Next week I will finish my 19th year of teaching. I work with high school juniors and seniors teaching Civics, AP US History and American Cultural History. The students are your perfect bell curve, of course, but they are easily the best part of my job. Honestly, were it not for them, I would have quit years ago.
I had 13 days of state and federal testing this year. Add to that 16 days of "test prep" mandated by the district. That was one sixth of my classroom teaching time for the year.
Add to this the layoffs, pay cuts, benefit cuts, and a public very openly hostile towards my profession, and the extrinsic obstacles to teaching have been piled so high that I can no longer clearly see the intrinsic motivators that kept me in the classroom.
I'm done. Next week will be my last week as a public school teacher.
The exodus started a few years ago. Older teachers mostly, with enough years to retire, but who had stuck around because they still loved it, and they didn't want to abandon their students or colleagues to the onslaught of testing and "reform". But things deteriorated, the testing got worse and less meaningful, and they knew it was time to leave. They did, taking all of their wisdom and experience with them.
Last year more of them left our district, along with some new teachers who thought maybe things would be better in another school or state, but most of whom left the profession altogether. I think that trend will continue. For all intents and purposes it's a slow motion purge of education's best and brightest. (That's a disaster, by the way - almost 50% of public school teachers have less than 10 years experience)
I was offered a job in the private sector. It's an entry level position. Amazingly, it still means I'll make more than I do now, even with 19 years experience and a Master's Degree in Poli Sci.
I'll miss the kids, I truly will. The classroom is like no other place in the professional world, and I do love it. But I'm looking forward to going home from work at 5, and having my weekends back. Looking forward to 40 hour weeks instead of 55 hour ones. Looking forward to getting enough sleep all year around instead of just three months of it. Looking forward to mental and physical health. Having the time to exercise, and spending time with family. Looking forward to picking up a newspaper or being in a social situation without having to read or listen to some uninformed person's opinion about why teachers and public schools are horrible, lazy or whiny. Looking forward to not having a parent in my face because their kid didn't make an effort or get the grade they wanted.
Looking forward to being a normal person with a normal job.
Of course I will miss the summers off. But I would rather have a normal, two week vacation with enough sleep and mental health all year, instead of my just being a recovering burnout every June, July and August.
I'm not angry, or bitter. I am a bit sad at giving up the career I loved, even a bit guilty. But to be honest, I didn't give it up. It was taken from me.
This is what the public wanted - the illusion of accountability. It's what they voted for, what they supported and/or allowed to happen.
Not the topic I wanted to write for my first diary, but important enough to share I thought.
For all of you (and there are many) who championed education and teachers, voted yes on levies and bonds, and defended us in the public discourse, I very heartily thank you. It is in no small part because of you that I lasted this long, and it has been a privilege to work with your sons and daughters.
Fri May 09, 2014 at 8:17 AM PT: Wow. I am completely overwhelmed at the response, and at being put in the Community Spotlight. Thank you all for your kind encouragement, and especially my brother and sister teachers. You guys are a class act!