I know that Betty Steffy and others have done work to look at the various career stages a teacher may experience. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that one is "normal" as you journey through the profession; but I am still fuzzy on what sorts of conditions allow a teacher to be happy in the classroom over several decades. I am in awe of those who do it---those who get enthused at this time of year, get in there with the kids, and do so again and again.
Steffy suggests that at each crossroad in the stages, an administrator needs to be vigilant about helping a teacher reflect and renew---rather than stagnate and rot (my term). Without placing blame on already overburdened admins, is this really the reason so many teachers don't make it 20 or 30 or 40 years into the job?
What happens to that sense of optimism and challenge we have as beginners? Why is it that about 7 or 8 years into the job, we start to become dissatisfied with being good at our jobs? Whose responsibility is it to nurture these precious resources? How long can a teacher be effective in the classroom?
I realize these questions are rhetorical. It is likely impossible to pinpoint the perfect storm which leads to an extensive and rewarding career. We know a lot about why people quit before they reach five years into the profession. Do we know why they stop before 10, 15, or 20 years?
I think that what may be missing from Steffy's analysis is that at some point, every teacher is going to look around and ask "Is that all there is?" Can we say "Yes." and provide some significant reasons why this is satisfactory?