For Real Teachers In Our Toughest Schools
Friday November 21st 2014

Free Curriculum: Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Fahrenheit 451


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Teaching: The Profession I Will Eventually Leave

“Teaching is not a profession. It is a never-ending entry-level vocation, divorced from foundational understandings of training, accountability, and advancement. If we are to enact meaningful reform, we must rescue teaching from its status as vocation and volunteerism, and recast it as a profession of rigor, creativity, and unlimited impact.”

-From “Teaching in the 408”

I had Friday off a couple weeks ago because our district and union couldn’t decide if it should be a paid workday or a furlough. They never made a decision and just told us not to show up. So I went to a Spanish Meet-Up group, to struggle through the language with others just like me. While I was there, I ran into a woman I recognized.

“Didn’t you used to teach at [insert school here]?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she smiled. She had recognized me, but didn’t know from where.

When we established how we knew each other, she introduced me to two of her friends. Our conversation went along nicely, and in the process of it this is what I learned:

She was no longer teaching. She gave that up the year I met her- when I was doing my student teaching. She had moved on to other things. At first she worked for a textbook company working on curriculum. She got into childhood psychology. She is now a school psychologist. She is happier.

The woman, we’ll call her Jo, introduced me to her friends. They were nice, knowledgeable, goal-oriented women who you could tell just from talking to them had achieved a certain amount of success in their lives. They were well-dressed, talked with confidence and swagger, and were good people. What did they all have in common?

All three of them had once been teachers.

When I told them I taught high school, they all frowned at me as if I told them I had a goiter growing in my throat. I’m not trying to say they were aloof, and thought they were above me. Quite the opposite. The three of them were wonderfully supportive. But in the end, they all had to agree- teaching isn’t a profession in the professional sense. It is a sad, volunteer-like day job that stresses you out without compensating you for it.

Jo told me. “I’m back in the classroom, but I’m there helping and observing just a couple kids,” she smiled sadly. “But oh my God, I look at the teacher, and thank my stars I don’t have to be her. I get to go back to my office, use the bathroom, check my email, get a coffee, take an hour lunch, talk to other adults about the job we’re all doing, close my door, and concentrate in silence. It’s weird I even cherish this, because that is what a professional is supposed to do anyway. I just know that isn’t how it is when you’re a teacher.” Jo smiled sadly. “Sometimes after I’m done in a teacher’s classroom, I leave, and I see how the teacher looks at me, and I understand. They have four more hours to go being on their feet, dancing for 34 adolescents. I’ll tell you one thing. I’m just glad I’m not in their shoes anymore.”

I didn’t say much, and nodded politely. What they said didn’t tear me down completely. My year so far is going great, and I’m loving the kids and the job. That doesn’t mean it isn’t stressing me out. But I still get to be in there making a difference in lives, and no matter if Jo gets to pee without calling security, she doesn’t get the satisfaction I do at the end of a hard fought year.

But then again she doesn’t have to. I lay gasping at the end of the year, full of pride with the work I put in for 10 months. But my body is done, and my bank account looks like I didn’t even graduate from high school myself. Jo is relaxed, happy, and compensated all year round.

The quote I used at the beginning of this entry was from one of the most successful blogs about education of all time. But the teacher, TMAO, is no longer teaching either. He has moved on. You can only stare at your tepid pay-scale for so long. If you aren’t feeling what I’m saying, check out what he says about all this.

Here’s my big secret: I took last year off. I had taught for three years, I was burnt out, and I thought I was done with education. My wife and I spent last year in Central and South America. We learned Spanish. I did a lot of writing. It was the kind of year you will remember for always. But a funny thing happened. I began to miss the job. I realized how important the work is. So when I was in Peru, I started blogging about education, and I’m still doing it today.

I’m back in the classroom this year. Things are good, but man the day to day is brutal. I have 34 kids in most of my classes. I’m talking 34 14-year-olds. I’m going to make it through the year. Actually, I’m pretty sure this year is going to be my crowning achievement. I have these kids writing stuff I only dreamed about teaching them a few years ago. Things are great. The problem is, I just don’t think I can keep it up. Not for three more years. Not for five years. Certainly not for a decade.

