Note: The following is a guest post by former teacher Cindi Wood in response to Why Good Teachers Are Leaving Education.
I taught for 23 years before throwing in the towel. Not 3 or 5 years, like the usual quitters. I didn’t just wake up and quit one day. It was well-planned and thought out.
I stumbled onto teaching for a temporary way to make money while pregnant and pay off some student loans in exchange for working with economically disadvantaged and at-risk kids. After renewing my contract after the first year, I jumped into a certification program and thrived on all the training I got, all the friends I made, and the support from my teacher friends as my one and only child was diagnosed with Autism. I was paid shit, but the insurance was great for a single mother needing different therapies for her child and I was able to feel good about a job well done.
So after a great first year and 22 additional years, why did I leave education?
Parents, I’ve got to tell you, you were 33% of the reason. Administration (ex-teachers who hated the classroom enough to pay for a master’s or doctorate in order to leave the classroom) were 33%, and non-educators in the form of school boards, state legislators and federal legislators were the remaining 34% of the reason I finally bolted.
How can this be? Didn’t I spend the majority of my time with the kids? Why wouldn’t they be the tipping point? They were the reason I stayed for 22 years after my first year. The feeling of accomplishment, through the mine fields of hormones and angst that teenagers bring, was so great that I chose to teach. I had options if I didn’t like teaching, and I could have bailed anytime I wanted to. I already had higher education degrees (yes, plural), and had worked in a “real” job before teaching.
I suppose at some point I had been out of the research field for too long to just walk back into a lab and start back up, but I had continued my education while teaching to have left the classroom and been an assistant principal or even at the central admin level in an Instructional Technology job. But I didn’t want those jobs. They weren’t fulfilling to me, and I would have been bored as fuck after I’d peaked on the learning curve.
Basically, here’s how it all goes down: Someone with good intentions did a bunch of research for their doctorate, and presented the solid work at a conference. Some asshole, needing to justify their administrative salary brought back the Reader’s Digest version of all that work, and presented it to a bunch of other assholes with big salaries at the regional or district level, and they decided that it was going to be the cure-all for their ills. Rinse and repeat a few times, and you have the same classroom interference that cycles every 4 -7 years.
I feel my blood pressure on the rise already, so here are the things I hated about teaching in no particular order:
- Being embarrassed because some of my “friends” snickered that “those who can’t do, teach.” Assholes.
- Being paid shit and outsiders thinking it’s OK because teachers “have summers off.” I’m not even going to try to address that one. Read someone else’s blog.
- At a district level Science department meeting, the Science Coordinator asks, “What is the answer to improving our testing scores?” Soccer Coach/science teacher answers, “Ethnic cleansing!” Everyone laughs but me and it’s not seen as a problem by the district.
- Being told by an Astronaut (we live near NASA) that there was no way his daughter was making a D. Want me to explain that one? Well, I’m not going to.
- The days of wasted time I spent in meetings discussing state testing scores.
- The days I wasted covering for crappy teachers by teaching the “intensive test prep” classes instead of science. Yes, they really forced us to do this. And yes, it still happens.
- Being treated as if any discipline problem in a classroom was always due to the teacher’s incompetence, which piggybacks off of overloading certain teacher’s classrooms with the problem kids because they are good with “those” kids. Don’t start humming “Welcome back,” because it never turns out like Mr. Kotter’s classroom. Vinnie Barbarino eventually stabs a bitch to impress Horshack.
- Every year, the tightening of purse strings affecting the time and quality of education I was able to provide to a student. That could have been the swelling of class sizes to over the state limits with the acceptance of class size waivers being the norm. Honey, size may not matter in the bedroom but it matters in a science classroom. Wonder how come the kids complain about being bored and never doing any of the fun stuff? Want 35-40 teens running around a lab with fire or scalpels when you know damn well they spent the instructional time on social media instead of listening to the teacher … because they’re teenagers and that’s what they do?
There are great teachers that are meant to spend their lives in the classroom. They willingly accept all of the above because of the love of teaching. And I get that. But after 23 years, I had to throw in the towel and despite my love of science and sharing this love with kids, I haven’t regretting it once.