Teachers Leaving the Classroom: An EdSurge Summer Reading List

Education Workforce

Teachers Leaving the Classroom: An EdSurge Summer Reading List

By Rebecca Koenig     Jul 3, 2023

Teachers Leaving the Classroom: An EdSurge Summer Reading List

School’s out for summer. School’s out … forever?

When we started to devise a summer reading list of EdSurge articles from 2023 that have been most popular so far this year, we couldn’t help but notice a pattern: Readers are hungry for stories about teachers leaving the profession.

In fact, our top pieces all address the reality that plenty of educators are thinking of leaving the classroom behind. A National Education Association survey from 2022 found that more than half of educators were thinking of departing the profession earlier than planned.

As EdSurge senior reporter Emily Tate Sullivan wrote earlier this year, “Most educators have not left, and many never will. But some are following through; they’re walking out of their classrooms and away from the careers they thought they’d have for life.”

Whether you’re well-versed in this phenomenon or just hearing about it for the first time, you’ll learn something from this collection of popular EdSurge stories:

What’s Lost When a Teacher Leaves a School

“Her teacher quit last Friday. Just like that, she’s gone.”

What happens to students, parents and educator colleagues when a teacher decides to leave the classroom?

As contributing writer Tracy Edwards puts it, “When a teacher leaves, the loss is layered — there’s loss of community, continuity and, in many cases, funding. This can change everything for kids who need the most support, both academically and socially. This is the loss that should be at the forefront of national conversations.”

They Left Teaching in Search of a Better Life. Did They Find It?

And … what happens to former teachers after they change careers?

Meet six people who recently put down the chalk and picked up jobs in industries including recruiting, banking, real estate and instructional design.

As Elizabeth Neilson, a former high school English teacher who lives in Minneapolis, says, “I was at a fork in the road. I could stay and be Mrs. Neilson. But all of Elizabeth had disappeared. Things I liked to do — make art, write poetry — had disappeared in favor of being a teacher. I didn’t have time for myself anymore. It got to the point where I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’ve lost who I am entirely. Who I am is gone.’”

What’s It Like to Leave the Classroom for a Job in Edtech?

For a teacher looking to change careers, pivoting to a job in the education technology industry may seem like a natural fit. When teachers pack up their classrooms for the last time to start their edtech careers, where exactly are they going? And how do they get their first gig?

The Idea of a Teacher Salary Minimum Is Gaining Steam in Congress. Where Has This Worked?

Perhaps more teachers could be coaxed to stay in the profession if the pay improved. As Congress weighs a $60,000 salary floor for U.S. teachers, this article looks at local and statewide efforts already in motion. Find out how pay minimums are working out in the state of Maryland and the city of Houston.

Why try a salary minimum?

“Money talks,” says Rachel Hise, a leader in Maryland.

One Idea to Keep Teachers From Quitting — End the Teacher Time Crunch

Teachers are responsible for so much beyond instruction. They meet with parents, participate in professional development, grade papers, and more – work that regularly tips teachers’ work weeks past 40 hours. Indeed, the typical teacher works a median of 54 hours a week, according to a nationally representative survey from 2022.

So what would it look like for schools to change how they operate to better respect teachers’ time?

These States Have the Most 'Underqualified' Teachers Stepping in to Fill Open Positions

With school districts in some parts of the country feeling the pain of teacher shortages, states have tried to address the problem with a patchwork of policies that expand who can lead a classroom: from undergrad teacher trainees in Arizona to fast-track certifications for military veterans in Nebraska.

Where in the U.S. are classrooms being led by people who have “irregular, provisional, temporary, or emergency certification” to teach?

Teaching Was My Dream. Now I Wonder If It Is Stunting My Other Passions.

We suspect the teachers out there may nod along when they read this personal essay by Patrick Harris II, a middle school English teacher and dean of students at The Roeper School in Detroit.

He writes: “Part of being a strong teacher is encouraging kids to explore, inspiring them to dream big, and modeling for them what it looks like to bring passion to learning and experiencing the world. But pursuing dreams and passions requires time and space, and teaching leaves me barely any room to breathe. With my days long and rigid, this profession hasn’t given me the space to be a balanced, whole human. Teaching has consumed me.”

Readers React to EdSurge Articles About Teachers Leaving the Classroom

And finally, what are readers thinking and feeling about all this? You all have been very chatty on social media, sharing your own stories about what keeps you in the classroom or why you stepped away to pursue other activities. Check out what your fellow readers have to say.

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