Isn’t that horrible? To say with such certainty that I will not be teaching a few years from now?

And my buddy at the high school down the street, the one who stays until 7 every day? He told me last week he isn’t going to be able to sustain it. He can’t afford it, both in a monetary sense, and in a quality of life sense. He is doing too much, AND THEY HAVEN’T EVEN TENURED HIM YET. He gets pink-slipped at the end of every year, and even though this is his third year he was hired as temporary again this year. He is an unbelievable teacher, but he will be leaving in a couple years. He just went to an informational session for an Administrative Credential program. Soon, my school district will be losing one of its best teachers.

I don’t mean to get too down on it. When I was talking to Jo and her friends, I did come to a couple valuable conclusions. You know how sometimes you are talking, and in the midst of all the BS you actually blurt out an authentic truth?

I said, “You know, if we just had a little more time to prep. You know, two or three times as much time as we have now, the job would work like it should.” This, I think is a truth. We just need more time. We need prep time. We need time to grade papers. We need time to collaborate with our colleagues. We just need more time to be professionals. Because right now we aren’t. Right now we are chickens running around- our heads were cut off long ago, and we’re so used to being aimless, flapping torsos nobody even notices anymore. We need time to use the bathroom, get a coffee, take a break, check our email, talk to our colleagues, and act like professionals. We need time to just sit and breathe.

I’ll tell you one thing. I am kicking ass this year. But I am also not teaching these kids enough. I am not giving them the feedback they need. I am not doing the job as it should be done. Don’t misunderstand me- I really am kicking ass. I feel like I am doing as good a job as anybody. But with class size, and a lack of prep time, a lack of professional collaboration, with zero professional development, I am willing to admit I should be teaching these kids more. One day I will stop, when my body can’t do it, when my spirit isn’t in it, and when my real kids need new clothes.

Right now the job I have is entry-level vocation. Would you like an example? My district put me through an all-day training for our new textbook from 8-4. At this training, they didn’t even have coffee. Trust me, I wasn’t expecting fruit and bagels- I KNOW how things are in education. But to offer an 8-hour training without coffee, tea, or WATER is unprofessional. I’m sorry, but it is.

But not to worry, because everyone there was a teacher. At the first break we all drove down the street and bought our own coffee with our own money. Hey, we’re used to not being treated like professionals. I guess it’s a good thing we treat ourselves like professionals when we can- even if we know we won’t be doing it forever.

Reader Feedback

23 Responses to “Teaching: The Profession I Will Eventually Leave”

  1. Kilian says:

    The year-off is so very, very critical. I took mine at the policy world, couldn’t scratch my deep itch, and now I’m back in schools (albeit as an unholy Assistant Principal). Nice work.

  2. Joe A says:

    Matt as I read your articles on teaching inner city (lovingly) ghetto kids, I can’t help but make parallels with my own career. I am a paramedic in a small town. Not being in a big city I mostly miss out on gunshots and stabbings, kids killing kids and the like. I know a lot of my colleagues see way worse in the gang-riddled areas akin to yours.
    What I do see in my small town paradise of boringly mundane white suburbia is a different kind of person to deal with- grown adults and seniors who have given up all hope amidst the myriad of circumstances that brought them to this point.
    We have numerous convalescent homes with low standards of care, full of illnesses including dementia, chronic diseases and the lack of family and resources to care for them. These calls are not the exciting part of my job, to say it politely.
    Homeless people love the weather here, such as veterans with mental health problems and addictions to alcohol and drugs. They call an ambulance when they are cold, hungry, intoxicated or just sick due to the rough and tumble outdoor life.
    As I sift through this mostly unseen (by the general public) underworld of 9-1-1, I find myself fighting my own fading emotions due to the monotony of these mind-numbing calls. I must overcome this sadness and continue to treat each individual with compassion as I keep trying to deflect against the ever-present coldness enveloping me. You want to yell and scream at them but you know that is not the way to affect change.
    Small victories or “real calls” on normal people help make a difference in my mentality, saving the life of a heart attack or trauma victim, helping an innocent child, even assisting a nice old woman back to bed. Trying to find that silver lining on the disadvantaged is difficult but doable, as your blog inspires us to see.
    In between I find people I want to give up on, that have given up on themselves, but like some of the students who you know are going to fail, you still have to show them a glimmer of hope and fight for them to rise again, though their train may have already departed.
    Keep celebrating the students that make it to college and/or just graduate high school, and give the lost ones at least one fond memory of kind determination to help overshadow all the bad things surrounding them. Life is filled with bright (albeit rare) moments amongst the long periods of darkness.

