Teaching As Exploration? The Difficult Road Out of the Classroom

Aug. 20, 2013

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 34, August 2013, p. 98-106.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This research aimed to understand how today’s teachers, operating in an exploratory context, experience the teaching profession over time.
This article draws upon a longitudinal study of science teachers’ career trajectories in a high-poverty, urban school district. It highlights the narratives of three American teachers who chose to leave the classroom. The participants were female, White, alternatively-prepared, and under 30 years of age.


The findings reveal that these three teachers' experiences highlight the ways in which they continue to use their instructional skills for the benefit of others.
These three teachers chose to enter the classroom via alternative routes that offered reduced barriers to entry, where they had the opportunity to try out teaching without a large financial or time investment in teacher preparation.

Each chose teaching because it was a convenient way to fulfill some temporary need in their lives. Once in the classroom, each educator found that their visions did not match up to the classroom realities. All three teachers found their experiences in the classroom to be physically and emotionally draining.

After leaving the classroom, all three of these former teachers found that a career transition out of education was not as seamless as anticipated.
These teachers each found that their detours through the classroom had concrete professional, financial, and emotional costs in the form of delayed entry into new careers, tuition costs, and daily struggles.
Although the experiences of these three women highlight the difficult road out of the classroom, they also point to the strong connection that may remain after teachers have formally left education.

All three former teachers continue to retain what they see as a link to the field.
Although no longer in formal teaching positions, these educators nonetheless bring their instructional, collaborative, and professional skills into society at large, providing enhanced educational opportunities for others.


The results suggest that these educators used an exploratory context to try out teaching, but ultimately left the classroom for what they perceived as more suitable and sustainable professions.
This study reinforces the importance of teachers’ personal connections to their workplace and the sustainability of their work-life balance.
This study also suggest that it is critical for future educators to be well-informed about the field of education before they formally dedicate themselves personally, financially, and professionally to becoming teachers.
One way to educate prospective teachers about the field is to provide intermediate pathways, where future educators have opportunities to work in support roles prior to taking on full classroom responsibilities.

Teacher educators can work closely with school districts as well as their colleagues in the arts and sciences to promote tighter classroom links that might inform prospective educators about the challenges and rewards of their chosen profession.


The author concludes that this study identifies concerns about the costs for the teachers themselves while also recognizing the transformative potential of former educators applying their skills throughout society in a myriad of ways. 
This research suggests the importance of incorporating ideas about teaching into recruitment, enhancing the status of teaching, and offering opportunities for early classroom experience as a means to building a committed workforce of professional educators.

Updated: Feb. 11, 2015