I Know Why Teachers Quit

Shaundeidra Bradford

Twenty- four years and counting

May I be honest with my colleagues for about a page or two? 

It is now a little over 100 days into my twenty-fourth year of teaching. My soul is tired.  Has anything drastic happened in my classroom thus far? No. Yet, the continuous daily battles of the public educator weigh me down almost daily. The lack of respect, the constant need to fight legislature, disrespectful parents and students has finally taken its toll on my morale.

You see, I am passionate about teaching.  I enjoy the thrill of seeing a student’s brain turning as we embrace new concepts in the classroom.  It gives me joy when a student is encouraged by the way I take the time necessary to develop a relationship with each one. I nurture my students beyond the academic initiatives placed before me often times without clear directives. 

I have taught thousands of students throughout the span of my career.  For every victory in the classroom, I can recount a moment of heartbreak.  I am honored to be a seed planter in the lives of now registered nurses, insurance agents, doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, musicians, counselors, social workers, police officers, firemen, principals, fellow teachers, etc.  You name the profession and more than likely I have a flourishing flower in that field.  

Yet, my soul is tired.  I think teacher burnout has finally hit my mentality and it has little to do with my student’s overall behavior.  We all know that being a teacher is a noble profession. However teachers are for the most part notably unnoticed when it comes to mental health.  Districts proclaim that the mission is for the greater good of the students, all while failing to realize that the roots of the profession are wilting away. I am overworked with reworded “new” initiatives that do nothing but drain me and pull me away from the passion of teaching. 

The expectation of leadership is for teachers to trust and respect their decision. Yet, those same leaders often refuse to acknowledge the supportive needs of teachers. The words “take care of yourself emotionally” are trotted across the websites yet, where is the support of such wonders within the school walls for educators?  Yes, after twenty-four years of teaching I am now being selfish in saying that I deserve better! It makes no logical sense to me why teachers must continuously battle against the “system” for what is rightfully ours, peace of mind. It’s ironic to me how those who make the decisions on best practices for teachers once sat in classrooms becoming the leaders of today. Now, most chose to ignore the needs of the seed planters that once nourished them. 

A caring teacher has to greet students each day with a smile and new mercies.  As a high school teacher that can mean well over 100 students every day. No matter what the pressures of my personal life are, I must leave them somewhere on the expressway as I drive in to work daily so that I can be my absolute best as a teacher. Now, most days I sit in my truck for about five minutes giving myself a peptalk before going into my school building. My soul is tired.

Students as expected who may not possess the ability to have self-control are able to stay in their zone of the day.  They get to treat us with the lowest levels of respect and we have to forgive and move forward with the job expectations. Where is the place of safety for educators to release all the mental anguish together and be replenished?  I see corporate America providing retreats for employees. We get summers “off” as some would voice. Yes, I take time during the summer to nourish my soul from the harshness of those 187 days. Yet, my soul is tired. I leave work mentally drained knowing that there is no support in the district to build my morale.  The statement “You cannot pour from an empty cup” is true. My cup no longer runs over; it is almost squeaky dry.

Thank you for reading.

12 thoughts on “I Know Why Teachers Quit

  1. As I was reading your passage I felt every word, however, I also felt that there is a yearning sense of change. You have overcame some great obstacles and are yet exploring new heights in your personal life that is almost demanding more and more that you”come out of your comfort zone.” I also felt, while reading your passage a sense of unrest and a burning desire to explore more into this thing called life! I am excited for your future and I encourage you to continue to embrace your processes as you cultivate and grow into a deeper level of maturity and wisdom. Trust God He is with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been blessed to have worked closely with Ms. Bradford for a number of years, but I’m even more proud to call her a friend. I’m a more empathetic person and better teacher from spending time with this next-level educator. Ms. Bradford exemplifies everything a teacher should be. She’s amazing and innovative when it comes to instruction and content, but she’s an all-star when it comes to making a difference in her students’ lives, balancing high standards and accountability, with empathy, passion and love, grounded in creating a safe and equitable environment to teach her students both content and learning to empowering themselves. Thank you for being open and transparent with the effect our calling can have on our mental health, especially when bureaucracy we have nothing to do with takes precedent to instruction and our own mental and physical well being. You’re an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I know you are tired and mentally and physically drained due to the lack of support. However, know that you have and are a seed to our students can be the most and best feeling. I know it is hard, but try to tell yourself that these babies need me and I am going to give my all. We do need self-care.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so very accurate representation of teacher life. Mental burnout is real. And soul being tired is so relatable! Good work on shedding light to this side of the teaching profession..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I relate. Just retired after 27 yrs. I was a classic “burnt out teacher” for the last few yrs. Here’s hoping you and all teachers get the support, acknowledgment, and appreciation deserved. It’s a soul draining profession; take some time for yourself and replenish your passion. Bless you for the noble fight.

    Liked by 1 person

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