  3. Anita Wah says:

    I read this with tears in my eyes because Matt Amaral is my daughter’s 9th grade teacher. He is brilliant, passionate, funny, and dedicated, and it will be a tragedy when he leaves teaching.
    I found this article because my daughter brought Matt’s article about rap music to the breakfast table this morning and we read it aloud. When I saw the reference to his blog, I ran to the computer to read more of his wonderful essays, but I can hear my daughter and husband continuing to discuss the rap music article in the kitchen. And we got started on that article because I brought up something I’d just read about proposal for economic recovery in the New York Review of Books, and Joia quickly joined in with some knowledgeable reflections, prefaced by “Mr. Amaral has been giving us articles to read….”

    My husband and I teach in the same community as Matt Amaral, so we are well aware of the conditions for teachers that he describes. But these are not local conditions. When I was a young teacher on the East Coast thirty years ago, I had to come to grips with the realization that if I wanted to teach I would be sacrificing the opportunity to experience a true “professional” life.
    My decision to make teaching my career was the defining struggle of my twenties and thirties. I would decide to give up teaching and do something that smart young women were supposed to do, but I kept being drawn back to teaching. I dropped out of medical school and left a Ph.D. program in statistics, both times to go back to what I really loved. Even after making that decision, I was haunted by the choice. After all, as we were told over and over again in my generation, women no longer had to be “just” teachers and nurses.
    I left teaching once again in my mid-thirties to spend several years writing and consulting in math education. That was exhilarating for awhile: I got to fly around the country, stay in nice hotels, and dress up in fancy clothes to give workshops about the “best” new teaching materials and methods. But the thrill wore off quickly, especially as it became increasingly clear that even if the methods I was promoting were better than the status quo, very few of the districts sponsoring the workshops had any intention of providing teachers with the support they needed to implement them. And that support, I knew, had much less to do with money and materials (which they were often willing to provide) and everything to do with giving them professional status, and the time to collaborate and think that goes along with it.

    One day I knew what I needed: I wanted an honest job again, so it was time to go back to teaching. Now, in my fifties, I am at long last at peace with having committed myself to this profession. My husband and I have both learned to do little things to constantly remind ourselves and the world of our professional status. I dress up every day (just like those “successful” young women in Matt’s essay) and my husband wears a tie several days a week. This is a way of telling our students that what we do is a REAL JOB.
    But the most important thing is that I have learned to feel pride in the amount of commitment that this job requires. I constantly ask more of myself, I never teach a course the same way twice, I create new teaching materials constantly, and I give myself credit for doing that. What other profession requires that level of self-discipline and self-motivation? I am enormously proud of doing a hard job very well. I work closely with a young colleague who also believes that we define ourselves as professionals by the job we do. My husband, whose job is more similar to Matt’s because he is also high school teacher, has created and immersed himself in a service-learning course that requires collaboration with adults in the world outside of teaching. Their support and respect of his work is one of the things that keeps him as energetic as ever as he nears his sixtieth birthday.
    As I look back, I can see that the breaks I took in teaching were crucial to creating the sense of pleasure and pride I have in my profession. For one thing, I know that those other jobs, while they look more glamorous, are not nearly as intellectually engaging or personally demanding as teaching. This is a secret we teachers have that no one else can really understand.

    That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to change the profession of K-12 teaching. It desperately needs changing, but since it needed that when I was a 24-year-old high school teacher 30 years ago, I don’t see much hope for the near future.
    So when intelligent, dedicated young teachers talk about leaving teaching, I encourage them to do it. But I also tell them that if they decide to come back, they have succeeded, not failed.

    So Matt, by all means, leave teaching for awhile. But could you wait until my daughter graduates?

