Saturday, September 24, 2011

An average of 4.5 years

A wonderful friend of mine, who works as a special education teacher in Brooklyn, wrote in her blog, that when she finishes this year (her fifth year teaching), she will have outlasted 50% of her peers in the field. I thought...can that be right? And then another good friend who works as a para-professional in a special ed school, posted this article from CNN. New teachers only remain in the field for an average of 4.5 years?

It seems to me that it might take about that long just to get to a point of being well-established and not feeling like a "new teacher" anymore. In the ethics books I'm reading for my School Psych seminar, it says that it takes about 10 years to reach "expert" status, so I'd think it takes about the first 4 or 5 years to leave "novice" and enter a sort of intermediate stage.

These statistics are incomplete in the sense that I don't know if teachers are leaving and entering a related field, or how much they invested in their training to become a teacher in the first place - I don't think every state requires teachers to have a masters degree, or you have a certain amount of time to get it after beginning teaching. It just seems sad to me, as I am investing so much time and money to become a School Psychologist, that after all that, I would leave the field after only 4.5 years? There must be something pretty darn extreme going on there to drive people out so quickly.

The CNN article said that many teachers cited parents as the reason for leaving the profession. First, this freaked me out, because as a School Psychologist, I will be expected to have more than the usual amount of contact with parents. But second, I wondered...why? Why are parents not respecting their kids' teachers? And why are teachers not prepared for dealing with parents? In theory, we should all be partners. We all are advocates for children, and we all want these kids to succeed. We really are on the same team. So why can't we all get along?

One suspicion I have, is that after a few crazy people go off on us, we will start to expect all parents to be crazy. (This happens a lot with arguments between me and Alex. He will *expect* me to be mad about something, so he gets defensive in advance. Then, I get annoyed because he is acting defensive, and then his prediction of my anger becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.) Are we being defensive with parents from the beginning, thus *causing* them to act crazy towards us?

As there are crazy people in the world, I am sure that I will have to deal with many crazy parents. (Case and point: the messages left on my supervisor's voice mail, SCREAMING at her about how terrible she is at her job.) However, my main goal is to remember that people who act "crazy" often have a reason for doing so, and dealing with large bureaucratic systems (like schools) can be really stressful. I want to attempt to put a positive spin on everything. (Eg. "Wow, I'm so happy you brought an advocate to this meeting. It's great that you are so invested in your child's education." Rather than thinking, Oh god. An advocate. This is going to be a fight.)

I also just hope that I get to work with teachers and be able to contribute to a more positive climate at whatever school I work at. This is why I am starting an "after school yoga club" for the teachers at my practicum site! I'm hoping it'll help people to feel a little more calm and a little less stressed, and maybe then we'll all be able to stay in our chosen careers in education for more than 4.5 years! Here's hoping!


  1. Sorry I'm just reading this now! To be fair, I'm sure that many parents would like to understand what is going on in school and be more involved in their kids' education but simply have too much on their plate. It can be frustrating for both parties when each feels like they are not understood or appreciated by the other. But I think that parents are only one part of the larger issue which is that the teaching profession is becoming less respected and less valued over the years. Teachers are villanized as being lazy, greedy, and apathetic. Salaries remain moderate in most parts of the country, even though elected officials are attempting to strip of rights and benefits while upping the ante on often arbitrary ratings systems. The pressure is on, and it's exhausting. I didn't expect it to be easy when I chose this career, but I definitely think that something needs to change. We'll see if I can stick it out for the long run or not, but in the meantime, I'd love to be in your yoga club! If only you lived closer...

  2. Haha, I would love to have you in my yoga club!! I just think it's too bad that the system is so messed up. Most of the teachers I know are some of the most AMAZING people I know, and it is just one of the most difficult jobs. It's completely bizarro that teachers are becoming more under-valued, like you said, and subject to arbitrary review systems.

    I hope you are able to stick it out, because you are wonderful, and your kiddos are so lucky to have you :)

  3. I want to be in the yoga club too! I think this post and your awareness of the difficulties already sets you apart from a lot who enter this field. Our background in mental health is super important, I feel like the general, "typical" population, has NO (no the tiniest bit) of realization of how much mental health plays a part in world. I think of these kids in such a different way then most of my coworkers because I've been in their homes, talked to their families, seen how they live. It's super frustrating because it's not always an experience you can put into words. But on the other end, there are definitely those who just do not value their own education, their children's or your opinion on the matter, and that's different than not being able to be invested. Those are the ones who seem to think that we should just be babysitting the kids when they get to school, whatever happens, happens...Oi.