'Teachers are leaving the system in droves. But no one is listening.'

I’m just going to put this out there straight off the bat. Writing this article makes me angry; disappointment no longer cuts it.

Anyone who knows me, particularly my ex-students, knows it takes a lot to test my patience, but every now and then... I have to use my teacher-voice. Usually 'the look' will do it, but as every teacher knows - sometimes, you need to bring out your big guns and get really, really mad to get your point across adequately. This is one of those times.

Since anger is a superpower which can be alchemised into passion to evoke change, I write this angry article in the hope that I can be a voice for the teachers still inside the system with very little energy left to fight.

Watch: NSW Teachers Federation marched down Dean Street, calling for better pay and working conditions. Post continues after video.

Video via WIN News Albury.

Earlier this month, reports were made from the Teachers Federation that NSW was facing a 'large and growing shortage' of teachers.

While this finding is a sad reflection of the state our system is in, the finding is far from surprising. As an ex-teacher who helps hundreds of women make big life changes, a large portion of my clients are teachers (and nurses, where circumstances are no better) planning their next move. While you might think I’d be happy my business is thriving, I can’t get past the feeling of sadness and frustration every time a once-passionate teacher lands inside of my inbox looking for a way out.

The landscape was abysmal before COVID, now, it’s out of control. Teachers are leaving the system in droves and often, it is with a heavy and defeated heart.

Pre-COVID, teachers were already drowning in the depths of administration, reporting, marking and class sizes; the pandemic became their anchor, pulling them further into the ocean of expectations. This anchor was made out of the online programs they built (overnight) from scratch, the extra documentation, the constant interruptions while delivering an overloaded curriculum, and the general feeling that teachers' health, needs and wellbeing was once again unimportant.

Every email, message or registration I receive from a tired teacher is some iteration of 'I just want my life back', 'The conditions have impacted my mental wellbeing' or, 'The workload is unrealistic.' Just last week one of my clients told me, 'I can’t be the mother I want to be, I just have no energy left for my own kids.' It is also not uncommon for a teacher to tell me, 'My husband told me he wants his wife back.' Teachers are drowning with no lifeguard in sight.

Now, I want to make this abundantly clear: these women are all highly organised, extremely intelligent, self-motivated and driven professionals. Generally speaking, teachers are a special breed of productive beast who can hold their bladder for an unnatural period of time and have the patience, understanding and compassion of Mother Teresa. This is not an issue with time management or emotional regulation, so let’s refrain from the insulting suggestion that they may need some 'professional development' or 'resilience training'. What they need is a system which gives them the resources, time and conditions which allows them to do what they love most... teach. Since they are smart enough to see that is not happening, brilliant teachers are leaving their classrooms behind.


Perhaps the most heartbreaking point of this whole crisis is that these teachers love their job. They don’t want to leave and many are terrified at the prospect; they simply feel like they have no choice. In the beginning of my program, women are asked one simple question before we start designing their new life: 'What do you really want?' I will never forget the moment one of my ladies responded on the edge of tears and said, 'All I want is to teach'.

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The thing about many teachers is that they started their career because they genuinely want to make a difference in their students' lives. They live for the moments they see the lightbulb switch on the faces of students. They love nothing more than meeting their new students each year and watching them grow. Unfortunately, the thing about these teachers is that they will often burn their own candle to light everyone else’s, but now, their candle has well and truly burnt out.

What’s even worse is that it is the kids who suffer. The teachers who care the most simply can’t exist in a system which requires you to care less. A system which requires you to turn a blind eye to the student who clearly hasn’t grasped a fundamental concept. A system which demands that you opt for silent reading so that you can get on top of reporting. A system where two of your special needs students demand 90 per cent of your attention while the others fend for themselves. A system which tells you to teach wellbeing while you’re unwell yourself - and God forbid you take a sick day which requires more work than just sucking it up and going in.

In this system, the only way to survive is to care less, lower your standards, and accept poor quality teaching. The teachers who truly value education and want the best for their students can’t accept this. So they leave. Consequently, students lose the most passionate, dedicated, committed teachers they had, the ones who would have made a real difference, if only the system cared about them too.

Like I said in the beginning, this article is written with what I consider to be a healthy dose of anger. It has been bubbling under the surface for a while, and since COVID, it has reached boiling point. Something needs to change. For the current teachers who are drowning, for hopeful graduates ready to make a change, and for the students who deserve better.

Miss Mindset (Breanna May) is a writer, motivational speaker and mindset coach with a background in law and high school education. When she's not diving into all things psychology, personal development and philosophy, you will find her in the gym, or at the pub – because, balance. Follow her on  Instagram and Facebook.

Feature Image: Getty.

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