  4. Ann Dabrowski says:

    I can really relate to this post. I started my teaching
    “career” in the inner city of Rochester. That is, I taught 9th
    graders who were 18 and 19 years old high school English…That
    “career” lasted one year. Then I taught at the community college,
    which was pretty good, but did not pay well. The best teaching job,
    I have found, is teaching adults who are returning to college to
    earn the degree they never were able to secure the first time
    around. They are so grateful for any and every bit of knowledge you
    have to share and they have so much to offer in the way of life
    experience.

  5. StephanieK says:

    I teach at a low income middle school in Seattle. What a relief to hear someone who I respect and admire as a professional (I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now) voice the same feelings I have about leaving the profession. Makes me feel a lot less “guilty” for being a statistic–leaving within five years. Next year will be my fourth year and I have decided that after that I will reevaluate my options. I might stay. I might not. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  6. Another Teacher says:

    Oh Wow! I guess you wrote this just today. I can relate to your post. I started to work just last year in an interim position and I too I am thinking of not renewing my contract with the school after this year. One of the biggest reason, is the lack of professionalism and respect from the staff. I teach in TN. As I read Anita’s response, it only confirms what I already had figured out. I went every single day dressed as a professional and believe the rest of the staff had a problem with it. Most of the staff dressed very casually such as flip flops, spagetti straps,sweat pants, worn out clothings. I think they actually like it that way and I really sticked out. I didn’t have overcrowded classrooms, believe it or not my biggest hurdle are my own colleagues and the school huge discipline (favorites)issues. I am hoping that this year will be different, but as of right now I am thinking of not returning at all.

    I guess, I just want to say that sometimes teachers bring this to themselves. I agree with Anita, our outward appearance is important not only so we can feel as professionals but also that parents, staff members and the public think of us as one. I know that not all schools are the same, but in my schools I think the teachers promote the unprofessionalism especially when their own kids’ grades are at stake (another discussion) if you know what I mean.
    Yes I do agree with you I should be teaching them a lot more but under current conditions, I am not and probably will not. I will Not be able to teach my full potential, I will always be, instead, a mediocre teacher due to a badly managed administration, rampid discipline issues, lack of professionalism, respect, uncontrol professional envy and such.

    I have a teacher friend and he taught for about 30 years. when I told him that I had decided to actually teach he was sad for me. He said very quietly, ” I don’t envy you at all and I pity you.” This were his exact words. At first, I thought he was bitter about his student, but I now realized he was sad about the teaching experience as a whole.

    In my words, I think to be able to teach there is got to be a harmony in the schools among all the parts: students, teachers, parents, staffs, administrations.

    I am stuck, what do I do with this degree now?

  7. DifferentiateTHIS! says:

    Yes, this so-called profession is very much an unprofessional work environment. I want to quit so bad. I just need to find an alternative. I wish I were younger because I wouldn’t think twice. It’s a bit more difficult being 41 years old. However, I must find a way.

    Like the others, I would really love a job that doesn’t leave me moving about like I have ants in my pants, waiting for my prep or lunch so I could use the bathroom. At no point should we ever mimic kindergartners trying to hold it in. (a little humor I suppose).

  8. Its Over says:

    Well its over! I can certainly relate just as all of the rest who have spoke only the truth. After raising 3 children on a teachers salary and putting 20 years in the system I realize the time has come to leave the profession. My heart is no longer in it and the mistreatment of teachers has become unbearable. Nothing can be more evident than to see 2700 teachers walk out on 400,000 students in Chicago this morning and to see such mayhem only supports my decision not to return to the classroom this year and by looking at all of the evidence I realize I made the right decision. My volunteerism in this profession is over and I did say volunteerism because looking at my savings account for the last 20 years….speaks of just that VOLUNTEERISM!

  9. […] who are former teachers how hectic the job truly is. They’ll tell you, and I’ve written about former teachers before, and why we leave. Time is why we leave—or more accurately—lack thereof.Of course there […]

  10. BN says:

    Matt, I really relate to this. I am currently on maternity leave that started before school started this year and it has given me huge perspective about what I have put in to my job vs. what I receive. I cannot stay in a profession when the only reward you get is from the students who are the only ones more disenfranchised than you are. This would be my 6th year teaching. It’s unclear whether I will be able to return to my position after my extended leave and that also solidifies my decision; I have built a classroom library of 1500 volumes, taken kids to see Shakespeare plays for three years, had thousands donated to our school, and my admin doesn’t think he can hold my job for six weeks because of test scores, even though mine were the best in the district last year. Screw it.

