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"Ms. Greer, we need to take your planning period today. We have a class of students in In-School Suspension (ISS) who need coverage for their third period. I know you had a webinar scheduled for our upcoming unit on parallelograms, but you can watch that at home. We need all 'hands' on deck, and you're the only teacher available."
This was the conversation that I had at 7:35 am on Monday morning while standing by the mailboxes in the front office. I had just had a weekend of "rest" that included me grading 150 Argumentative Essays, all while updating grades- after being in Saturday tutorial for 4 hours. So as I rushed out of my house that morning, I was looking forward to spending my planning period actually planning for the week. When I saw my Assistant Principal quickly walking toward me as he motioned for me, I already knew he needed something.
Little did I know, it was to take away my protected planning time. While the request was not huge, my assistant principal failed to realize that for the last 12 weeks of school, I've had my planning period taken 24 times. Twenty-four times when I've been asked to cover classes, attend arbitrary PLCs r, watch over misbehaving students, have parent-teacher conferences over arbitrary concerns, and just general mismanagement of 2,800 minutes of my time.I have seriously contemplated quitting teaching. Click To Tweet
The simple task of asking to help a colleague, support a school initiative or help an upset student is not a big deal, but coupled with all of the increasing demands of teachers, it has made the job of teaching almost unbearable. So unbearable, that in the last five years, I have seriously contemplated quitting teaching. Each year the urge gets stronger and stronger, and it's not just me, but most of my fellow teachers are with:
- The increased demands of teachers to be more accountable than parents.
- The lack of resources to help teachers actually support the content.
- The assumption that teachers should pay out of pocket for resources for students.
- The escalating behaviors of students with mental health issues and parents.
- The lack of flexibility for teachers to actually being active learning on the job.
- The neverending amount of paperwork attached to student learning that teachers are supposed to complete.
And that's just to start.
There is no wonder that 50% of teachers have considered leaving the profession- a difficult decision, but to maintain mental sanity, it's necessary. My decision has been one I've been wrestling with for years, but this week it's been a feeling I can not shake. As I continue to teach and look at the beautiful faces of my students, I wonder how they will feel if I tell them I'm leaving at the end of the year. As I meet with my parents, I wonder if I should let them know that they will need to get to know a new teacher. As I met with my principal, I think about telling him that I will not be back so he will need to find another teacher to sponsor my afterschool activities.
I think about leaving constantly, but I am not alone. As I talk to my colleagues, they feel the same, but many are beyond the "thinking of it and are actively planning on leaving. They discuss their job opportunities and their trepidations with leaving the kids, but the satisfaction that will come on day one when they will not be entering a classroom. The scary part is that every professional learning, conference, or workshop outside my building, every 'good' teacher I know is discussing leaving.
The conversations are no longer hushed and just between small groups of teachers, but teachers are vocal that they are DONE. Some have even gone as far as retiring early, utilizing FMLA to be off of work, or worse just turning in their keys and never to return again. These are not your 'bad' teachers, but are the teachers who have won national awards, sponsored after school activities, or who have the highest growth percentiles- all of them are tired.
This fact alone should scare parents, administrators, and other stakeholders, but unfortunately, with the corporate focus of education, many of them don't seem to care. Instead, new teachers come in, stay for a year or two (if lucky), and by year three- they're gone. I've talked with friends who are administrators in other buildings and they are equally concerned about what I thought to be true- we have reached a 'tipping point' in education and the only to stop it would be to empower parents and students to collectively fight against the conditions that are scaring children and keeping teachers from the classroom.
As I think about the 'collective fight' it gives me hope that 2020 will be the year of teachers, parents, and communities to take back our schools and make them places where teachers and students want to be.
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