Why Do All The Best Teachers Leave?

Reading time: 3
Depressed Teacher

Mary Wiltshire

Mary has been involved in education since embarking on a PGCE in 2003 specialising in Secondary Art and Design. She worked as a Head of Department, Head of Faculty and cross curricular. She has supported PGCE, SCITT and GPT teachers. She is currently teaching part...
Read more about Mary Wiltshire

Why stay when there is nowhere to go?

There are two points in my life that completely embrace the phrase “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

What follows is a little snapshot about my life in education.

Having children and being a teacher, the highs are highs and the lows are low. You are lost in a moment of constant flux, riding the next wave and coping with the low that is right round the next corner.

I reached a point in education where I needed a change.

I needed challenge and the current educational setting makes that very difficult. In lots of cases, the CPD is just not there anymore, although it had been in the past. I have completed Leadership training and two Teacher Learning Academy projects from the time when there was a plan to improve all teaching through research (back in the day). I have gone into primary schools, into community organisations and taken all the opportunities I could, often paying for courses myself.

This is one of the main issues we now face as a profession: the streamlining of funding has not been kind.

Time To Go

It is very difficult to step away from teaching and I do not think the decision should be taken lightly.

There is a reason you don’t want to tell students you are leaving your job; you care about their education and you want to be part of their education. You don’t want to let them down especially when they find out your leaving and ask… “Why do all the best teachers leave?”

They know it, they know all the best teachers are leaving. Teaching requires emotional input. It is draining. Professionals stay in jobs and put up with a lot more infringements on their time because of this fact; they want the best for the students. They teach no matter what.

But to fight an endless battle you can’t win (like that scene in Dr Strange when he battles eternally) is not sustainable (we don’t have endless power).

There comes a time comes when you must put the wellbeing of yourself and your family first. I reached this stage and I am now creating my own future. I am now experiencing different educational avenues and it is good and I am happy. It’s about me forging my own way now and learning more which makes me a better educationalist. It makes me a better person. It is living the life I imagined as an educator not the one prescribed.

I recently took a personality career test as if to check what it is I should be doing, it came back at me with “Facilitator, Educational Consultant and Teacher” so pretty much this is what I am good at and I have worked at it; not everything comes naturally.

People Matter – Don’t They?

I had been 15 years mostly full time in the classroom, Head of Department and Head of Faculty, and I did consider the idea of more senior management; but they work you hard in this game and the stakes are high with accountability gone mad.

I have mentored, coached, trained teachers and watched them become confident professionals. Then I’ve seen teachers aim and push themselves to be the best they can only to be put into boxes. Before me, I have seen the defeated and the triumphant. I’ve also seen students grow and learn and been thankful to have been part of it. I love this job but does this job love me?

Any profession needs to be respected, needs to be cultivated, needs to be loved and there is little love going around. We are like chickens scratching the dirt looking for corn. We are battery farming our children, arguing about the importance of subjects and trying to get our voices heard.

All education is important, everything, and most of all the wellbeing of our students – people matter. Let them be able to succeed in what they are good at, let us protect our professionals.

If we take care of our teachers, if we trust our teachers, if we let them have the best working conditions we can then we are creating a better place. But this is the age of wisdom wrapped in foolishness.

I still believe in education. I still believe in you but does the educational system believe in me? A teacher who left but is still here educating in a way that makes me become the best person I can.

10 thoughts on “Why Do All The Best Teachers Leave?

  1. I see your points but as someone who teaches on several art PGCE courses and also is often invited to talk and ‘inspire’ teachers, I have to believe in the teachers that I work with and what they can do to change young people’s lives. I do believe (and know) that strong national and regional networks can and do support individuals. Some of the best leave. Many of the best will stay and thrive.

    1. Lovely to see you add a comment Susan – thank you. Collective teacher voice is bubbling away online and it’s only a matter of time before online narrative influences ed-policy – even if those in power deny it is – it’s clearly starting to happen. The sooner we all start to immerse ourselves in research and online dialogue and/vs. the classroom, more will stay and thrive. Meanwhile, policy ministers cherry-pick research and place ideology above common sense.

    2. Thank you for reading. I am still teaching more on my own terms and through my business and changing to FE have created my own CPD and a new way of working which means I am moving forward in my career and also supporting other teachers by running network meetings and courses. Its not easy to leave and its been an interesting year but I have grown so much and gained valuable reflection time. It is very true that the networks we create as teachers are very powerful and with support we are stronger. Maybe a blog next time on the importance of these would be appropriate and I am already find myself with so much to write.

  2. I read your post and agree to it all. It’s inspiring to know you have made decisions but re stil passionate ant education. I am passionate and it makes me think there are other avenues out there x

  3. “teaching on my own terms” is the comment that resonated with me most Mary. Often teachers aren’t allowed to teach in ways that they know are best for students, or aren’t given the autonomy to teach creatively or bravely. You made the right move for you but it’s great to see that you are still involved with education.
    Finding the right fit for your skills set, your preferred pedagogical style, and your personal circumstances is hard and I tell new teachers that their first job most likely won’t be their ideal job. Unfortunately, some don’t last in education long enough to find their ideal job – it took me 6 schools and 19 years to find mine!

    1. Thank you Andrew for your comment. I am glad you found yours and being brave to follow your instincts always leads to better things in the long run.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.