Teachers Leaving the Profession in Droves: Is it Just About the Pay?

Ask anyone who’s not in the education field why teachers are leaving the profession in droves, and they’re likely to reply that low pay is the largest contributing factor. But is it really?

It’s true that teachers on average make 20% less than other professionals with similar educational backgrounds and training. With additional expenses for classroom supplies, professional development, health insurance, and license renewal fees that teachers are forced to pay out of pocket, that low pay falls even lower.

The discrepancy in teacher pay around the country, and in different educational settings, is astounding. Some teachers may even qualify for public assistance at the beginning of their careers. And that’s after leaving college with an average student loan debt of $37,000 which is higher than a teacher’s starting salary in many areas.

Can an increase in pay keep more teachers in the classroom? Well, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. But teachers face many more challenges these days that are very difficult to overlook.

Stress and Burnout

The amount of stress and burnout teachers experience each year is remarkable.

A typical day for a teacher consists of:

  • Planning, prepping, and teaching 30+ elementary or 100+ secondary students
  • Keeping kids focused
  • Talking most of the day
  • Dealing with increasing behavioral issues
  • Trying to get parents involved in their child’s education
  • Being told what they can and can’t say
  • State & federal required testing
  • Teaching to standardized testing vs teaching to get the students to think and learn
  • Keeping up with technology that’s purchased for them but there’s no training
  • Grading
  • Supervising after-school activities
  • Parent/teacher meetings
  • Attending meetings
  • Special education documentation

Lack of Support and Respect

The days of teachers feeling supported and respected by the administration, students, parents, and the community at large are long over. These days teachers get blamed for everything from students not putting in the effort to failing grades, classroom disruptions, school violence, property destruction, and standardized test scores.

Working Conditions

Add to the lack of support, the fact that working conditions in many schools are not great. Poor working conditions include buildings in disrepair, lack of heat or air conditioning, the absence of necessary school supplies, overcrowded classrooms and free standing trailers that aren’t conducive to learning, just to name a few.

Standardized Testing

Preparing for and administering standardized testing is a huge part of a teacher’s workload. The results of testing often affect a teacher’s yearly performance review without taking other key factors into account like students who refuse to test, those who don’t try, and those who come into class several years behind in their knowledge.

Decision Makers

While teachers are the best suited to make important decisions that affect their particular students and classroom, they’re often left out of the decision-making process entirely. Instead, government officials, administrators, and school board members are the ones who decide what happens in classrooms that they rarely, if ever, step foot in.  Most of these individuals have never been a teacher so they don’t have the hands on experience necessary to make such critical educational decisions. 

Virtual Teaching

Fortunately, many of these issues can be addressed by teaching in a virtual classroom environment.

Virtual teaching allows educators to:

  • Use technology instead of personal school supplies
  • Work with students individually, if needed
  • Avoid verbal and physical abuse from students
  • Enjoy comfortable working conditions
  • Have the ability to use all types of content for the lesson and have it at their fingertips to deploy
  • Activate quizzes and tests that automatically ‘grades’ the results
  • Provides a time stamp of attendance with a report that can easily be sent to parents and school administrators

So while a pay bump would certainly be well-received, teaching virtually would also lead to considerable improvements for the profession as a whole.