I am a teacher and I am proud to be one among the myriads who strive tirelessly and selflessly to shape up the lives of all of us. Therefore, I never wanted, or want, or hopefully never will, want to describe my job in another way than a “teacher”. I love what I am doing and I believe in doing what I love.
My professional voyage began when I was 20, in the year 2001, as a middle school teacher with a Diploma in Middle School teaching. And today I’m about to finish the 20th year of my professional life as a principal with Doctor of Philosophy in Education. During my journey, I have witnessed how tremendously the system has evolved as time passed by. Some changes are rational and some are arational.
At this point of time, we are forced to ask this question over and over again for the question’s significance weighs more than ever for now. Why are educators leaving the system? My answer is the reflection of my own perception and strongly feel the question demands urgent attention from us all. I believe that there are some definite factors which demotivate the people in the system; lack of appreciation, unrealistic expectations, stress, working condition, discipline issues and pay are few.
To commence with, lack of appreciation is definitely one of the major factors that cause an impediment in the profession. To substantiate this, I can illustrate my own experience that comprises almost a couple of decades’ tenure in the realm of teaching and learning. If I compare 2001 to 2020, today educators are not at all appreciated by students, parents or even by the general society. As we introspect some incidents which we must not have forgotten, ‘we feel as people at gunpoint where no one appreciates the efforts yet no one fails to criticize’.
Unrealistic expectation is another reason. Today, no one is bothered about developing a wholesome individual but rather it is all about A stars. The tussle between teachers and parents and among the students destroys the real reason and beauty of educating a child. We talk about holistic education, but in reality, it is nowhere near to be practical or even possible in the school system. While trying to reach these unrealistic expectations, teachers feel frustrated and helpless.
Working condition of teachers and the stress they go through daily are also factors affecting educators’ choice of ultimately leaving the system. There are so many factors relating to the stress level of educators. This could include student discipline, challenges in implementing the curriculum, parent attitude and also the level of authority teachers have. It’s quite embarrassing to state that even students are aware of the teacher’s helplessness and limitations when it comes to command in a classroom or disciplinary actions. There are situations where parents question the teachers for the way they look at the student. Schools are expected to teach the students values and discipline solely but have no authority to take any action to correct their behaviour.
Another reason – although I prefer to differ a little from the conventional approaches towards this concept – that owns an effective potential to influence the behaviour of the workforce is indubitably the range of salary a skilled faculty can earn in our society today. It has been argued and cited with concrete evidence that the payment educators are receiving anywhere on this planet is quite arbitrary when comparing with the amount other professionals obtain in the name of salary. The fact is salary cannot be denied as a factor affecting educators’ choice of leaving the profession. Everybody works to provide for the family and no one wants less than best for their loved ones. So why not educators! It is sad to highlight that teachers are deprived of their lawful right to overtime perks yet are expected to work day and night for the betterment of students. When professionals from other fields take home more than their salary as overtime, teachers are entitled to only 10% of their salary. So, yes, decent pay is a must for educators. If salary is appealing enough, there is a possibility that educators may stay even with all the other challenges.
With everything going on, what gives people including me the courage to hold on is the “HOPE”. Hope for a better tomorrow. As so many things are happening around, I have so many concerns as an educator dealing with young kids. Hopeless and lost at times…, yet want to keep on trying against all odds. Sometimes my mind asks me to let go and enjoy life as everyone else. But then I look around and see what is happening to the young generations; bullying each other using filthy language, young girls and boys smoking, getting into relationships at such young age, mind filled with age-inappropriate information, mental health problems at a peak, people so much worried about material life, no values, selfish decisions at all levels, social media overtaking kids’ childhood…, the list goes on.
I am sure if we sit back and mull over these things, it would take away nights of our sleep. Nonetheless, are “we” really taking the right steps to overcome these challenges? Today our activities are mere attempts to create more public stunts that do not possess any motives and often end with absurdity. Yet, every morning I get up with the determination to try harder, with the hope to change something which will develop a better society for tomorrow.
About the author: Dr Asiyath Mohamed Didi is the Principal of Hithadhoo School, Maldives. Her major expertise is personal and professional development, teaching and learning and leadership (especially educational leadership).