The end of the school year brings goodbyes to so many things… students who have become part of your “family”, fellow teachers and staff who were the life-raft of the school year, and the daily schedule making bathroom breaks a luxury. But it is also the culmination for some teaching careers. One of those careers is mine.
It seems as if the Internet is overflowing with stories of teachers leaving this career field, which is becoming a crisis in my opinion. Unfortunately, until the “decision makers” start paying attention, I fear it will only continue. Although my reasons to leave aren’t unique, I feel the need to share why I decided to end a twenty-year career in the most important industry in our nation.
You always seem to hear the old adage of “kids these days”. They are the number one reason that I stayed in teaching as long as I did. Of course they’ve changed because our world has changed, but given a consistent set of age appropriate rules and expectations, most of them step up to the challenge and excel. The way people parent is what has changed. More and more parents no longer want to parent. They want the schools to do the parenting. From anything like teaching kids how to wash their hands to creating consequences for not doing their homework has fallen more and more on teachers’ shoulders. Parents want to be the “fun” ones and make the teachers and schools the bad guys. Or instead, blame the schools for the students’ (insert a failure of any kind) instead of teaching their child to accept responsibility for their actions. (Disclaimer: this does not apply to ALL parents by any means and I was privileged to have so many great parents to work with.)
The curriculum expectations for our students is another reason I could no longer hang in there. The lack of consideration for developmentally appropriate curriculum is shown in Common Core math to making sure kids are reading by kindergarten. I found it more and more of a moral struggle to force those little ones to complete tasks that I know from all my experience is inappropriate for their age. Add pacing guides on top of that, obligating me to teach a specific lesson each day whether my students understand what they’ve learned or not is also something I just couldn’t do anymore.
And of course, the big T word… testing is out of control. Last year my students spent almost 15 days taking tests if my counting is correct. That is at least 3 weeks of lost instruction time. My students were fourth graders and were able to handle it better than some, but ask a kindergarten teacher about the testing they have to do. Honestly, can you imagine testing those little babies? But it gets even better because then teachers are judged on their students’ test scores! Seriously?! It’s like judging a dentist on how many patients have cavities. Plus there is zero accountability for parents when it comes to judging teachers on student test scores, yet some students come to school without a book ever being read to them. I could quote all kinds of boring statistics about the influence active parent participation has on student achievement, but I won’t. Visit any classroom however, and you’ll see it in action.
Then there’s the respect, or lack of, toward teachers, schools and the education system as a whole. Sure everyone says how much they appreciate teachers, but I never had anyone ask my opinion when making decisions about how we teach. Whenever something goes wrong, the school, teachers and staff are the first ones thrown under the bus (see what I did there)! This is represented in how little teachers are paid to so many people thinking they know what needs to happen in the classroom because they were a student at one time. Anyone who feels that strongly about it, I highly encourage you to spend a minimum of four years in college, six if you’re like me and so many others who wanted that masters’ degree, and spend time day in and day out teaching. Then, please come tell me what I need to change. You may have some great ideas, but being a student at one time doesn’t qualify you for anything.
Unfortunately, much of the change can’t come from the school or even the district because many of these outrageous mandates come from the State level or higher. And I don’t have an answer on how to fix it. If I did, maybe I would be tough enough to stick it out another ten years but instead I’m pivoting in life and heading on a different career path. But I salute those of you sticking it out and making a difference each and every day until someday when changes can be made. You are the foundation of this country.