The Revolving Door of English Teachers

What a week! This is the first chance I've had in about five days to sit, think, write, and have a little down time. So tonight I'm enjoying a glass of wine and mellow music (The Decemberists, The Wailin' Jennys, Iron & Wine, etc) while I write.

Our musical opens in two weeks, the adoption paperwork is waiting to be filled out, my house is a disaster area, half-marathon training is at a standstill, our first quiz bowl match is Tuesday, and I'm struggling to keep my head above water in my own classroom. I really should be grading now, but I had to write to get a few things off my chest that have been milling around in my brain for the past five days.

After having quite a few late nights and early mornings this week, I've found myself asking (again): have I made the right career choice? I LOVE teaching. Even on the worst mornings, I walk into my first period class (who are sometimes stressful) and I feel energized. I LOVE coming up with new, innovative ways to teach and presenting students with opportunities to think critically and express themselves. But...as dedicated as I am to my career and my students, I want to be more dedicated to my faith and family. I feel so torn. I've been told many times to lower my expectations, chill-out, etc...and I feel like I have lightened up over the past three years that I've been teaching, but I don't know how much more I'll be able to lighten up. I know I'm still a new teacher, and I have a lot to learn. But I feel like I don't have many more teaching years left in me.

When I attended the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference this November, I sat in on a round-table discussion on the dilemma of English-Language Arts (ELA) teacher retention. Throughout the discussion they mentioned that the average life of an ELA teacher is about five years. Many novice ELA teachers are loaded with the lowest performing students and several extra duty assignments. In addition, the paperload of an ELA teacher is a nightmare. So how do we combat this? How do we avoid the revolving door of English teachers?

When I look at many (not all) veteran teachers in my own building I see teachers who are no longer taking classes, teachers who aren't assigned to extra duties who often teach the upper level classes---yes, they have more experience and have "done their time." But what is the field of education losing by overwhelming novice teachers enough to push them out of teaching?

Professional development is essential for many beginning teachers. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my affiliations with the National Writing Project have kept me in the classroom and have instilled in me the desire to be nothing less than a quality teacher (though many days I fall short of this goal). Nonetheless, despite my huge involvement in prof. development--I'm still feeling the pull to change careers.

So what do we do? How do we keep teachers teaching and squash the revolving door syndrome that seems to be plaguing the field of Language Arts Education?

1 comment:

Stu said...

Avoid the revolving door? - pay teachers. But I know I'm preaching to the choir.