And if you believe the state of Florida, the honors English teacher at Winter Springs High School is precisely the kind of instructor we want in our classrooms.
He sparks kids’ curiosity and was among only 4 percent of the region’s teachers to receive the “Best and Brightest” bonus for “highly effective” teachers last year.
Lein still loves opening students’ minds and introducing them to complex thoughts.
But not in Florida.
Not in a state that continually beats teachers down.
So next week, when the school year ends, Lein plans to walk out of the classroom for the last time … and in to a career in sales.
It wasn’t an easy decision. To put it bluntly, Lein said: “I kind of threw up in my mouth at the thought of abandoning the profession I always wanted.”
But Florida politicians keep pushing good teachers away.
With a lack of respect. With obsessing about standardized testing over learning. And with cruddy salaries.
Lein, 32, said he started working in 2007 with a salary of $37,000. Nine years later, he makes $40,300 for his family of three — and started working weekends at a catering company to make ends meet.
“I’ve spent my last ounce of energy to make a difference to my students, but it isn’t making a difference to me and my family,”he said. “I’m exhausted, I’m bitter, and I’m grasping for something to be hopeful and positive about.”
If you care about public education, Lein’s loss should depress you.
But it should disturb you even more to know that he’s not alone. Rather, he’s part of a trend — of Florida teachers leaving the profession they once loved.
The exodus is so intense that state records show that 40 percent of new teachers leave within five years after they start.
Florida’s attrition rate for new teachers is 15-20 percent higher than the national average, depending on the year.
They are teachers like Lein. And like Lisa McIntosh, who will also leave her job next week as a third-grade teacher at Wekiva Elementary School.
“It saddens me to see the current state of education, but the increase in testing and the focus on testing has taken a great deal of the joy out of teaching,” she said. “At this point, I no longer want to be a part of this situation.”
McIntosh is leaving to work for a nonprofit that focuses on combating drug abuse.
Now, multiply that story over and over until you get thousands of teachers leaving every year — some retiring, but many opting for other occupations or private schools with more freedom — and you start to see the magnitude of the problem.
The constant turnover costs us money — $130 million a year, according to a 2014 study. It costs us talent. It deprives students of professionals who studied and train their whole lives to work with students.
And it’s not just teachers leaving.
Patricia Bowman, a principal at South Seminole Middle School finally walked out a few years ago — after making repeated trips to Tallahassee, where legislators with no knowledge of education kept bogging down schools with top-down mandates.
Teachers were frustrated. Parents were angry. And Bowman was caught in the middle of it all.
“My realistic self knew I could never win so, I am ashamed to say, I simply gave up the fight,” she said, noting that she did so before she was even fully vested in her retirement fund. “I bear a lot of guilt for giving up, but I didn’t like who I was becoming. I couldn’t sleep at night.”
The stories go on and on.
The teachers have plenty to say.
Florida should start to listen.
Tallahassee politicians constantly bemoan the state of education, yet spend most of their time talking to each other about the issue. They should start listening to the people who actually teach for a living.
This state has convened work groups and task forces about everything from crime and insurance to oil-drilling and gambling. How about one that simply asks teachers what they most need to actually do their jobs?
We know salaries are an issue. (Florida ranks 39th in the nation, according to the National Education Association.) But there’s much more. The teachers who are sticking it out have ideas about everything from curriculum to parental involvement.
Ask teachers to name the top 10 ways to improve the classrooms where they spend all their time.
Not another test, regulation or byzantine bonus based on 30-year-old test scores. Let teachers teach. And don’t punish those willing to teach in schools with impoverished populations.
The teachers want to stay. Some might even come back. Lein said he would. In fact, he said “Absolutely” without even a pause.
But that won’t happen until Florida politicians stop yapping and start listening.
Source: Orlando Sentinel