Disclaimer: This isn’t exactly my usual upbeat, witty writing style. If you’d like more of that explore other posts. However, I think it’s important for me to share.
Growing up, all I ever wanted to be was a teacher. I mean, there were brief bits of time when I wanted to be a photographer or a baby-delivering doctor. But neither of those lasted very long.
When I was little, I would play school with my sister and my friend Katy. I loved making worksheets, writing a bunch of fake names in my gradebook that my mom bought me, and marking up the “assignments” my students turned in. I would yell at Katy because she always wanted to be the “bad” kid. I would take home old textbooks and workbooks at the end of the school year to use in my “classroom.” I couldn’t wait to be a teacher when I grew up.
When I was applying to college, there was no question about my major: elementary education. I worked as a day camp counselor over the summer, and I LOVED it.
I worked at a preschool over winter break, though, and I HATED it. I hated it so much that I went back to school in January and changed my major. Partially because of the work at the day care, but also because I was afraid of graduating with so much debt and not making much money. So, I briefly became a business major. I figured I was smart, and I could do something and do it well, and make good money.
But I hated that, too. I found myself sitting in one of my required-by-DePaul cultural classes, trying to think of ways to apply my business degree to something related to kids and/ or education. Well, duh. Time to switch it back to education.
And it was great! I started taking education classes, writing lesson plans, and observing in classrooms. I discovered that I wanted to teach middle school–what I felt like were the forgotten years. Whenever I told someone that I was an elementary education major, they assumed I wanted to teach primary grades— “Oh, so like first grade?” people would ask.
“No, like middle school.” Then, *gasp* “Why?!”
I observed in a middle school for the first time and loved the idea of only teaching one subject (Language Arts, of course), I loved how the day was broken up into the different class periods, and I loved that I could be sarcastic and joke around with the kids. It just finally felt right. I was hooked.
And when I did eventually find myself working as an eighth grade Literature and Language Arts teacher—literally the job I had crossed my fingers and hoped and dreamed of getting—I loved coming to work every day. I was a first year teacher: I was exhausted and over-worked, I had minimal classroom management, and I basically had no idea what I was doing. But I loved every-freaking-second of that year. Even when I was crying. I never, ever dreaded coming to work.
Each day I learned, and I got better, and I taught another year. Again, I loved coming to work every day. Another year passed. Another year of learning, of creativity, of passion. Changing subjects and grade levels was a new challenge in those first few years that I welcomed—I truly loved every second of it.
But then things started to change. Suddenly, I found myself not wanting to go to work. Daydreaming about other jobs I could be heading to on my drive to work . Googling “non-teaching jobs with an education degree.” How did I get here?
As I mentioned in my return post, I resigned from my position in April. It had nothing to do with all the nonsense that took place surrounding my blog.
I’ve always been critical of teachers who only complained about their job and clearly didn’t want to do it, and I promised myself that if I ever became that person, I would leave.
I became that person this year. Here’s why:
To be blunt, discipline was an issue in my school.
Students should not think detention is fun. Students should not be sent back to my classroom after five minutes when I feel as though they need to be removed. (Sometimes it’s that I need them out!) Discipline policies should be followed as they are laid out. When an adult asks a student wandering the hallway where he’s going, the student should not think it’s ok to respond with, “Why do you need to know?” (True story.)
But if there is no consequence for such behavior, it continues, and it festers.
And that had become the culture of the school; students didn’t respect teacher’s authority, because why should they? What was the consequence? A two minute chat? Maybe a detention? Very rarely, a phone call home?
It is our job to teach kids to be respectful, responsible adults. But when they are not punished according to their actions, we are teaching them that that behavior is ok.
2. Being a Kid
On the other hand, students had very little time to just be a kid! When did it stop being ok to have fun at school? The celebrations were mediocre and few and far between. No spirit week or anything like that, no celebrating holidays, and very little celebration of the students in general.
And God forbid there is any “free time.” Earned a celebration? Friday in study hall? Finished a standardized test? Free time, socialization, fun was not acceptable.
Following the actual PARCC test, we were told that rather than give the kids free time (i.e. time to relax and decompress after a 110 minute test that was frustratingly difficult), we should be starting a lesson. Are you kidding me?!
3. Respect as a Professional
One instance jumps to the forefront of my memory when I think about being respected as a professional this year. We were told that the Language Arts department was meeting to work on curriculum during PLC (Professional Learning Communities) time. What actually took place, though, felt like detention. We were yelled at. We were told that we were not good enough– that what we were doing in the classroom was not good enough.
It felt like we were not trusted as professionals. That we were not working hard enough, doing enough for our students. It was embarrassing, it was insulting, and it was, honestly, just plain mean. There were teachers brought to tears.
We were disrespected and treated like naughty children. And then nothing was done about it.
After this “meeting,” we did not meet with this administrator again for the rest of the school year. That was in February.
I am a professional. I am always open to new ideas. I love learning new strategies, incorporating new technology, finding new and engaging texts to use in the classroom. I am passionate about being a creative, engaging, effective teacher, helping students grow as readers, inspiring them to find the joy in reading.
But that was stifled.
When I was packing up my things at the end of the school year, the only nostalgia I felt was for being a teacher– the passion I had for it, the joy it brought me.
Going through my binder of The Outsiders materials reminded me of that passion. The notes I’d written to myself, the lesson plans, the student work samples, the memory of kids clapping at the end of the novel– and not because they were glad it was over. It reminded me why I started teaching in the first place.
Going through that binder made me wish there were twenty-five kids in front of me, so we could discuss and analyze chapters 6-9 of The Outsiders.
It gave me hope that my passion could be sparked again.
– – –
Maybe I’m being naive. Maybe you’re shaking your head at me, thinking, “Ha, you had it good!”
I know I have not had a horrendous experience. I know there are teachers that deal with much worse on a daily basis.
But I wasn’t happy. And I’ve learned that I need to put myself first– my happiness, my mental health is important. Life is short. I want to be happy. I want job satisfaction. I want to find joy in what I do every day. I want to nurture my creativity and my passion.
I was so broken down by the time I resigned that my plan was to leave the profession altogether. I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. I wanted to give up something I had dreamed of doing since I was a little girl.
But here’s the thing: I’ve realized that I still have that fire within me– I still have that passion for inspiring students.
Maybe I’ll do it in a classroom.
Maybe I’ll do it through my writing.
Maybe it will be both.
So, there you go. That’s why I quit. For me.