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Why New Teachers Quit

Former CMS Educators Tell Their Stories and Offer Solutions



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I couldn't handle being talked to like I was a six-year-old. I had to sign a sheet when I came into work. I was policed about my duty as if I was a child. It was absurd. I was treated with more respect in high school than when I taught.

Make no mistake. Richard isn't just a bitter young kid who couldn't handle real work. His concerns align with those expressed by many former, and more experienced, teachers.

Ron Eaddy, newly retired after 42 years, his last eight and a half years being in Charlotte schools, says:

It is the coupling of low pay with the workload and stress that cause them (new teachers) to leave. My suggestion would be to give new teachers a reduced workload for two years.

Unless you have taught today, you don't understand the extraordinary amount of requirements that are placed on teachers. There is a constant stream of paperwork involving meeting the needs of children with an infinite variety of learning or physical difficulties -- not only the paperwork but the meetings involved to set up the appropriate accommodations and weekly reports that must be filled out for most of these children.

There are also team meetings and grade level meetings that occur weekly. There are also meetings about testing (Quarterly Evaluations, End of Grade and End of Course Tests) and meetings about evaluating test results.

A planning period is given to each teacher, but it's usually used for meetings or conferences with parents. Telephone calls are always there for poor performing students, poor behaving students or just responding to varied parental concerns.

Your lunch periods are not totally yours. You must monitor the behavior and table clean-up.

Lesson plans, correcting papers, creating tests, and duplicating tests and handouts require considerable time to do a good job. A seasoned teacher has knowledge of the material, a "feel" for what each lesson requires, and a stockpile of books and handouts from which to draw. A new teacher must spend more time getting organized and planning each day.

Also, new teachers should receive extraordinary support from their administrators in handling discipline problems. Student behavior can be a very crucial part of the new teacher's decision to continue teaching or not. There has been a breakdown of discipline for many children, but nevertheless the teacher has the problem to face. Some of my administrators have been wonderful in assisting teachers. Others have taken every effort to avoid any unpleasantness or paperwork.

Now meet Liz Williams. Like Richard and Ron, she's taught in Charlotte. Like them, she believes that money is not the issue. Unlike them, she has served as an administrator, as well as a teacher. Mrs. Williams has worked in four CMS schools, and has been in the business for 30 years. Here is what this veteran educator had to say:

Once you secure a teaching position, you're overwhelmed with requirements to meet, standards, test scores, discipline, workshops, renewal credits, etc. So much is provided as guidelines, requirements, lesson designs, etc., that your creativity is no longer of value, and there is no outlet for your input.

In the search for uniformity among schools, everything became standardized. New teachers are stifled and frustrated by being told what to do, when, and how.

Most folks would say financial rewards would keep teachers in the field, but I don't think that's the answer, although it would be readily accepted and deserved. I think teachers would like some discretionary time where they could plan, meet, and share with other new teachers.

At one time, it (teaching) was a status position appreciated by parents and the community. I think a renewal of their importance and value through the creation of a new culture would help.

CMS authorities would do well to listen to their former teachers. The problem is that they think they are. CMS funnels much time, energy, and money into recruiting and retaining excellent teachers each year. The system holds a massive job fair, offers monetary bonuses of $1,000-$2,500 to new teachers who sign contracts by June 15, and boasts a new teacher support program that began in 1997. But still, new teachers continue to leave.

CMS may think it's doing its best to satisfy its teachers, but results of a recent survey of local school leaders shows that, simply put, it's not working. According to CMS, when asked to grade the system's overall performance, only 6 percent of teachers gave CMS an "A." Most awarded CMS a "C," while 36 percent gave it a "B," 13 percent said "D," and 4 percent gave it an "F." In addition, a mere 25 percent of CMS teachers strongly agreed that their school's morale is good. Fifteen percent strongly disagreed, 20 percent disagreed somewhat, 38 percent somewhat agreed, and the rest were indifferent.

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