My friend Andy’s Facebook status yesterday afternoon was short, sweet, and to the point.

“I used to work at Jay M. Robinson High School.”

This wasn’t news to me; I had known for awhile that he was leaving Robinson to teach advanced 8th graders at one of Charlotte’s top middle schools.  What did strike me, though, was how many people chimed in on his status with comments like “Me too,” “Me three,” “Same here,” etc., etc.

When I was in high school, I feel like the faculty stayed basically the same.  A few teachers departed every year – some retired, some went to other schools, some left the profession – but a look at my freshman yearbook and my senior yearbook reveals that the vast majority of the faculty that were there when I entered 9th grade were still around when I left.

Maybe that’s the exception rather than the rule, as I suggested in my blog post about teacher burnout.  But I have been floored by how many teachers have left Robinson in the two short years since I departed.  Sure, some have retired and some have become full-time moms, and some are even running for school board, but a lot of them are simply deciding to take their classroom talents elsewhere.  And I don’t think Robinson is unique; a lot of large schools in medium- to large-sized school systems probably have the same issues.  Although it’s hard to spot a trend common to all teachers as to why they left, here are some of the things that I know drove off some, including me.

1) The administration.  In five years, I worked for two principals and eleven different assistant principals.   And I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I didn’t like the first principal until I had the second one.  Discipline was non-existent, no clear vision for the school was ever articulated, and morale was ever-decreasing.

2) The do-nothing faculty members.  Robinson has a lot of incredible teachers that are still there, but there’s also no shortage of teachers who are either past their prime or just don’t cut the mustard.  And – going back to the administration’s problems – no one ever got rid of those teachers, even though they weren’t the least bit effective.  I used to be 100% for teacher tenure.  My time at Robinson changed that view.

3) It was a completely thankless job.  I didn’t go into teaching to have praise and riches heaped upon me (especially the riches part), but the occasional simple acknowledgement that I was doing so much for the school might have been nice.  We had a “Bulldog of the Month” that would be recognized at the faculty meeting each month, and I never once got that award, even though I spent more time in the building than 90% of the rest of the faculty.  I don’t say this to whine and bemoan my lot; plenty of other excellent teachers were passed up in favor of people who were far less deserving of praise.

4) No sense of community.  When I started student teaching in 2004, Robinson had only been open for four years.  When I commented to someone on the glaring lack of school spirit and camaraderie among students, it was theorized that this was due to the fact that students had older siblings and parents that had gone to other high schools, and as the school became more established that issue would be rectified.  Eleven years after the school opened, it may have actually gotten worse.  Honestly, I already feel closer to some of my colleagues at Research Triangle than I ever did at Robinson, and the building is still under construction.

Not all of my memories of working at Robinson are bad; I met some great people, worked with some awesome students, and grew as a professional, so I don’t want to make it sound like I’m biting the hand or that I’m particularly bitter about my tenure there.  But when a strong math teacher like Andy is trading in a five-minute commute to work for a 45-minute commute to work and is thrilled to do it, that speaks volumes.

It makes me sad that so many teachers – myself included – felt so beaten down by their inability to effect change that they went elsewhere.  But I know that I can take what I learned at Robinson – not just about teaching, but about everything else that goes into making a school a great place to learn, work, and grow – and help make my new school amazing.

I am sure that many of my other dear departed colleagues will take the same approach wherever they land.  And I sincerely hope that my friends that are still at Robinson will one day be able to do the same thing.