Hey, New Teacher, Don't Quit. It Will Get Better

Nov 17, 2015
Originally published on December 1, 2015 11:52 am

Starting a new job is always tough — no matter the profession. But the first year for a new teacher can be brutal.

Research shows that roughly one teacher in 10 will quit by the end of that first year, and the toughest time — for many — is right now. In fact, this season is so famously hard on teachers that it even has a name ...

Here's a recent excerpt from the blog Love, Teach:

"Hello. Sorry it's been so long. I seem to have fallen into DEVOLSON ... an acronym I invented that stands for the Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November. It's kind of a homophone for "devil's son," which is intentional. I discovered that it's the time of the school year where teachers are the busiest, craziest, and, usually the saddest."

We first mentioned DEVOLSON a few weeks ago, when our colleague, Meg Anderson, wrote the post below and struck a chord with lots of teachers — and not just newbies. The response was so great that we decided to make a little DEVOLSON radio. Just click on the little triangle up there and let the fun begin.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Starting any new job can be tough. Starting a new job as a teacher is brutal. Research shows that roughly 1 teacher out of 10 will quit by the end of the first year, and the toughest time for many is right now. Cory Turner of the NPR Ed team reports this season is so famously hard on teachers, it even has a name.

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: DEVOLSON, D-E-V-O-L-S-O-N, it stands for...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The Dark Evil Vortex Of Late September October and November.

TURNER: This is the grade-school teacher who came up with the name. We're not using her name because she writes a popular anonymous blog, called "Love, Teach" in which she tackles some of education's toughest issues. DEVOLSON, she says, can be awful.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: There's just something about being able to name something that is killing you that kind of makes it easier to deal with. It's almost like a diagnosis.

TURNER: Teachers know they're in the depths of DEVOLSON if...

LUISANA REGIDOR: My observations are coming up with my administrators. I have lessons to plan, papers to grade.

TURNER: Luisana Regidor is a new U.S. history teacher at Schurz High School in Chicago.

REGIDOR: After September goes, you start seeing who's slipping with their grades. The reality of being a teacher hits you.

TURNER: Veteran teachers aren't immune either, says Lauren Schwab (ph) of Austin, Texas. She's been teaching for 31 years.

LAUREN SCHWAB: Oh, do report cards, and do conferences, and do lesson plans and teach. And then do this, that and the other, and it's October. And I just want to have fun with Halloween. (Laughter).

TURNER: Those are some causes. As for symptoms, there's one big one, says Regidor.

REGIDOR: When I left out of here and I got in my car, I just couldn't help but just burst into tears.

TURNER: The car cry. The "Love, Teach" blogger has been teaching for six years and says she's had three car cries this year. And that's an improvement. In the early days...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You know, I'd be crying under my desk in my off period because I didn't want anyone to see me through the window crying.

TURNER: Roxanna Elden teaches at Hialeah High School near Miami and remembers her first car cry. Her students had been unruly all day, and she says she broke a cardinal rule of teaching. She punished them with homework. Only after school did she realize it was Halloween.

ROXANNA ELDEN: And I had to pull into a Burger King parking lot because I was crying so hard, I couldn't see the road.

TURNER: Elden's been teaching now for 11 years and just created something to help new teachers through their first DEVOLSON. It's a free, month-long burst of pick-me-up emails that she calls the disillusionment power pack. One of the first says...

ELDEN: We hide behind expressions like steep learning curve that do not begin to capture what it's like to feel you are failing at the most important job in the world.

TURNER: But it's really up to schools to help new teachers, especially in these first rough months. What works?

RICHARD INGERSOLL: One of the most common supports is you have a veteran teacher serve as a mentor.

TURNER: Richard Ingersoll at the University of Pennsylvania says mentoring can make a big difference, provided it's done right.

INGERSOLL: You might have a mentor program where it entails a 20-minute cup of coffee in September and that's it.

TURNER: Ingersoll says veteran teachers have their hands full too. If they're expected to do some car-cry interventions and give steady, thoughtful feedback, it helps if they're getting paid extra or given extra time to make it work. Luisana Regidor, the new teacher in Chicago, she has a mentor and says she'll make it through this DEVOLSON.

REGIDOR: I want to say I do love my job, like, despite all of the stress.

TURNER: Regidor tears up but wants to be clear they're not tears of frustration.

REGIDOR: It's love. Like, I love it here.

TURNER: That's part of what makes teaching so hard, she says, and what keeps her coming back. Corey Turner, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.