Addressing the Problem of Teacher Turnover

There is one profession that loses half of people in its workforce within the first five years of their careers: teachers. There are many factors that cause this high attrition, but it’s not because young professionals don’t want to put in the time and effort that’s required to become a great teacher. Instead, I suspect that people who are drawn to the profession may discover teaching is more challenging than one might originally think. After all, teachers are continually dealing with the needs of an unpredictable assortment of personalities and are asked to deeply engage this group so they can achieve yearly benchmarks. In particular, first year teachers have a very steep learning curve as they attempt to become fluent with their curricula while mastering effective pedagogy. But regardless of how many years of experience teachers possess, they have to build a certain kind of endurance for making hundreds of small, and at times exhausting, decisions every day. And even when teachers become accustomed to long class days that often become extended with grading or extensive class preparations in the evenings, the profession still requires a reserve of emotional resilience for unexpected conflicts and any number of obstacles that can easily derail a class. Add to the mix crowded classrooms, inconsistent school leadership, unclear evaluation systems, and a range of other adverse conditions, and you have a perfect storm.      

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With all of these factors, it will come as no surprise that the United States is now experiencing a teacher shortage that will likely worsen before it becomes better. Young people seem to be less inclined to go into a profession that doesn’t enjoy a great deal of respect within society or offer commensurate levels of compensation for the degree of responsibility--no matter how noble and internally gratifying the day-to-day work may be. It is time for our country to improve teaching conditions and provide teachers the respect and compensation they deserve in order to restore the teaching profession to its rightful place within society. With the amount of time each child spends in school, no one should question the value of this investment for the long-term success of our country. And it all needs to start by taking steps that will lead toward greater appreciation for one of the most important professions out there.

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