Back in 2007, we titled a post at our companion blog Teacher Leadership Today this way: "Why Do Teachers Quit?" Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that over the intervening 3 1/2 years, a number of teachers have found their way to that post and added a comment. The most recent appeared just this week. It comes from a young teacher in Louisiana and is worth highlighting, because it may offer an answer. It certainly expresses the frustration many feel.
I am a young, motivated third-year third grade teacher. I have moved schools, moved grade levels, and had my first child in the last three years. I have also survived a district-wide reduction in force. My mother is a former classroom teacher and currect administrator, so I knew what I was getting into. However, I am starting to realize that eventually we get burned out.
In my opinion, it isn't the teaching part that is exhausting. Teaching is the most enjoyable part of my day. Surprisingly, I also enjoy analyzing data and using it to create effective lesson plans. I think it is exciting and challenging to develop ways to close the gap of educational deficits of my students. I am like many young teachers. We are not incompetent or unwilling.
Despite my enthusiasm concerning instruction, I am burning out as well. It seems that I must continuously manage extra things for which there is simply no time. For example, tonight I'm consumed with a plethora of technology issues, an action plan for updating classroom workstations with excercises to address weaknesses my class as shown on formative assessments, and papers to grade. You see, I have had much constructive professional develoopment. However, these in-services leave me with a list of new things to implement and...you guessed it...no additional time to put what I have learned into practice in my classroom. I feel that if I had just one student-free day in my classroom, I could keep my head above water.
Additionally, paperwork as a teacher is a nightmare. There are times at work that I neglect my paperwork because I place my students as first priority. After being reprimanded, I realize that I'm just going to have to learn to place my students on the back-burner. I suppose paperwork is simply more important to administrators.
So why am I burnt out? I don't have enough time to plan and coordinate quality instructional strategies, and I have to spend much of my available time pushing paper. Did I mention I have a family at home to take care of?