, and I was majorly creative! Most of my years, though, I'm just struggling to have a good day because I am having to deal with diverse behavioral and personality problems. I mostly feel like the administration deems me a good teacher if they don't have to come to my trailer and take a kid away for fighting, disrespectful behavior, etc. If I could do something else in life, I would. Right now I'm stuck where I am. I'm guessing good, supportive schools with good kids are hard to come by these days.

  2. As a first-year teacher and career switcher I am grateful every single day to have landed at a school with great support from the administration, (mostly) engaged students, knowledgeable and available colleagues, small classes and the ability to try new things. (Full disclosure, I teach at Dana's school!) I switched careers because I wanted to wake up every morning and look forward to going to work, which is pretty much were I am today. I also wanted to make a difference in the world.

    Reading Don's comment, especially the line, "If I could do something else in life, I would. Right now I'm stuck where I am." makes me sad. I hope some of the stimulus money goes to making classes smaller… I think that one change would go a long way to improving things for lots of people.

    1. Hi Mitch! I'm glad to see you commenting on my blog! Thanks for reading. I feel the same way; it's really hard when you get to that place when you feel as if you'd rather do anything else. We are lucky.

  3. Having been a teacher in the after-school world for almost 20 years now, I know exactly what you are saying. I left for a year because I did not feel supported. I came back.

    I tried administration for a couple of years, but I missed having the day-to-day impact on kids' lives.

    For the past 7 years, I've been back "on the floor" trying my darndest to create as a director the same atmosphere of support, professionalism and collegiality that incubated my raw talents two decades ago.

    So much depends on who you're working with… above, below, and side-by-side on the heirarchical chart.

  4. This is my 2nd year teaching at a difficult high school. I taught adult ESOL abroad after college, left teaching to try other things, and came back to it because I realized that it was the only job I was truly passionate about. I must admit though that lately I am feeling extremely exhausted and unmotivated. So much of my time outside of the classroom seems to be spent dealing with classroom management issues in various guises.

    This year I am teaching part time, so this helps some. I am committed to teaching, but sometimes wonder, "How the heck am I going to make it through?" Often I think I got into teaching too late. I see so many young teachers out there being able to dedicate so much more time and energy than I can. I am married and have two small children at home. I am constantly feeling like all of the energy is being sucked out of me.

    To those veterans teachers out there, please offer some advice! Is it really all about waiting it out until you find yourself in a better school/ situation? Otherwise, it all too often seems like a slow and torturous magistricide.

    1. Elsa, it could be that you haven't found the right place for you, but probably the most important thing is to find some support — a mentor, a friend, a group online, even.

  5. I will say that I have several excellent co-workers at my school that are quite supportive. Could anyone recommend a good online support network for new(er) teachers?

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