  11. […] Teaching: The Profession I Will Eventually Leave – Are teachers considered professionals, or even treated like one? […]

  12. I read this post with tears in my eyes because I have felt the same feelings Matt describes. I did everything in my power to make myself the best teacher I could be – weekend and summer inservices, mentoring other teachers, and making regular contact with parents. I was unable to have a life for ten months of every year. I was overweight, irritable, and tired. I was a 35 year old who felt 85.

    I left teaching.

    My life changed. My husband and I started our own business where he teaches guitar (used to be an elementary music teacher) and I tutor. I went from exercising once or twice a week to exercising daily. I now have time for my husband. We now have a blog about our happy marriage. I am certain that if I stayed in teaching we would have nothing to write on that blog. We laugh and we play every day. I have energy.

    I am so sad for the students to be missing out on quality teachers because so many leave, but every person had to make his/her own decision to stay/leave. I left and do not regret it.

  13. lizette says:

    It is good to know I am not Alone!
    My husband is also in education, a High School Band Director. Gosh, how I wish to have his passion for education? We are both going on ten years of teaching and it is getting more and more difficult for me to make it to 30 years. I don’t know how I am going to make it there. I wished I would’ve considered other professions. I am about to begin an MA in School Counseling. Teaching is draining me day afer day :(! I already have a Masters, which I got right after I finished my BA. My MA is in Curriculum and Inst. but I cannot find a job. We live in such a small town that it is Necessary to know someone to be able to get the job. Hopefully i’ll be able to find School Counseling more rewarding than school teaching. I’m very frustrated and dissapointed at how teachers are not appreciateed

  14. teacher's wife says:

    My husband is a young, passionate, gifted math teacher. He drives an hour to work one way, spends lots of money on supplies, and is gone from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. He still loves it. This is his third year teaching. However, he wants to have a family, and we’d like me to be able to work part-time and stay home with kids. We simply can’t afford that on what he makes as an algebra teacher. He realized the other day that if I’m working 60 hrs outside the home and he’s gone almost 12 hrs teaching, that means our kids would be raised in childcare. So even though he loves teaching, he realized he’s going to have to find something else, just because of the terrible pay.

  15. Mary says:

    I knew I was done when my son told me he wants to be a teacher and I wanted to cry. I’ve never wanted anything else, so I’m at odds as to what to do instead, but the stress of behavior problems and test scores are doing me in this year. My back ached for a month and then my left eye twitched for two months straight! My body is screaming for me to stop teaching, yet I’m having trouble explaining to my husband why I want to disrupts our lives so that I can go back to school for a second career. This is my 18th year teaching and I’m just done. I’m so spent. I truly thought I’d be teaching forever. I can’t do it any longer. How do I explain that to someone who is treated like the professional he is? How do I explan it to my son who loves his teacher so much that he wants to be a teacher himself? I’ve got to get out. I need to be respected as the intelligent woman that I am. I love my students, but they make me want to run screaming from the room. Can I start over now? Can I spend thousands of dollars that I should be saving for my children’s education on a new degree for me? I can’t do anything outside of education with an education degree. If I start over, I have to re-educate myself. I’m so at a loss. My sweet husband thinks its just that I’m running away and that I don’t really want to leave teaching. I don’t know how to make him understand. He will support me, but I have to make him see.

