More than 40 percent of teachers quit teaching within their first five years citing lack of administrative support, low salaries, accountability pressures, lack of advancement opportunities and working conditions.
My dad was a teacher for 35 years, my husband for 15, and my aunt, cousins and several friends also teach. I’ve covered numerous school board meetings and functions. So while I’ve never been one, I’ve gotten a glimpse into and heard plenty of stories about the profession.
As we begin another school year, I want to talk about working conditions, one of the reasons teachers are leaving.
I’m not talking about having no control over the thermostat in your room, which means you’re either freezing or burning up (there seems to be no in between). Or being on the receiving end of every germ that walks through your door. Or having no time to use the bathroom. Or having to swallow your lunch in three bites.
Are these the reasons teachers are quitting? No. Dealing with parents? Yes.
Several recent online posts by former teachers highlight this problem.
Earlier this summer, Jessica Gentry, a former kindergarten teacher in Virginia, wrote: “Let me tell you why those who ooze passion for teaching are leaving the occupation like their hair is on fire.”
Her viral post included the excuse that the kids have changed.
“Kids are kids,” she wrote. “Parenting has changed. Society has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that. Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/coparenting situations (with) terrible media influences… and we give the excuse that the kids have changed? What did we expect them to do?”
In a viral post from 2018, Julie Marburger, a former middle school teacher in Texas, wrote: “I left work early today after an incident with a parent left me unable emotionally to continue for the day. Parents have become far too disrespectful. Administration always seems to err on the side of keeping the parent happy, which leaves me with no way to do the job I was hired to do … teach kids.”
She continued: “(Parents) have to stop coddling and enabling their children. It’s not fair to society, and more importantly, is not fair to the children to teach them this is okay.”
In January, Kori Clements, a successful high school volleyball coach in Texas, resigned due to “parents’ political pressure.”
“I was told by campus administration that I needed to recognize the political aspect of my job and also of theirs. I cannot and will not compromise the integrity of my decisions based on a parent’s political pressure or position. I believe strongly in the value of athletics, that being a part of a team is a privilege and playing time is earned.”
While this example was with athletics, the problem is the same in the classroom.
Do all parents do this? No, of course not. Most are doing the best they can and understand teachers are as well. I’m also not saying all teachers are good. I know there are some who shouldn’t be in education.
“An open letter from teachers to parents” by Bored Teachers lists five steps for improving the relationship between parents, teachers and students: 1. Stop making excuses for your kids; 2. Make sure they’re doing their work; 3. Cut the distractions; 4. Model good habits at home; and 5. Work with their teachers, not against them.
Stop making excuses and teach them to be responsible for their actions and their schoolwork. If they’re not getting an A, find out why. Have they completed all of their assignments? Are they participating in class?
I believe most parents love their kids and want what’s best for them. But expecting something when it hasn’t been earned isn’t the way for them to learn, grow and succeed. We need to expect more of them. Do we really want our future mechanics, doctors and leaders doing the minimum to get by and get rewarded for it?
I also believe most teachers are doing their best, sometimes in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We need to stop thinking we know how to be better teachers. They’ve had years of education and training and many seek additional learning each summer.
So what’s the solution?
Work together. You know your kid. They know teaching. Discuss your concerns respectfully and work to find win-win solutions.
“Be on our side. We are obviously not in education because we expect to become millionaires, we’re here because we care about kids and our society. So let’s help each other, and let’s do the best for the kids we love” (Bored Teacher).
Believe in them. Trust them. Cheer for them.
They really do want what’s best for your kids. Just like you do.
By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy column,” Nodaway News Leader, August 2019