A Dear John Letter to My Career in Education

About Tracie Happel

Ms. Happel has been teaching for 25 years, specializing in special education/deaf and hard of hearing students and students with specific learning disabilities. She has also worked with regular education students at the elementary level. Ms. Happel worked for three years as a governor-appointed education commissioner, bringing the most pressing and recent research in national education to state stakeholders. When not working hard to inspire and educate her students, or collaborate closely with colleagues, Ms. Happel trains for and races in Ironman triathlons. She has two beautiful children who are beginning their lives as young adults in college, and in mission work. Ms. Happel is available for consultation services and presentations on a variety of educational topics. She can be contacted at traciehappel@gmail.com.

Dear Education Career,

It’s been a great 15 years, and I thank you but it’s time for me to go now. I remember when we first met back in college. You were so enticing; working with kids, the other professionals dedicated to making a difference, empowering change and knowledge in a strong field. When I finally got a contract in my dream school, my excitement was barely contained. I’d get to your house early in the morning, and stay til late at night. Sometimes, I’d even put you before my family.

I got to meet hundreds, maybe inching towards the thousand mark, of sweet, beautiful children. All of them affected me in some way, even the ones I didn’t like and wanted to sell on the street. Okay, I didn’t really want to, but some days they could make me so mad! Some of the people who lived in your house with me were pretty awesome, too. Gail, Julie, Josh, Troy, Connie. All who I enjoyed teaching with and prompted me to be a better educator every single day. And then there were some who I wished would leave the profession and never make an appearance again. Ugh. Some people should just not teach.

But then, politics happened. Yes, you have always had some finger or toe in the political arena, but sticking in your whole arm and leg? Really? Why? Your selfishness really ruined it for a lot of us. As teachers, we prefer autonomy and professional regard. But thanks to unions, lobbyists, federal grants, politicians who think they know better, and a million other reasons, autonomy and professional regard went out the window. I tried talking with you about it, but you just called me crazy. Gaslighted me. Toward the end, I really questioned my devotion to you because you started to pull out your devotion to me. Instead of being dedicated to my students, supportive of my families, a leader, a force in my district and state for the good of you,

But then, politics happened. Click To Tweet

I became depleted, uncaring, dispassionate, angry, frustrated, and done. Kids are not meant to be tested endlessly, they are not meant to sit for hours and hours in the day, and they are not meant to be forced to learn facts upon facts. Don’t misunderstand; kids need boundaries. They need expectations. And they need to learn to memorize. But, they need their imagination, they need competition, they need creativity, and they need someone who can guide them through it all. So, education career, we must part ways. I cannot fight you anymore. I don’t want to fight you anymore. The passion is gone between us, and that is the time for me to go. Thank you for all the good memories. I know there will be lots behind me, ready to love you just as I did.

Best wishes,

Tracie

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I taught for 25 years, mostly in public schools with high poverty rates in what my urban town considered diverse. I loved all but the last five years. When politics got hot and heavy in Wisconsin, I threw myself into the fire. I wanted to see teachers empowered to teach again and not be robotic people who read and taught from a prescribed curriculum. I even worked for a professional teaching organization for a while trying to incite change from another avenue (www.aaeteachers.org). I also ran for public office trying to affect educational policy from a legislative perspective. I decided to get my doctorate in education so I can maybe someday do something amazing in education. In all that, the only thing I began to realize is the education machine has many too many cogs. At this point, I am so disillusioned. I truly believe there is nothing anyone can do. Public education is too far gone and too far divided. Instead of it being about the kids and their future, it’s about money and social justice. Sorry, an effective teacher does not need a lot of money and social justice is the not a school’s job, it’s a parents’ job. So, off I go. Teaching is a calling and I am no longer called. It’s time for someone else to step up and get it done. There will be plenty to do what I used to love to do, and I am grateful for each of you.

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About the Author:

Ms. Happel has been teaching for 25 years, specializing in special education/deaf and hard of hearing students and students with specific learning disabilities. She has also worked with regular education students at the elementary level. Ms. Happel worked for three years as a governor-appointed education commissioner, bringing the most pressing and recent research in national education to state stakeholders. When not working hard to inspire and educate her students, or collaborate closely with colleagues, Ms. Happel trains for and races in Ironman triathlons. She has two beautiful children who are beginning their lives as young adults in college, and in mission work. Ms. Happel is available for consultation services and presentations on a variety of educational topics. She can be contacted at traciehappel@gmail.com.

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