    • Mary,
      Your words are moving and I wish I could help. I will say there is no shame in quitting this job, and with a background in education, especially one as extensive as yours there are plenty of things you can do. I would talk to a career advisor, but I know all kinds of former teachers who are now doing other things. That old quote about teachers not being able to DO is stupid because what happens when teachers leave is they do what everyone else is doing, they just do it better because teaching has made them so efficient and effective. You can design curriculum, work for a textbook company. But I would also suggest looking into getting a job at a school that works. It sounds like you’ve put in your time fighting the good fight, and not many people can claim that. Take a look at some private schools, I bet they would love someone with your experience, and you might be reenergized at a place where you can do some pure teaching for a change. Whatever you do I wish you luck, but there is no reason to second guess or doubt yourself. You are awesome, and maybe it is time for a change. Start looking, oftentimes just starting the process is the hard part, once you get going, I’m betting you’ll see some opportunities present themselves quicker than you might think.

  16. Tammy R says:

    Hi Mary. I hear your words and feel your pain. I was there five years ago. I started my own tutoring business, and now I make almost the rate of pay I was making when I left and work half the hours. I am healthier and happier than I have EVER been. I’m 41 years old. I used the connections I had at a few elementary schools and started my business in the summer. It grew slowly but steadily, and now I have a waiting list of more than 15 students. This is only one of many options, but I thought I would put it out there!

  17. Justin says:

    Nice blog, Matt. I taught for 8 years in three states – middle, high school, and university level. This year, I had enough. When I was told by my “mentor”, a young woman 8 years younger than me with several years less teaching experience that she was surprised they hired me, that my class was too “loud”, and that everything had to change, I realized I was done. She questioned my integrity to my face, questioned my management abilities, and displayed a complete lack of professionalism. Her version of teaching was berating children into following her directions. I observed one of her classes and was completely appalled by what I saw. I refuse to spend my life being hen-pecked to death over the complete and utter meaninglessness of the work of teaching a foreign language in America. I resigned that weekend. The Principal begged me to come into her office to talk about my choice. I refused to participate in that charade as well – to be invited into a room with three administrators and several teachers to “talk it out”. What a joke. I have no plans on contacting my former principal for a reference. It is as if the job never existed on my record. I now operate a translation and localization business I run with my wife. We have generated several clients, brought in revenue in a tough economy, and are raising money for an expansion.

    Now, I am a totally autonomous business owner no longer subject to the pointless evaluations, the never-ending stream of paperwork, unprofessional colleagues who have no idea how to have a conversation without constant criticism and wrong-making, and no longer do I have to suffer the disrespect of children who were not properly raised. I am free and it was the best career choice I’ve ever made. People respect me. My clients appreciate my work. I am working with people of MY choosing, instead of having the whole of American society and all its problems thrust into my lap every day to solve. If you are thinking about leaving teaching, do it NOW. Don’t wait. Don’t give another second of your life to a system, group of students or so-called “colleagues” who do not have your best interest in mind. They won’t miss you, won’t mourn you leaving, and will fill up your classroom with the next idiot who thinks they can reach the kids. Oh – and another thing – “Management” is NOT berating someone into following your will. REAL Management is IDENTIFYING PEOPLE’S TALENTS and creating the conditions in which they THRIVE not just SURVIVE. But that kind of management is NOT what schools are looking for. They want the uncouth, abrasive, drill-sergeant instructor. Where you went to college and what you know does not matter – as long as they pick up a pencil upon your command is all that counts. Once you have created a slave-ship full of drones who obey your every whim, THEN you are an “effective” manager. The American public, administrators, teachers and parents get what they deserve until this system is completely dismantled and then refashioned into something that works. Thank GOD my day tomorrow does not include setting foot in a public school building.

