If I Tell Them, Will They Listen? Voices of Former Teachers
Steggerda, Diane Marie
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The Problem: The problem of this qualitative study was to identify reasons teachers may be leaving teaching early in their careers. Procedures: Twenty former Des Moines Public School (DMPS) Des Moines, Iowa, elementary, secondary, classroom, and special education teachers agreed to participate in this study. Each had been in teacher education programs and coursework after 1986 and taught seven or fewer years between 1991 and 2001. Data records included (a) school district public documents, (b) initial telephone conversations, (c) field notes, (d) transcribed audiotaped interviews, and (e) journal writing. Analysis of data combined methodologies of Strauss (1 987) and Clandinin and Connelly (2000): constant comparative and narrative inquiry. Findinqs: This analysis indicated the participants' decisions to leave teaching were initiated by disillusionment with teaching. Disillusionment stemmed from unexpected problems in motivating and disciplining students, in giving a fair amount of time and attention to each student, and in overriding their own emotions, particularly the empathetic stress from working with troubled students. For 14 participants, teaching in out-of-field positions intensified the disillusionment. Disillusionment combined with a lack of professional support, a teaching environment of conflict and violence, overwork, and an inadequate salary were other reasons given for leaving as well as teacher burnout. A few teachers entered teaching as a stepping stone to other professions. Conclusions: First, teachers leave teaching when they are unable to overcome their disillusionment. Second, out-of-field teaching and lack of support intensify the problems. Third, teachers leave when they work in an environment of conflict and violence. Fourth, teachers leave when teaching does not meet or interferes with the needs of themselves or their families, particularly due to workload and salary. Fifth, teachers leave when they experience career burnout. Sixth, teachers leave to fulfill their plan for entering another profession. Recommendations. The following implications emerged from this study for the DMPS. New teachers need: (a) increased administrative support in the areas of motivation and discipline including no tolerance for abuse toward teachers, (b) individualized induction programs particularly for teachers in out-of-field positions, (c) increased professional support and planning time, (d) increased salary, and (e) increased concern for teachers' stress and well-being. Other implications emerged for teacher education programs. Preservice teachers need increased: (a) exposure to more diverse teaching situations, (b) practice in classroom management strategies, (c) understanding of emotions, workload, politics, and lifestyle associated with teaching.
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