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Former teachers reveal what made them quit and it explains why there are teacher shortages

Without decent pay and strong support networks, teachers are finding it harder to stay.

Former teachers reveal what made them quit and it explains why there are teacher shortages
Cover Image Source: Twitter/Abby Norman

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 quit the profession and now works 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."



 

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."



 

The decline in college graduates pursuing teaching is just one of many factors contributing to teacher shortages. The teaching workforce needs a balance between retiring teachers and new entrants. A sudden spike in retirements or a drop in new teachers can significantly impact. Many current teachers find it hard to stay without decent pay and strong professional support. Many who left the profession shared their stories on Twitter in response to Norman's tweet.



 

 



 

 



 

 



 

 



 

"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.



 

 



 

 



 

 



 

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."



 

 



 

Several Twitter users also pointed out that things have become much worse 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.



 

 



 

 



 

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."

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