Hi My Loves! I am so excited to announce that I am officially leaving the classroom after almost 14 years!
I did it! I am so excited to venture out into something new, though leaving my longest running job is bittersweet and scary. Notice I called it a job, not a career, because that’s really what it has become for me. A job I had to go to so I can have an income and be an adult.
I was passionate and excited about teaching maybe 3 out of the 14 years I’ve done it. In the short time (and I say that in comparison to friends who have been teaching for over 20 years) the shift in education has been disheartening and disenfranchising.
It seemed that every year there were new initiatives and mandates put into place by individuals so far removed from the classroom they wouldn’t survive a day.
A profession that commanded the highest level of respect back in the day has now placed teachers at the bottom of the societal totem pole.
Why did I stay so long? Well, #1 I racked up tons of student loans to pursue what I thought was a respectable and rewarding career. And I needed to pay them off. (Which I haven’t). #2 I was working on a pension and retirement. And #3, most importantly, because every year I really believed something would reignite in my soul and I would be like “Woohoooo!” Sometimes it did, but that fire quickly simmered down to a dying ember. Sad but true.
I went back to school for two reasons: One my kids, my girls. I kept saying how do I instill in them the importance of education if I hadn’t placed importance on it myself.
The second reason is that while working at Montclair State University in their education center, this professor who later became my boss, mentor and friend, looked at me one day and said, “You HAVE to go back to school! Let’s get you a PhD!”
Ha! Really??? I was just trying to wrap my mind around a bachelor’s degree. Especially since at that point, I already had two kids and worked full-time.
That’s where it all started. In retrospect, I really loved what I was already doing supporting teacher candidates, graduate assistants, my boss and other faculty in the teacher education department. But, I believed in order to be credible in the field of education, I had to get my teaching degree and get some experience in the trenches. And boy did it feel like the trenches!
Little did I know that the disconnect between theory and practice is so wide that I could have totally stayed in my job and done an amazing job supporting others.
But we live and we learn. Now thousands and thousands of student loans later, I have eagerly decided to hang up my dry erase markers (yes, because I don’t even have a Smart Board this year) and leave the classroom.
I haven’t loved it in a very long time. I’ve had moments of love and passion for sure, but those feelings were repeatedly squashed by over zealous administrators, red tape, favoritism, nepotism, sexism, to name a few.
Each September, I kept thinking:
“This year, I will feel completely supported and prepared to service my kids.”
“This will be the year that the powers-that-be finally decide to back off and just let me teach.”
“This will be the year where the assessment is aligned to the curriculum to the state standards to my students’ language levels and abilities and culture and backgrounds.”
That year never came.
And so I’ve decided to leave, not completely leaving the profession. I will still be in an educational setting but working for a non-profit corporation that supports literacy practices in a public school setting. I am EXCITED!
But I wanted to leave administrators, instructional coaches, superintendents, curriculum writers, parents and policy makers with this:
Before you criticize or demonize (as has happened to many of us) a teacher, think of the task you are asking teachers to take on – educator, mother, nurse, social worker, psychologist, interventionist, for pennies a day.
Before you jot down that 1 or 2 on a teacher’s observation report, because you as an administrator need to show data growth think about what that 1 or 2 does to your teacher’s motivation level and how that impacts his/her work in the classroom.
Before you go on your walk thrus change your mindset from a negative one to a postive one so you can catch all the good that is going on versus the one or two things that might be going wrong that day.
Before you give feedback to a teacher about what to make better, make sure its something that you yourself can go in there and model and do well.
Before any of you make another policy regarding children and schools, spend ONE day in a classroom where there are 25 1st graders some with classifications that are not being serviced, no books, no reading rug, no supplies, whose parents don’t speak the language or have limited education or work 15 hour days, where all the kids are on different academic and behavioral levels. One day! I can guarantee many wouldn’t last a half.
Listen, I am not asking for pity on teachers for the work they chose to do, what I am saying is to be a little more empathetic and thankful for the work teachers are doing day in and day out across the nation.
I don’t know what this new career will bring for me, but I can say that I was able to recognize that I could no longer go to a place where every morning it felt like a chore and every evening was filled with anxiety thinking of the next day.
I recognized that I was doing my students and myself a huge disservice going there.
I have made some amazing friends and have met some amazing teachers doing amazing work despite all the people working against them and I wish them continued success.
I leave you with this thought:
“I think that education in our country is going to self-combust and when the dust settles, my hope is that those “others” will finally let teachers teach.”
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