A large number of newly hatched educators drop out of the teaching profession every year. An even larger number of high school and college students drop out before graduation. This morning I've been exploring the possibility of a gradual process building up enough frustrations to culminate in dropping out regardless of age or maturity. The process starts with losing out, followed by acting out which leads to burning out which ends up with dropping out. This process applies equally to teachers and students. The consequences of closed minds, extrinsic rewards and linear delivery systems play no favorites.
- Losing out: When receiving formal evaluations of performance that determine the amount of reward, intrinsic motivations go into hiding. It does not matter whether the rewards impacted by the evaluation are points on a quiz or the size of a pay raise. The person framed by contingent rewards no longer gets in the mood to do anything and can only force themselves to show up. They stop getting creative ideas, empathic insights into others or inspired alternatives to solve chronic problems. They lose out big time.
- Acting out: After the loss occurs, a bounty of negative emotions arise. There's anxiety about the loss and suspicions of personal inadequacies. There's lots of resentment toward the authority figures to dish out those supposedly objective evaluations. There's frustrations with how much of the required activities seem contrived, useless and senseless. Finally, the inner turmoil gets acted out as misdirected anger, retaliatory hostilities or other forms of taking one's own frustrations out on others.
- Burning out: The cathartic experiences of acting out only provide temporary relief. There is a concurrent loss of stamina, endurance and motivation. those who've passed through phases of losing out and acting out become more passive, dependent on others and incapable of personal initiative. Feeling numb, bored and indifferent leads to acting bored, apathetic and indifferent. Commitments seem annoying. Requests seem like impositions. Conversations seem excessive. Burnout has replaced acting out.
- Dropping out: The situation calls for a "fight or flight" response. The pervasiveness of the adversity seems far too extensive to fight it. Nearly everyone appears to be content with feeding the problem, perpetuating the abuses and ignoring the effects on individuals. It's taken for granted that participants would lose out, act out and burn out. Everyone is looking at what's going on with closed minds. The only solution is to get out of the toxic system. It seems like the open-minded thing to do that may possibly revive intrinsic motivations and self respect.
The dropouts' assessment of the problem appears accurate to me. There's no solution at the level of changing job/course requirements, pay/grades rewards or counseling/advising interventions. The system needs to replace uniform requirements with self-selected explorations, extrinsic with intrinsic rewards and content delivery with peer reciprocation systems that will open closed minds.