People ask me from time to time why I quit teaching .
All my life I wanted to teach. Many childhood memories involve standing infront of a chalkboard in my porch with my stuffed animals and little brothers lined up in a row taking notes. Everyone knew I would major in education and I couldn’t wait to have my own classroom.
Like my professor advised in graduate school, I went straight for the schools with the most need…..and at first things went great… but over time the the holes and flaws became sorely obvious… and soon things became unbearable. I tried making it work for the children’s sake.I even went to law school part-time for two semesters, hoping things would improve…. But as things grew worse, I realized it wasn’t working.
I had my reasons…
90 degree weather and no air conditioning. Ice storm and no heating. No notebook paper, no handwriting paper, and yes, no toilet paper. Books? Stationary? SOAP? Go buy it.
Two hour staff meetings with the Principal telling us that “like a wife must obey her husband, you must obey me”
“Shawn” showing me round burns across his little arms where daddy puts out his cigarettes when he’s mad. You go to the parents, counselor, social services- the result? “You shouldn’t have asked. The scars are old. Children lie”. He sees plainly… I knew yet did nothing. And “Bilal” who can’t tell the difference between B and Z but achingly bright despite his debilitating learning disability… You raise hell to get him tested yet the red tape ensures a one year wait- minimum. By then, his chances to catch up are nil.
I hated feeling angry. Angry because these children had nothing, and the school provided little more. Jonathon Kozol described the inequity in public school but I didn’t believe him until I lived it.
I tried my best. I argued with the school board, butted heads with counselors, spent chunks of change on books, book bags, clothes, and soap and I don’t regret anything I did. But you begin wearing down and I didn’t want the frustration of the outer to affect my inner love of children and education.
My family jokes that I’ll probably get my law degree and jump back into teaching… maybe a break really is all I needed. But for now, quite simply I left because like a sorry statistic, this teacher burnt out.