- One Team, Separate Experiences - July 5, 2022
- What Recent SCOTUS Decisions Mean for Education - June 28, 2022
- Which is More Important, Equity or Winning? - June 28, 2022
- Suddenly Teammates After a Decade of Division - June 21, 2022
- Can Sports Heal a Segregated School? - June 14, 2022
- I Left Teaching for a New Career. Here's Why I'm Still Mourning. - March 31, 2022
- You Don't Hate Teaching, You Hate the System - March 15, 2022
- The Dismantling of Public Education Part 4: Regression - March 4, 2022
- Teachers Who Teach in Schools in Lower-Income Communities Don't Get the Respect They Deserve - February 28, 2022
- The Dismantling of Public Education Part 3: Privatization - February 25, 2022
I committed a cardinal sin of teaching: I broke my contract. After nearly four years, I walked away for good in the middle of January. I gave my principal my two weeks notice through tears, but immediately felt the relief I had been longing for since July.
When the pandemic first hit I wrote about how much I loved teaching, the winding road that led me to education, and even finding my niche in it. At that time, I had been teaching for a couple of years and truly felt giddy heading to work each morning. I often quoted the statistic that about 50% of teachers leave within their first five years to highlight the importance of retention efforts, believing it could never be me.
I had made teaching my entire life, and honestly, even my identity. If I wasn’t teaching during the day, I was teaching GED classes at night or creating a new curriculum for the district. I spent my extra time at my alternative school brainstorming and implementing improvement projects. Best of all, I saw my writing published for the first time and became a staff writer for The Educators Room.
I loved my job. I was endlessly passionate about the work I was doing in and out of the classroom. Even at the start of the pandemic as schools closed and dealt with so much uncertainty, I looked for ways to see the positive and always succeeded. Little did I know I was heading full speed toward burnout.
As schools shifted from remote to hybrid, and then permanently in person, it began to weigh on me more heavily. At first, I took to advocacy - promoting the idea of statewide or a national strike, and reminding everyone of the realities of teaching during these “unprecedented times”.
I kept telling myself this was temporary, meanwhile, all signs pointed to that being an unanswered wish. As the pandemic raged on, politicians and parents had plenty to say about teachers. Let’s be clear: teachers have always been disrespected. However, I have never seen so much hatred and cruelty directed at the teaching profession. As teachers spent their days and nights trying to hold it all together for their students and families they were berated for being lazy, accused of indoctrination or fear-mongering, and being reduced to severely underpaid babysitters.
I started to get this nagging feeling that things were past the point of return. I tried to ignore that feeling - but I was getting scared. I started to see more and more worrying legislation aimed at teachers: from banning district mask mandates, to “critical race theory” bans, to unrealistic teacher accountability measures. It started to feel like no matter how lightly I tiptoed, I was bound to crack the eggshells that lay across the teaching profession.
I never thought I would be the type of teacher to break the contract midyear. I did everything I was supposed to in order to find (or rediscover) happiness in teaching. I was careful when I selected the school I worked at. And I strongly believed I was in the right environment for my needs. The truth is, I knew back in July that I was extremely unhappy in my job. It wasn’t until an educator I considered my mentor walked away from our school system that it finally hit me: this isn’t the job I signed up for 3+ years ago.
All I ever wanted was to work a job I loved - but my passion and dedication drove me to hate it. I am drained. This experience emotionally exhausted me, and it made every aspect of my life suffer. I kept telling myself I only felt this way because of the impact the pandemic has had on our students, families, and staff… But I don’t think it’s true.
While this career has shaped me into the adult I am today - and I am genuinely proud of that, I don’t know if I would’ve even lasted as a teacher sans pandemic. Between the pay, lack of upward mobility, widespread devaluing of the profession, and arbitrary legislation aimed to keep us “accountable”, teaching proved to not be worth the wearing down of my mental health.
It is bittersweet though. I have met some of the kindest, brilliant, and hard working people in the two school systems I taught in. I will undoubtedly miss the students and helping them grow into young adults. I have made connections that will last a lifetime. But this isn’t what I signed up for. Maybe what I signed up for was a romanticized version, or maybe it just no longer exists after the reality of these last two years.