What does a healthy exit look like?

What if you realize, as you are training for X, that you don't want to do X? If it's piano lessons, you stop.

If it's med school or law school, you've got a problem. Called: "Lots of debt."

One of the nice things about tuition-free teacher residencies is, at various points in the process, you can stop without debt.

You can realize "Hey, I signed up in good faith. But now that I'm around kids all day, maybe this isn't for me."

By embracing and welcoming the notion of teachers exiting during training (including helping them think about "what's next" -- other professions they might want to pursue), you reduce the number who quit later (at more perilous times).

Here's a nice healthy exit story: Max. Tall dude, Harvard alum. I asked him to share his tale:

Dear MATCH Teacher Resident,

Hi there. My name is Max and I was in MATCH Corps at the Middle School in 2009-10. I started out in MATCH Corps about 70% sure I wanted to be a No Excuses teacher. I enrolled in the Teacher Residency.

I really loved much of the Residency: working in groups, practicing the different parts of a lesson and getting feedback on presence and delivery. I think it's a rare opportunity to have an expert coach you in the leadership skills that go with being a classroom teacher. I learned a lot from listening to my coaches and fellow trainees. Still, the fall was tough for me as a tutor. I had one student decide to withdraw from MATCH and that was discouraging.

Through the winter and spring I got more confident with my methods and work with students, their families and my peers. I still felt the deep challenge of this work, but I was developing stronger professional relationships with my students and I knew that they were making strides academically.

When I actually got to student teaching in spring, I was pretty thrilled. In my first few lessons I made it work on pure adrenaline and enthusiasm. As we got further into the spring, however, I started to think seriously about my plans for the next few years. Though I found many of my lessons immensely fulfilling, I realized, perhaps subconsciously at first, that I did not feel ready to commit 100% to being a teacher.

My decision to leave MTR was in some small way a result of some lingering doubts I had since that rocky fall. But mostly it came from a desire to explore other interests and passions of mine before committing wholeheartedly to a career. I think that in order to be a good teacher, you need to be ready to unflinchingly put your all into it. I wasn't there.

If I ever go back to pursuing teaching, I'll make that decision from the empowered standpoint of knowing that I want my life to center on my work. I decided to leave MTR right before April break, before the job search process. I finished MATCH Corps in June and felt immensely proud and satisfied with the work I had done all year. Right now I am living in San Francisco working for the Sierra Club and figuring out what's next.

I have to say, Orin and MG were 100% supportive of my decision. They still keep in touch with me, even now.

Good luck with MTR, your tutoring and your time at MATCH. Whatever path you choose, you've got an incredible year ahead of you!

The goal here is maximizing both the happiness of individuals (by not coercing them to stay in a teacher prep program when it's not the job they want or not the job they'll excel at; by giving them a healthy, safe landing) and maximizing student achievement (by reducing the number of rookie teachers who are doing the job out of obligation instead of desire).