Why I Left the Classroom (For Now, Anyway)
My journey to becoming a teacher, maintaining my teacher certification, and earning additional credentials has been long and full of student loans. And, right before I graduated with my second Master’s degree (earning my Rank 1 teacher classification), I found out I would be moving to Arizona. I immediately said something to my husband that surprised us both—I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue teaching.
In a few weeks, I will begin my new role as a library aide at a local elementary school. I’m excited, but most people are confused. I was a good teacher, I enjoyed my job, and I spent a lot of money and time honing my craft. Why, then, would I not seek out another teaching position?
The biggest reason is a personal one; writing is my true passion. Without the stress of grading papers, planning lessons, and other teacher-specific duties, I’ll have more time and creative energy to devote to my blogging and novel-in-progress.
But this lofty dream was not the only reason. Was it my school? The students I worked with? No to both. My job was hard—downright impossible at times. There were days when my students were in foul moods and my lessons fell flat. But, on the whole, I loved the dry wit of my teenagers, enjoyed introducing them to new books and ways of thinking. My co-workers were my best friends, the school building my second home. So my school and students, while not perfect, certainly did not drive me to the brink.
It was this: last year, I saw disrespect for educators reach a scary, overwhelming level, and I knew I might not be able to carry on.
Most readers are likely aware of Kentucky’s pension woes, so I won’t rehash the entire situation. But I will say this: our governor called teachers thugs, misinformed, and insinuated that our protesting and sickouts were allowing sexual predators and child abusers access to our students. Articles about Kentucky teachers fighting for their (promised) pensions were full of comments calling us whiners, lazy, and snowflakes. When my district gave teachers a day off to protest at the state capitol, my Facebook feed was full of irate parents who did not want their children to attend an extra day of school.
In these moments, I often thought about the stories I heard on the news—teachers cowering with classrooms full of scared children during school shootings; football coaches or hallway monitors holding open the doors so that kids could escape to safety; adults who loved their students so much that they willingly put themselves in mortal peril. And yet our governor, online commenters, and a large number of parents didn’t want us to have the comfort of a promised pension.
It was becoming increasingly difficult to stomach. When I saw the protests happening in my new home state of Arizona—deserving teachers in desperate need of a salary increase—I knew it was likely time for me to step away.
Of course, I will never say never. Situations change; there might come a day when we need the extra income or when the tide of public opinion shifts. But, for now, I am looking forward to serving students and teachers in another capacity.
To my colleagues and fellow educators in the trenches: if no one has told you lately, you are amazing and selfless and deserving of every perk, pension, and salary increase. Thank you for what you do.
Enjoy the heck out of your summer.