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!