I began teaching full time in the state of Illinois in September of 1975 and I loved it. It was scary but exhilarating. I worked like crazy, had some fears and doubts but got so much support and love from administrators, fellow teachers, parents and students over the years that I loved it right until I retired in June of 2010. I taught 35 straight years, no leaves, sabbaticals nor medical leaves. As much as I enjoyed the kids, Spanish and pedagogy, I am at peace with my decision to leave earlier than I had planned. I may pick up a Jr. College class from time to time but there are 8 reasons why I am glad I am no longer teaching.
1. Standardized tests - These kids are being tested to death. You know what success on most standardized tests will predict? That the child will be successful on that test. Let's test once in primary, elementary, middle and high school. 4 mandatory tests in a career, trust me, it's enough. Data driven teaching? Really?
2. Government meddling - My first teaching gig was a Migrant Education Project in the summer of 1975. A grant covered the costs so somehow a local state rep came to the training convention in Chicago with us. Why? Because he could visit the big city for free. I remember seeing this guy in white shoes and a matching white belt trying to talk his way into the most popular club in the city. Whenever a state legislature passes a new educational initiative I remember Mr. State Rep and know that guys just like him are making decisions about children's education. Because they can, not because they should or have any expertise.
3. No Child Left Behind - Or as I like to call it, No Public School left Unscorned. This was designed to undermine the public's faith in public schools and is the only goal at which it was succeeded magnificently. The law, by design, has goals of improvement which are LITERALLY impossible to achieve. It's really more of reason #2.
4. Public Derision - When did teachers become so reviled and why? I believe it's all because of #3 and it's ridiculous. Look around you. We have doctors, journalists, teachers, barbers, moms and dads who are all doing great jobs who were educated in our public schools. Are there a few bad apples? Of course but I am sick to death of everyone piling on teachers. It gains momentum and feeds on itself.
5. Public expectations and finger pointing - Teachers can not solve every problem in society. We didn't cause poverty, the economic collapse or drug abuse. Teachers are trying to teach children so as to lift them out of poverty, give them economic power and the ability to say no. But it takes parents and society to solve these problems as well. Taking teacher pensions away may make you feel better about yourself but is not a logical response.
6. A few parents - Over the 35 years I taught I saw and heard some parents treat teachers like I wouldn't treat vermin. I have listened to voice mails left by parents to fellow teachers which wish them to never have children, call them names and verbally abuse them. I have read emails which are rude and demeaning. Parental attitudes towards teachers have disintegrated and it's time for it to stop.
7. Art of teaching disappearing - Truly great teaching is an art. We are not Lego pieces that you can assemble here and there with a standardized curriculum. A Master teacher has her own unique and powerful way of motivating and teaching her students. Meaningless checklists and crazy evaluation systems have replaced common sense and viewing the teacher as a whole.
8. Charter Schools - The entire time I taught the question we would always pose was "What's best for kids?" and proceed accordingly. Charter schools take tax dollars away from public schools so they can make a profit. Their bottom line is to make money, if they want to make money with a school then by all means, they should open a private school and charge tuition. Instead they use kids to profit from tax dollars, sending back to the public schools behavior problems and their scores aren't much better. They are undermining public education, a foundation of our society in which I believe in and hold dear.
I loved my teaching career and still miss the interactions with young minds. It was time for me to move on and let a younger teacher have a chance. I just wish I still yearned to be a full time teacher but because of the 8 reasons listed, I don't. I am glad I am no longer teaching.
I am now enjoying retirement and writing a quilting and sewing blog is one of my pleasures. Time to sew and blog about it? That makes me sew happy!
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I've written about teaching before. Check on my Only a Teacher post.