Understanding Teacher Exodus: Student Behavior Takes Center Stage in Recent Survey

Teachers quitting

Publisher’s Note: In recent years, I’ve often quoted the famous words of Bob Dylan, specifically his iconic line, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” I’ve shared those words in the chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly, where I’ve referenced Dylan’s words to underscore our changing landscape. I receive many calls and texts from educators and administrators and listen to their insights— which reveals a concerning dilemma in today’s education system.

Disturbing messages of students walking off-campus without permission, an increase in mental health issues, high school graduates who can barely read, and even stories of students engaging in sex on school premises. Just yesterday, news broke of a public school teacher and an assistant principal who were arrested for paddling (corporal punishment) to a misbehaving student. It’s a graphic reminder that indeed, “the times they are a-changin.’”



During our latest episode of “The Rutherford Magazine Show” on Sunday night (5-6pm) on WGNS 100.5 FM, I looked back into a personal life review, I most likely hold the record among lawmakers for enduring the most paddlings during my school years. The irony is in the fact that those educators who paddled me became my favorite mentors. The discipline of those educators was felt by strong feeling that they truly cared.

I can remember when Mr. Raikes, a well—respected principal at Smyrna High School paddled me on two separate occasions. It was three hard licks each. On both instances— I felt it was not my fault. One guy started the fight and another guy was looking over and cheating off my paper during a test. A few weeks later he approached me and placed him arm on my shoulder. He said, “Mike, I’ve always heard you’re a very polite young man,” those positive words are forever etched in my memory. Mr. Raikes encouragement and ‘words of affirmation’ only helped to reinforce those manners my strict, WW11, Great Depression-era father instilled in me.

I was paddled by Mr. Don Odom the principal at David Youree Elementary School for skipping school in the 5th grade. Ironically, we worked together when he was the Rutherford County School Superintendent. He is one of my favorite educators. I was even paddled for yawning in class. My 7th grade teacher Ms. Harrison who treated me as her teacher pet busted my tail. I was shocked! What was funny is that I knew of she saw me yawn she couldn’t help but yawn as well. She wanted me to quite yawning and I ‘misbehaved’ and didn’t heed her warnings and she said “Get out in that hall.” The other paddling was given by an elderly teacher, she seemed to be in her 80’s as a young 8th grader. I threw chewing gun across the room and hit Jimmy ‘Jimbo’ Victory on the top of his head (Jimmy if you’re reading this I owe you an apology or a Cracker Barrel gift card). To my horror the gum stuck in his hair. He went to pull it out and it was a two-foot string of gum. The teacher looked up and asked him “Jimmy, what happened” He calmly tried to cover for me ‘It fell from the ceiling.” She looked at me and asked iof I threw it and I politely responded “Yes, ma’am.” I was shocked that an elderly teacher could hit me that hard—she must have been a soft ball player in her early years. I share this to say—bring back paddling!

Our Tennessee prison budget has doubled since I was first elected in 2010 amassing to $1,200,000,000–growing an astonishing $600 million. I will argue much of this is the lack of father, broken homes, drug addiction and positive mentors today. Yes ‘The Times They are A-Changin.’


Decoding the Teacher Exodus: Recent Survey Highlights Student Behavior as Central Factor

A new survey shedding light on the reasons behind the exodus of teachers from the profession points squarely at student behavior as the primary cause. Released by Chalkboard Review, the survey underlines how this factor has become the leading contributor to the ongoing teacher shortage crisis in the United States.

Teachers across the nation have been vocal about their concerns, urging district leaders and legislators to implement changes aimed at enhancing teacher satisfaction and retention. An illustrative example is the Mineral Wells Independent School District in Texas, which has adopted a four-day school week to boost competitiveness and attract more educators.



Despite the attention given to the broader teacher shortage crisis, the role of student behavior in exacerbating the problem has been largely overlooked.

Tony Kinnett, co-founder and executive director of Chalkboard Review, initiated a survey aimed at comprehending why a significant number of teachers are choosing to leave the classroom—either abandoning their careers entirely or opting to switch school districts.

In this survey involving 615 K-12 teachers in the Midwest, participants were questioned about their primary reasons for leaving. The key inquiries included:

1. What is the primary reason for leaving your position?
2. If salary is considered an ancillary reason, what would be the largest factor contributing to your departure?
3. Were you a member of a local or national teachers union in the previous academic year?
4. Would you return to the classroom if the administration satisfactorily addressed the identified problem?

Key Findings:

• Among the 615 respondents, 319 cited reasons related to student behavior as their primary cause for leaving, overshadowing other factors.
• “Progressive political activity” was listed by 138 respondents as their primary reason for departure, ranking as the second-highest response.
• “Salary insufficient” garnered 134 votes, securing the third position.
• When salary became an ancillary reason, the landscape shifted dramatically, with 447 respondents listing behavior as their primary cause for leaving.
• 128 respondents pointed to “progressive political activity” as their primary reason under these conditions.
• A significant portion of respondents (356 out of 615) reported being part of a teachers union in the previous year.
• A mere 21% of respondents expressed a willingness to return to the classroom if their complaints were satisfactorily addressed.

As education leaders devise strategies to enhance incentives and improve teacher retention, it is crucial to examine the impact of the classroom environment, with student behavior emerging as a pivotal factor. One potential solution proposed is fostering increased communication between principals and counselors, recognizing the profound impact counselors can have on the student body with adequate resources and communication channels.

To share your thoughts, concerns and advice for me or if you find a typo in my article please email me at MikeSparksTn@gmail.com or call my office 615-741-6829.