A first-year teacher at my school has quit. I do not know why.

That will not keep me from speculating.

I don't know this teacher, and so have no idea what he/she was going through in these first few months of school. But I can guess, based on my own experiences, why someone would reach a certain point and decide not to go further.

Reason 1:
"It's not how I thought it would be."

Well, it never is. Student teaching does not prepare you for the actual experience of being 100% in charge of your classroom at all times. Then, too, in college you spend a lot of time talking about lesson plans and stuff. But in the real world, your job as a teacher consists of about 10% actual teaching and 90% paperwork. And you think that everybody--students, parents, administrators--will back you up on every decision you make, and that you will be this amazing positive influence in your students' lives, and you will be able to teach them to appreciate poetry by using rap songs as your text, and that you will "rescue" them from a life on the streets, and they will become presidents and doctors and teachers, and they will say, "I owe it all to you, Ms. Flower." But that only happens in the movies.

Reason 2:
"Kids were different in my day."

It's amazing how much kids change during the four years you're away at college. See, most teachers fit a certain stereotype group in high school. That group is commonly known as NERDS. We teachers are usually the ones who did all our work, behaved ourselves in class, stayed out of trouble, and spent a lot of time thinking about college. And, because we have that tunnel-visioned memory, we think our students are going to be like that too.

Well, they're not. And the truth is, most of them never were, even "in my day." There have always been troublemakers and the apathetic kids have always outnumbered the workers; we just never knew it. And having to face the fact that students really AREN'T excited to be in the classroom can be a little ... earthshaking, to say the least.

Reason 3:
"I can't teach what I want to."

Thanks to the restrictions of NCLB, teachers are no longer encouraged to teach students engaging, applicable lessons which will serve as a foundation for lessons to come. Teachers are now expected to teach to a test, to force students to memorize the information that someone else has decided everybody needs to know. And if your students don't know that stuff, guess whose fault it is. So we have turned to the Regurgitation Method of teaching, in which students are handfed information they will never use in real life, and they vomit it up in the form of bubbles on a scantron sheet. There is very little opportunity for "fun" in the NCLB classroom, either for the student OR the teacher.

Reason 5:
"It's harder than I thought it would be."

And don't I know it. I am exhausted at the end of every day, and when I look at the piles of papers on my desk, I feel like I'm climbing up a staircase that never ends. When I come home, I just want to crawl into bed, but I can't because I have to write tests or read plays or conduct rehearsals or grade papers; just because I'm not at school doesn't mean I'm NOT WORKING. Teaching is both mentally and physically draining, and it's not for the faint of heart.

While I was surprised to hear that our first-year teacher quit, I understand it's fairly common. I wanted to quit after MY first year, but I allowed myself to be talked into sticking around for a second. It was a pretty crappy year. I DID quit, after that, and swore "As God is my witness, I'll never go in the classroom again!" while shaking my upraised fist at the sky.

But I couldn't stay away.

Some days I DO think about packing it in, though. Just telling people what I think of them and throwing things and yelling and pulling the fire alarm and having a giant hissy fit right in the middle of the cafeteria. I don't know how I keep myself from becoming that crazy lady, some days.

But I keep it all inside, and I amuse myself with my inner monologue, and I get things ready for the next day, and I caffeinate myself and get ready to enter the lions' den. And somehow, I make it through another day.

Battered ... yes.
Saddened ... yes.
Tired ... YES.

But I grow my patience and I strengthen my endurance and I hold my ground and I don't allow myself to quit. And somehow--even though I can name six million reasons to quit--I stay. It's a close one ... but I stay.


Jenn said...

And I'm glad you are staying. Getting frustrated just shows how much you care about your job. You are exactly the type of teacher that I would want my children to have. There are not enough teachers that actualy care about their jobs, or their students.

So stick it out. Now not all of your students will look back and fondly remember Ms. Flower, but I bet at least a few will!

Lady S said...

I feel bad for the teacher, but I think I feel worse for the kids. They will always think they drove her away. I hope they understand.

Good luck to her. And you, you keep up the good work.

Mei said...

Thanks, ladies. I appreciate your kind words!

Anonymous said...

I feel everything you feel!


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