Without decent pay and strong professional support networks, those who choose the profession of teaching are finding it harder to stay.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 2, 2022. It has since been updated.
Abby Norman, a former teacher from Atlanta, Georgia, spent nine years "loving the students and the learning and despising the testing and the paper-pushing of the classroom." She then called it quits. In a tweet, Norman explained why she chose to give up the profession and is now working as a bartender. "I quit my teaching job and now make more bartending for 15 fewer hours [every] week. Also, I get blamed for way less and get told thank you way more. No lesson plans or grading papers," she wrote. "Remember this when people ask about the teacher shortage."
School districts working to fill teacher shortages before first day of schoolhttps://t.co/X2IXdwGiBT— ABC 33/40 News (@abc3340) July 20, 2021
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment in teacher prep programs has declined by more than a third over the last decade. Driving this downward trend are concerns about the cost of college and fears of ballooning student debt without the promise of decent pay at the end of it. "It's hard to say it will be very appealing for young [students] to go into a profession that just at the beginning underpays you by about 20 percent relative to other professions," Emma García, an education economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told EdSurge. "That is a pretty significant cut in your paycheck, and that is a penalty that has been growing for the last couple of decades."
Schools around the country are experiencing teacher shortages. But early childhood care is being hit among the hardest, already one of the lowest-paid occupations in the country.https://t.co/yyLsU1gb1U— WTVC NewsChannel 9 (@newschannelnine) July 17, 2021
However, drop-in college graduates pursuing teaching is one of the many complex causes of teacher shortages. Since the teacher workforce ideally requires a careful balance between those retiring from the profession and those returning to the classroom or entering for the first time, a sudden spike in retirements or a drop in those pursuing teaching as a career can have a significant impact. But without decent pay and stronger professional support networks, those already in the profession are finding it harder to stay. Many of those who decided they'd had enough and pursued a different career, recently shared their experiences on Twitter in response to Norman's tweet.
Former teacher and medically retired principal here with EdD…the amount of work, harassment, and mandatory emotional toll (yet to see that mentioned) in education-with low pay, crap benefits- my Docs said I should quit or else I’d die. So there’s that.— The Alien Away-Team. (@AFreakingBreak) July 18, 2021
I quit my teaching job in December and started nannying. I make twice as much per hour and work 2/3s of the hours.— Molly 🐈🐈🐈🐈 (@mollypocket629) July 18, 2021
Education here has basically been running on the fumes of what’s left of the good will of teachers, for decades. As the shortage increases, the bars will lower further and I have no idea what we do then.— FeMaiden 💛🕶🏳️🌈⚖️🧪 (@b_denum) July 18, 2021
Quit teaching English, got a job in recruiting making 20k more per year (was making master's degree salary as a teacher), now I can WFH, and I bank a lot of time off due to schedule flex. Also was paid for my 4 months of maternity leave. And no more admin to judge my pedagogy.— Tee hee heezy (@TheLJWay85) July 18, 2021
I quit my (hs theatre) teaching job and will be making less money but the change in work/life balance more than makes up for it. No more eighty hour weeks or holier than thou types telling me I should be glad to sacrifice myself for future generations.— Unofficial Theatre Teacher (@UnofficialMsRob) July 18, 2021
"I left my teaching job to go back to IT and literally doubled my salary overnight. For the next 2 years, people tried to get me to come back to teach computer science and could never offer more than 60% of what I was making. At some point, altruism isn't enough," tweeted @FenianSanta. "A couple of years ago I did the math and figured out that I was making less per hour teaching college than my teenage son was making bagging groceries," wrote @olivia_meikle.
I just made that transition after 9 years of teaching. I actually got slightly better pay and health insurance as a teacher of 9 years than as a beginning software engineer, but my stress is so much lower. It has been a really good transition for me.— Mr. Ancalade (@MrAncalade) July 18, 2021
I was a substitute teacher in 1998 and was aghast when I discovered my teenage son made more money in tips delivering pizza for 5 hours than I did as a sub in his school on the same day.— Jill Dehlin (@jdehlin) July 18, 2021
I quit my teaching job too bc I was working 80+ hours/week for very little pay, & I found out a teacher friend w/ 30-more years of experience only brings home $1k more per month than me. Imagine working your @$$ off for 30 years for just $1k more, all while being treated like💩?— QuiteRandomMel (@melnoah42) July 18, 2021
Guess your pension isn’t great—right? So much for the myth about teachers’ pensions being too high!— Kate Pryde (@Mutant187) July 18, 2021
Meanwhile, many revealed that the only reason they've stuck to the profession for so long is the thought of their students. "About to enter my 22nd year and I can only say it’s getting harder and harder to go back every year, and it’s not because of the kids. The kids are the only reason I stay," tweeted @abbynormansays to which @look4goodinppl responded: "Same, the constant evaluations and the changes in curriculum and getting ready to test 'all year' for the TCAP. I stay for the kids. It's my 14th year. I honestly think the kids need us now more than ever, as the family unit continues to crumble."
A quarter of the teachers in my school left after this draining year, and many of us who are left are strategizing our way out. I love my students and want to do everything possible for them, but I'm just so tired. Teaching takes years off lives.— Matty (@Matty0707) July 18, 2021
I have been toying with that thought, quitting as a teacher, I just cannot deal with the administration and the do not leave a kid behind thing. Teaching used to be something else and now if you want your students to really make an effort you're the bad guy 😔— Mary Chuy (@Yuhcyram) July 18, 2021
Several Twitter users also pointed out that things have become much worse for those in the profession of teaching ever since the start of the pandemic. "After last year I’m surprised that anyone is returning to a classroom. My step-sis didn't. Her district required her to teach in person all year and didn’t provide any scheduling assistance or time off to get the vaccine," tweeted @sehp1020.
I retired early in July 2020 because of no: CoVid testing, potential vaccines or government protections for schools during a Global Pandemic💔 I felt like I was the only one protecting myself & my 79 year old Momma❗️Altho I miss teaching, my friends & students, I don’t regret it. pic.twitter.com/AtZKlkTcJ7— Sheri_Scary💙 Fully Vaxxed & Masked (@sheri_scary) July 18, 2021
My sister was a teacher; during the pandemic they asked her to double up and teach both english and math. For the upcoming fall, they said "teach english, math, science, and history or you can return to teaching music like you were hired for for half pay." She promptly quit 😞— Lord Fenrir (@LordFenrir) July 18, 2021
That is terrible. One of my teacher friends taught a hybrid class...in person and on-line. Basically, she had to teach two classes for the price of one.— Judy White (@JudyWhite785) July 18, 2021
García, the education economist at the Economic Policy Institute, believes that the overall lack of support from parents and officials is one of the main reasons behind teacher shortages. "If you really look into what the data says about what teachers think about the profession, they say they lack support," García said. "For your young students, it's very hard to say, 'I'll go into teaching knowing that there are very weak supports and very few opportunities for professional development.' It doesn’t make the profession very appealing, frankly speaking."