I feel a little like Oj in his book If I Did It. But seriously. How many publications have we read by teachers who have given their letter of resignation? I know I’ve read about 5 that were shared on Facebook just this school year. And through every single one of them, I have nodded my head in agreement with the entirety of their letters. They are passionate and it is very apparent that they had the needs of kids on the forefront of their mind; even in their resignations.
My question: When are we, as a society, going to start listening to the teachers who are in the trenches every single day advocating for change? When are we going to realize that teaching is a nearly impossible job with all of the requirements? How many good and effective teachers need to quit?
For all of you people out there who think teaching is easy and all we do is whine about our job, just stop reading. You will likely just think that I’m ranting about stuff, and besides I have my summers off, so I should stop complaining. And yes I have a job, yes I chose teaching. But that’s because I believe in the idea of it; there’s a reason we have a teacher shortage.
I’m going to publish something that is semi-personal but not necessarily 100% my point of view. I have listened to my colleagues, not just the ones that I work with, but all teachers. From the ones that have already resigned to the ones that I have talked to from across the state (I know people who know people). I am going to let you all know what we face daily as educators. So IF I were to give my letter of resignation for teaching (which I’m not), it would go something like this:
Dear whomever takes letters of resignation:
I have given 7 years of my life to this profession. Technically, I have given 11, if you include my schooling. That’s ⅓ of my life. I have given ⅓ of my time on this earth to the education of our nation’s future. I have dedicated more time and effort to this career than I have building my family. My daughter was born halfway through my undergrad career, so yes, teaching has become just as much of a part of who I am as my own children. It’s important to me.
I believe in all students who walk through my door. I believe that they can all grow and become great. I believe that they have the potential inside of them to become real world readers and writers. I believe that teachers play an integral role in the development of young minds. Employers do not say, “What are the parents doing with those kids?” They say, “What are those kids learning in school?”
Our job is huge. Our job holds such a tremendous amount of responsibility, that it is almost scary at times. We may not hold the scalpel in our hands that could mean life or death, but we hold the light that can tell a child that they are either a success or a failure. I would argue that it’s just as life changing.
Our job entails so many aspects that this letter would be way too long, and you’d get bored, so I’ll keep it simple. I pride myself in proving to my kids that I care. (Yes, I said my kids. They are mine.) I pride myself in doing my best to create lessons that teach the state standards all while interweaving habits of mind and character education into it. I spend countless hours outside of the school day creating, grading, innovating, adapting, changing, reading, writing, learning, researching, just to make sure that my students are getting my best.
But I still feel like a failure.
I give 100% of my knowledge and efforts to this song and dance I call teaching, but it is not enough. I will never be engaging enough to gather all of my students that I care equally about my feet, begging for more knowledge. I will never be creative and innovative enough to encourage all students to want to grow and become better. I will not be able to force my league of horses to drink from the shining waters I’ve led them to. I will not be able to be perfect. I will not be able to raise all students’ test scores.
I will not give up, though.
I will create lessons that I think will wow students and dazzle them, but they may not listen. I will bring in real world problems and engage students in discussions, but they may discuss other things (like their Snap story). Not all will care about what I do. And that’s okay. This is still not the cause of my hypothetical resignation.
My hypothetical resignation is because I, as a teacher, believe that teaching is more important than scores. I believe that we should be preparing students for the world, not just for college. We should be teaching students how to keep a job, how to be responsible, how to be respectful, how to safely use technology, how to be members of their community, how to analyze the world around them, how to advocate for change, how to effectively use their voices, how to read for a purpose, how to figure out how much they’d have to pay on their credit cards every month to not get into debt, how to calculate the interest rate on their college loan, how to apply for jobs, how to write an email, how to cook, how to care for their houses, how to create a healthy lifestyle, how history has made and shaped them, how war can be avoided, how to use time wisely, how power and greed can ruin lives, how to problem solve, how to know when someone is being dishonest with them, how to evaluate sources, how to connect to their reading, how to identify themselves in this world, how the scientific process can change everything, etc. And that’s just the surface.
We are instead worried about test taking and 5 paragraph essays when in the real world, there is none of that. Granted nurses, teachers, lawyers, doctors, truck drivers, etc. need to pass a test to be able to do their job, but they also need to be able to keep their jobs. Students need to learn to persevere and deal with adversity. They need to know that while their education matters, they are not special, they do not deserve an A for completing an assignment, and that hard work is necessary to become the best of who they are.
It’s unrealistic to think that all of my students will become novelists, but it is realistic to think that they will use the skills I taught them to write letters to the editor, question their congressman, and write reviews on products. It is not realistic that they need to master the 5 paragraph essay that receives an excellent score on standardized tests, but it is realistic that they will be able to see the problem and write about its solution. It is not realistic that they are reminded 24/7 to get their work in as they will not have an adult following them around their work done, but is realistic that we hold them accountable because their boss will simply ask, remind, then take disciplinary action. They will not have multiple chances to shape up if they break the rules- will have one, maybe two, but in the real world, chances do not grow like leaves on trees.
We are no longer educators. Instead, we are graders, negotiators, defense attorneys, prosecutors, behavioral specialists, advocators, curriculum writers, data analysts, linguistic specialists, adaptors, role models, and many, many, many more job descriptions. When you look up teacher in the dictionary, you get the following: a person who teaches, especially in a school. The first synonym is educator. We have lost this definition.
My hypothetical resignation lies in the fact that I know kids value me, I know I give my all, but it is not enough. Being a good teacher is no longer important. Test scores, grades, and extrinsic motivators are- and that’s not why I became a teacher.
Thanks for your time, people who read this letter. It’s been great, it’s been real. Understand that I love the idea of my job. I love the students I teach… even the difficult ones. I love being able to say, “I’m a teacher,” like it’s a noble thing. I’m afraid that we are losing the goodies along the way, though, so please accept this hypothetical resignation as a manifesto of all teachers who just want to close their door and teach. Listen to these words and understand that we don’t really want to quit. We enjoy the challenges that each day brings. We just want people to understand how hard we are working and value that. We want you all to see what it is we do. How we’ve been given educational reform and had to switch up everything we’ve been doing for years. Was change necessary? Sure. But listen to us to understand how these changes are affecting our ability to get kids ready for the world out there.
Pretty much any teacher out there who cares