Opinion: We know why teachers leave their jobs. Here’s why they stay

A Clayton County teacher gets a hug from a student on the first day of school Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, in Jonesboro.  (Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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A Clayton County teacher gets a hug from a student on the first day of school Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, in Jonesboro. (Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

In the last several years, I’ve written dozens of stories about why teachers quit. This week I reported on the rising discontent among educators over the lack of respect for the profession and stagnant salaries.

I haven’t written nearly as much about why teachers stay. That is something worth considering as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week — and as we try to figure out how to renew the slowing pipeline of new teachers in Georgia.

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So, I put this question to the many teachers on the AJC Get Schooled Facebook page: Can educators share why they stay in the profession and why interested young people should consider teaching?

Here are some of their responses:

- I stay because if public education falls, so does the country I grew up in. As long as I can handle myself and help build networks that bulwark it, I’ll fight tooth and nail to do so. My Title 1 students deserve so much better than the table scraps our state throws at them.

- Teaching is important. Public education is important. People do want to go into and stay in education but they also need the freedom to fix the problems through discourse. Step 1 for beginning the healing process: Allow teachers to speak out without fear of repercussions. The kids keep you in the profession. …Parents can sometimes keep you. Your colleagues keep you. Creativity of lessons keep you. It’s an honorable profession that deserves more honor.

- Teaching is the profession that impacts all other professions. Each year a teacher has the opportunity to help her students become productive citizens of society. Public education in Georgia offers great health insurance and the Teacher Retirement System here is wonderful. One of my favorite things about being a teacher is seeing my former students becoming leaders in their communities.

- Because every time I walk into the classroom, it will be a brand-new experience. Someone will ask a question that hasn’t been asked before. Someone will do something funny to make me laugh. Someone will drive me crazy with some new antic. It will never be boring.

- I love children. I love being that person that sees the eyes of my students light up when they learn something new and want to share it. I love seeing students get excited about a new book. I love teaching students to play board games parents won’t take time to teach them. I love making a positive difference in the lives of children, especially for those whose home life is not so good. I’m exhausted at the end of the day but I always feel I have accomplished something that most people never get to experience.

- No profession offers the amount of variety and fun that teaching does. Making an impact on the next generation means a lot, too.

- I like to make creative, engaging lessons (albeit occasionally). I enjoy the company of young people (mostly). I hate the idea of a child not having an advocate. Unlike in 1992 when I first started, I rarely get to make curriculum choices. And, instead of a single child who needs intervention, I have a roomful. Where I had grandparents coming to school to straighten out a child in trouble in 1992, now everyone is at work or living far apart. Few of my students had afterschool activities and now nearly all do. Homework isn’t done until 9 p.m., if at all. Why do I stay? Habit? No real burning desire to go elsewhere? Maybe I am stubborn and refuse to give up. It’s not the same job. It’s not improved with age, either.

- The good always outweighs the bad for me. The students are the good. The lifelong impacts we make on our students are the good. Those moments when your students go on to achieve and succeed are always the good. It’s the most rewarding profession there is. Period.