I have been a public school teacher for the past 12 years, so when a member of my awesome Facebook book group asked me why I was leaving teaching to pursue literally anything else (disclaimer: that pays close to what I’m making now with benefits) I knew that my answer couldn’t be sufficiently summed up in a facebook comment. So I promised a blog, but as I’ve been simmering about how best to structure this post I found that the myriad of reasons and influences that caused me to be ousted from my chosen profession is very tangled and difficult to sort out without telling my life story from 2005 to today.
But honest to god, ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.
So I decided the best place to start would be to address how we view education in America. From the very beginning of public schooling here in the states, teachers and teaching was viewed as a noble and sacrificing position. There were very clear rules for those who chose to become teachers:
I want you to read those very carefully, because they are rules that still influence how teachers are treated today. Every year at the beginning of school at teacher meetings there is always some kind of comment made that’s like “hey look, you can drink and go to clubs and stuff but remember…kids go to the same grocery stores as you sooooo” and it’s wild. Teachers are expected to be faceless, lifeless bringers of knowledge whose reputation is without blemish and when they are not working they are at home, grading papers and watching Wheel of Fortune and definitely not titties and dragons.
When I first started teaching I remember that a “sensual items” store opened a few streets up from our school in Arizona. We had no less than THREE MEETINGS about how it’s on the news and make sure if you go there you’re not seen or don’t go straight there from school because people might be watching. I’m dead serious guys, it’s wild. I’ve never owned a vibrator, but I can’t imagine how going to buy one would do anything but improve my mood and ability to deal with your little crotch nuggets of despair.
I want to return to that second rule where it says teachers should whittle the nubs individually based on the pupils desires or some shit. Education is one of those things that EVERYONE has done so EVERYONE thinks they know how it works. And because teachers have basically been told not to share personal things or have flashy personal lives and since the United States is so fucking Puritan about EVERYTHING, EVERYONE thinks things should be done the way THEY experienced it when they were in school. “Whittle my student’s nub like my nub!” they scream. And the parents of Jimmy and Kyllyaynn’e decide they know more about teaching kids than someone who has been doing this for 12 years, gets up at 5am and goes home at 4pm only to spend 2-3 more hours grading once they get there, has two advanced degrees in the art of teaching and is trained to handle all of this. But he got a B and YOU think he deserved an A so I must not have graded it correctly. Yes, that must be it. Allow me to whittle your nub into an A so you’ll take your fist out of my ass.
So I can’t have a life, I can’t make mistakes, and I must keep the public happy instead of providing them with the truth. And now, when families are provided with the hard truth that they live in a community with a failing school, they scamper to private, charter, or online schools (they call this homeschooling, but really it’s just sending your kid to public school at home), creating a market economy for a public service. This strips away academic freedom and truthfulness in K-12 education when you make teachers put on a show, inflate grades, and lie to families to practically bribe them into staying at your school, because public schools get funding based on enrollment, not based on any even distribution method. And I can’t even begin to talk about the fact that even if failing schools retained their students, often the influence of poverty and other socioeconomic status effects are so great that there is nothing teachers can do to make a school succeed. We are teachers, not societal fixers. I can’t afford to feed myself and my family sometimes. I can’t feed other people’s children so they’ll learn about playing the flute or graphing linear functions. Also I’m trained to prepare a curriculum to maximize student learning. I do not have a public policy degree.
Sorry, this is turning into a rant that I wanted to be more organized but fuck it we’re here now. I also kind of resent that I haven’t been able to be myself since 2005. I don’t even remember who I really am anymore because I have to constantly play-act the perfect teacher so students AND my fellow educators are happy. You think dealing with parents and families is the hard part? Try keeping up with the political hoops and misery-loves-company bullshit that teachers and administrators heap on each other. I made the mistake of trusting and confiding in a few fellow teachers in my first couple of years of teaching, but never again. Honest to god without a strong teacher’s union you should be very careful about what you say and to whom you say it, because the moment another teacher needs a leg up with administration they will spill those beans and feel no qualms about throwing you under the big yellow bus. And I can’t even get started right now on how we have always pitted teachers against each other in terms of which class is more important, which teacher must be smarter because of what they teach (how many times have you heard people make fun of PE teachers?) and how we should use some subjects to punish others (i.e. you can’t be in band if you don’t get a good grade in math). And probably even more serious, at the elementary level teachers act as breaks for other teachers, e.g. when a 3rd grade teacher takes her class to art, they come to see the art teacher as their babysitter while they go to lunch or have a break, creating a hierarchy of real vs. “special” teachers.
Google “teachers” and go to images. We are expected to love our students, to instill a love of learning, to understand our students and individualize instruction to each student’s individual needs, all the while with a smile on our face because while we might not get paid enough, we do it for the children. We do it because we care. We do it because we are the agents of the future.
FUCK YOU. All of this shit from not drinking to keeping our mouths shut to acting the part to romanticising the profession is 100% BULLSHIT. I do this job because I am fucking AMAZING at it and I NEED A PAYCHECK. Do you think I’m here because I’m a bored housewife and I want to give back to my community? I AM A FUCKING PROFESSIONAL. I HAVE A BACHELOR’S AND MASTER’S DEGREES IN THIS PROFESSION. I have student loans to pay. I don’t want kids, but if I did I couldn’t have them because they are so expensive that I couldn’t afford them on a teacher’s salary that is paying off student loans and trying to keep my head above water. I. AM. A. GREAT. TEACHER. and I fucking hate teaching now.
Anyone who says they love teaching is lying to you. No I don’t want to argue about it. No I don’t want to hear exceptions, I want to generalize. Saying you love teaching is just another survival mechanism, like saying becoming a parent is the greatest decision you ever made when you discover you hate having kids but there is no going back and what are you going to do say you hate being a parent and have everyone think you are a monster? THAT IS WHAT TEACHING IS LIKE. People can’t understand when I say I hate teaching but I’m good at it so it’s what I do. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s bullshit because eventually that thing you love is going to become a grind and you’re going to hate having to do it every day. Do what you’re good at and you’ll never have to worry about losing a paycheck a day in your life – now that’s more like it. Save what you love for a hobby and make those dollahs.
I’m leaving teaching because it’s no longer the profession I thought it would be. When I do something, I do it right and I work hard to be the best I can be at that thing. Those efforts are not rewarded, and in some cases actively punished or discouraged, in the field of teaching. This post does not include all of the reasons I am leaving teaching, and I may post again about it, but what is most important to understand and take away is that unless you have been educated and trained to be a teacher, and unless you have taught and struggled through being a teacher/colleague, there is no possible way you would see all of the parts of what makes this profession a constant disappointment to whomever invests their time and money to be a part of it.
Here’s hoping my accounting and librarian applications pan out. Deuces.