I miss it and I don’t- after one year away from the profession, my thoughts on teaching

Almost one year ago, my teaching contract with a terribly inefficient local school system was allowed to lapse (translation: I wasn’t fired, but they didn’t have to renew the contact so they didn’t), and I was left for the third time in three years without a job. At the time, I was devastated. I’d worked for three solid years for this county, scraping for a new job every year due to budget cuts. I’d done everything I was supposed to do and then some- but the county still didn’t seem to have room for me. Moreover, after helping out two principals in tight spots by taking on a class mid-year and being under-supported, I was scapegoated for the performance of the class at the end of the year.

Never mind that some of my students spoke a dozen words in English, or couldn’t even read or write in their first language, or were homeless and slept on a shelter cot at night, or hadn’t had a decent meal since lunch the day before, or had 2 years of formal schooling in their entire lives. I must have failed them somewhere if their test scores didn’t reach a certain level. (For the record, this is not just one child I’m talking about here.)

So after three long, difficult years, I walked away from a profession that drove me absolutely crazy. I wasn’t helping my students, I wasn’t helping myself, and I wasn’t happy.

I’ve had a year to adjust to a new ‘job’ as an entrepreneur, and see how I deal with a change of pace. To a large extent, it’s been wonderful.

I don’t miss:

1) The schedule

2) The blame

3) The inefficient, unprofessional management teams

4) The time-wasting ‘professional development’ meetings

5) The constant illnesses

6) The financial investment it takes to maintain a classroom

7) Grading papers on nights and weekends

8 ) Creating lesson plans on nights and weekends

9) Being treated unprofessionally and watching administrators treat dedicated teachers like errant teenagers who have to prove why they should get to stay out past curfew.

10) Calling parents in the car on the way home from work, just to multi-task a bit more so that I might get to bed 15 minutes earlier.

11) Dealing with parents who think I’m racist because I insist their child follow the behavioral rules of my classroom. (There was more than one of those.)

I do miss:

1) My students

(crickets chirping……)

Looking back , I think the profession of teaching is in the worst state I’ve ever seen. The ENTIRE YEAR is focused on the Big Test that they have to take. The meddling of the politicians and businesspeople has made it worse, not better, and the expectation that the ‘system is broken’ like a car is broken is corroding one of the most noble things a society can aspire to do- prepare its next generation for life. I could go on and on, but enough people talk about this topic and disconnect their heads from their intuition. The change we need at this point can only come from a total paradigm shift- and I honestly don’t know that mass society is up for that yet. That’s okay, millions of people are taking the initiative to home-school their kids or deliberately fighting back against the system. I wish you well.

I miss one thing about teaching- my kids- and I miss them terribly. But the job itself is not worth making myself miserable. So I refuse it. I’ll make a different way.

Looking back, I’m so, so, so very happy that I’m not teaching right now. I’m not ruling it out in the future….maybe once I move to Austin, Tx, I’ll try their system and see if it’s any better out there. But for now, I’m the master of my own ship, and I’m not willing to go back to the system that so abused me while hamstringing my ability to help my students.

Fool me once….


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