  18. Chris W. says:

    My sister in-law, a fellow teacher, sent me a link to Matt’s post. I’m stunned at how well it articulates our plight. A student who isn’t in any of my classes came up to me today and told that “I’ve made a great and positive impact on the school.” It was apropos of nothing, totally unsolicited. He was sincere and went on complimenting me. But you know, even if he’s right, even if I have improved the lives of the students at my troubled school, I don’t think the price I’ve paid is worth it.
    I’ve been a teacher since 2001. I taught social studies for seven years at a large suburban high school, P.E. for two years at an elite prep school, and this year—after following my wife’s real career to Los Angeles—I worked for three and a half months at totally insane charter school and, now, for three and a half more months at a very troubled Los Angeles public high school. In all that time, I’ve received plenty of accolades like the one that student gave me today . . . I’ve always been a very highly regarded teacher and I’ve always worked my ass-off to be the best possible teacher I could be. But you know despite the respect of my peers, administrators and the occasional thoughtful students it just isn’t worth it to be treated the way all teachers are treated. No matter how good a teacher you are, the majority of students, administrators, parents, custodians and especially students will take you for granted at best and, more often than not treat you with disdain and contempt that is accepted in no other field of endeavor. I got chewed out by a custodian today for merely asking—in an absolutely nice and sincere way—for her help cleaning up broken glass on the black top where I teach. I have theft problems in my office space and the lock on the door where I keep what little physical education equipment I have and my wallet and keys–has been broken and reported repeatedly for more than three months. The principal complains about students who leave ‘ditch’ my P.E. classes but I teach classes of more than 100 students! Without access to a gym or an enclosed space! And when I go to the trouble of reporting—in writing—eighteen students who ditched my class, some of them walking past me and refusing my command to return, the administration takes no action. I have 37-minutes to eat my lunch! I work as hard as my wife. But she works in job where no one steals, curses, screams or insults her. If someone is horribly incompetent she can have them fired and never has to spend. Where I currently have 383 students in my six classes she only has four ‘direct reports.’ She can grab a cup of coffee if she needs one. And her salary was five times what I make as teacher, five times!!!! And I’m near the top of my districts pay scale! Why do I do this.
    It just goes on from there. Oh, and when you are riding to work in the morning or catching a snipet of the evening news you are subjected to a non-stop litany of reporting on the crisis in American schools . . . All of which is overwhelmingly biased toward lame-brained half-baked theories served in a stew that says teachers are responsible for everything that is wrong in our schools.
    And I should point out that my current school is by no means the worst teaching position I’ve had. So final thought, I’m 46 years old. I’m a really, really good teacher. But SO WHAT!!! I feel I’ve wasted the best years of my adult life in this ‘profession.’ I’m a bit stuck at my age so I’ll probably have to look to become an administrator as the only escape hatch. I’d like to think that as an administrator I’ll be able to do some good for the profession. But the reality is that American-discourse on ‘school-reform’ and policy is so far out of contact with reality, that really I’ll just be selling out . . . saving myself from the worst abuses of the teaching profession by becoming a cog in the machine that humiliates and utterly degrades good and bad teachers alike. To Hell with school ‘reform’ and all the sanctimonious idiots who espouse it. I have no hope for progress in American education.
    P.S. It’s 7pm. I got to work at 7am. I’m still here. I’ll go home, catch hell from my wife for not doing more with our little one. Do another hour or so of work. Wake up at 5 am. And be at work by 7 am, to put up the volleyball poles that I built and paid for myself (b/c my district can’t afford them). Why? Why would this be worth it as a long term career path for anyone.

  19. Joe says:

    Wow, these comments are incredibly discouraging. I am just embarking on a degree program to teach secondary math. I am going in with eyes wide open but I do not have the drive to do anything else. I only hope I can find a school where I am given more respect than distespect. Maybe this is an unrealistic expevtation.

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  21. Butterfly says:

    Thank you for these articles. I have been teaching for 18 years without a break. I am looking for a job outside the walls of the classroom. In fact, leaving the classroom has been gnawing at me for the past 5 years. I have had a fabulous teaching experience and work for a wonderful district and I STILL feel this way. No one really discusses that when you are teaching in Elementary Education there is a lack of encouragement to expand your career into other fields or areas…you find the SAME teachers in the SAME school for 20+ years at this level. Historically, the only reason teachers would leave Elementary Education is if they got married and/or had to move or did not get tenure. Yes, there is administration to aspire to but there continues to be an almost unwritten philosophy about primary school teachers–they stay put! It is refreshing to hear that there is “life” outside the classroom and it is positive. Many thanks for your wisdom!

    • Butterfly,
      One thing I hate about the profession is this notion that with a teaching career you have completely given up on ambition. Like the career is a place where you come to sadly settle. Bankers don’t feel that way. It really all comes down to the pay. What people make allows them to feel their ambition is sated. The job we do, the impact we make on kids and society says we should feel great, but the money says the opposite. We have to increase teacher pay. Teachers are the only thing in education that matters.

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