“Solely the robust survive” doctrine? Why this maxim is an issue
As another school year comes to an end, I see more and more teachers on my social media feed announcing that this is their last school year. She Openly express the pain of leaving and emphasize that leaving work is necessary for your psychological well-being and/or family life. As a former teacher who made a similarly difficult decision, I can’t help but respond with empathy and encouragement, responding with things like, “I experienced that!” and “Good for you!” It takes tremendous courage to give up teaching.
However, not everyone in education shares this view of what it takes to get out of school.
I recently came across a post where a district presented “research findings” during a year-end PD meeting, claiming that only teachers with higher levels of social-emotional competencies (SEC) remain in the teaching profession.
My Malarkey odometer went off immediately. As a teacher-turned-researcher, I’m always curious about the narratives that districts convey to their educators as “research.” and this one set off all the alarm bells.
Here are just some of the reasons we need to stop saying, “Only the strong survive” in the classroom:
It is not true.
Not surprisingly, the research provided as part of professional development is outdated and theoretical Piece this only suggests that higher SEC teachers stay in the classroom. The authors have not conducted a study, taken their own measurements, or provided any studies that suggest teachers with higher SECs persist.
Your idea or theory isn’t new though – it’s been a few years NPRSeveral teachers admitted that “only the strong survive”. But we must recognize that this belief, which suggests that only the toughest individuals, or those with a high SEC score, can exist in the profession, is deeply problematic and toxic.
There is a lack of substantial evidence for this claim. The lack of adequate research reduces the credibility of such claims or theories. As teachers, we should always question the validity of unsupported theories when others present them as facts.
It invalidates the real challenges teachers face.
While teachers tend to be less emotional in a positive school climate exhaustionNot every school offers an ideal working environment. The theory that an upper secondary education alone guarantees a fulfilling and enduring teaching career ignores the real challenges that teachers face real warning signs in their working environment such as:
- Coping with overwhelming workloads and unrealistic deadlines
- A lack of autonomy and trust to perform their duties effectively
- Experienced disparagement by colleagues or administrators
- Limited opportunities to voice opinions or concerns
- The constant fear of job insecurity
Across the country, teachers face these warning signs on a daily basis, prompting some to say, “Enough is enough!” and leave their toxic work environments. Of course, these teachers have dedicated their professional lives to mentoring and nurturing young minds. Yet they ultimately value their well-being by exiting an unsupportive atmosphere.
And people assume it’s because they can’t take it mentally? Well, I think it takes more courage to leave an environment that doesn’t serve you than it does to persevere.
It’s an excuse for bad leadership.
The notion that “only the strong survive” in the classroom can be a convenient excuse for poor leadership. When administrators or executives promote the notion that only teachers with a higher SEC remain, they shift the blame away from themselves or the root causes of teacher turnover back to the individual teachers. This perspective suggests that teachers who struggle or decide to drop out lack the strength or resilience needed, creating a culture of judgment and skepticism rather than support. Not only does this harm current or new teachers, it also has a downward impact and affects the quality of the education these students receive.
Some teachers have painfully retired from the profession, despite their love for students and despite years of striving to become teachers. They left because they could no longer sacrifice their welfare. Deciding to leave the job you love is a challenge. It’s difficult to say no to something that wears you out. It’s difficult to prioritize after dedicating your life to a selfless profession. These decisions likely require a high level of self-awareness and SEC.
Overall, it is high time to challenge and discard the notion that “only the strong survive” in the classroom. True courage lies not in enduring toxic environments, but in recognizing when we should prioritize our well-being and choose to walk away. Teachers who love their students and choose to leave are not weak; They are brave people who refuse to risk their sanity and happiness for a career that no longer supports them. They deserve our utmost respect and admiration, not judgment or skepticism.
Together, let’s reshape the narrative around the classroom and foster a culture that values the well-being of educators and celebrates their courage to create positive change in their own lives.
What do you think of the “Only the strong survive” theory in teaching? Let us know in the comments!
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