What If All the Good Teachers Leave?

It’s the end of May, and my Twitter feed is once again filled with announcements of plans for next year. The teachers I follow on Twitter are doing amazing things with technology in their classrooms, and that talent is being recognized. Talented teachers are rightfully being recruited by ed tech companies and districts and counties as they seek to teach more teachers to be these effective technology integrators. However, I can’t help but wonder what the effects of pulling these teachers out of the classroom will be. 

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m happy for these people. It’s exciting to think about how our influence might be able to expand as we teach more teachers to effectively integrate technology into classrooms throughout the world. I myself am even cutting down my teaching load to 80%. But I’m sad that more students won’t be able to experience their greatness. 

And selfishly, I’m sad I won’t be able to continue to steal the greatness of what they’re doing in their classrooms. I’ve loved taking their lesson plan ideas and the things they’ve tried in their classrooms that week. They encourage me so much as we seek to love kids and help them love learning. They remind me that I’m not in this alone.

And to some extent, I know that they, that we, can still do that when we’re not in the classroom. But it’s not quite the same. 

Yet, I get it. This beginning of this year brought some serious doubts to me about if I can be a teacher long-term. I was bored and yet burnt out. I found myself updating my resume and searching for new jobs outside of the classroom. I looked at big tech companies and school districts and ed tech start-ups. And if I’m honest, at the heart of it, I looked for more money and more prestige and more recognition. 

Now, at the end of May, I’m so thankful I’m not leaving my day-to-day interactions with students. My 8th graders are inspiring me with profound writing. My 7th graders are coming to class excited to block out a section of the Anne Frank play. My 6th graders are learning to think analytically about literature. And it’s so much more. Their smiles and laughter brighten my days. I like going to their soccer games and plays and concerts and seeing them outside of my classroom. I love having relationships with my students.

Now, I’m not saying that all of these people are selling out like I would have been had I left the classroom after this year. I’m not even saying I’ll never leave the classroom. But it’s raising some major questions within my head:

  • Are we training people to integrate technology effectively into the classroom fast enough to replace the void these promoted trainers leave behind? 
  • How can we break down conventional models to give teachers the time to train other teachers and set an example within their own classrooms?
  • How can we give amazing teachers the freedom, power, prestige, recognition, and pay that often entices people away from the classroom? 
  • How can we support teachers to avoid the burnout that good teaching can cause?

I clearly don’t have it all figured out, but I hope what we’re doing in education really is what’s best for our students. I hope that as we leave the classroom to teach teachers, we really are impacting more students. I hope that as teacher trainers, we still focus on student learning and not just how to make the PD process better. 

And in the meantime, I think I need to seek out some more connections with classroom teachers. I need to keep my Twitter feed full of people who are still in the classroom. I need to find myself at conferences sessions that focus on classroom practices, not just tools or PD models. I need to spend more time hanging out with kids, who remind me the reason I work so hard. And as a trainer, I need to keep my sessions’ focus on the students and their learning — they’re the ones that it’s really all about.