No doubt that one of the primary reasons I retired was burn out. I had worked in secondary classrooms the length of my adult life and struggled the last couple years largely due to growing political pressure. You see, I bought into the idea that hard work paid off and came to realize that I was dead wrong. My hard work didn’t matter. None of my colleagues hard work mattered. My student performance outcomes, though well above the national average didn’t matter. Nothing moved policy makers except that they could hire two new teachers for the price of me, and many of my fellow staffers.
When the mortgage market imploded in 2008, Southwestern Idaho flat-lined economically. While teachers, such as myself, fought draconian budget cuts the legislature didn’t listen. They didn’t care. The brutal impact on classroom numbers and lack of materials made no difference, their ears were closed. In fact, the Great Recession instead provided an opportunity to attack our union and kill protections such as negotiations, due process, and arbitration rights. I found that regardless of my expertise and my kids remarkable growth I was handed more students in class (220 every other day) and less time to teach (down 25% a week).
When I realized I could swing retirement I took it.
I worry about what is behind me in public classrooms. There are enormously bright kids out there begging to be challenged. These young people are smart, but need skills and information to develop their optimum potential. However, as long as law makers settle for cheap, keeping salaries spartan, and classrooms packed, I cannot see America preparing for the future. The results will reflect the dismal investment.
In my state the Superintendent of Education denied that teachers were leaving education due to the perceived oppression from the legislature. And he can tell himself and the entire House and Senate that tale. It’s just not true. Teachers want to succeed, aspire to excellence, wish to see achievement among their students. That is why the miserly funding and lack of support by policy makers has had such a negative impact. No one wants to go into a job already set up to fail.
Teaching as a profession shouldn’t be done at such personal sacrifice.
Well stated, thoughtful!
Thanks Gail, if I could write as well as you, I would have said that first. The one emotion I think you missed was betrayal. I felt betrayed by the district, legislature, and superintendent. Thanks for putting it into words for many of us. Dave
Gail, Every semester, I ask my foundations students to list some inspirational teachers. Your name most always comes up whenever I get one of your former students. Your essay could have been mine. Of course, I put my money where my mouth was and tried to warn Idaho about Tom Luna. For it, I got the satisfaction of following a dream, but the reality of being $60,000 in the hole for the pleasure. But in 2009, I did what you are doing, and have not a single regret. I still teach (at BSU) but part time. Whatever you do, dear friend, don’t stop making a difference, Keep in touch, I am going to be president of PDK next year, and you’d fit in with the group, mostly “experienced” educators.
It is a true and just as equally sad state of affairs. We face much the same dilemma in social work as well. Hard work means nothing, meeting goals means next to nothing. What matters is if you are currently serving a population that gets a sound-bite from a politician who might help get you funding or not.
Reblogged this on Gail Chumbley and commented:
To my brave colleagues who soldier on.
Thanks Gail. I, like Anna and Shannon, now teach 7th and 8th grade English. Quite a change after many years as a secondary math teacher (which included accelerated Algebra!!). Six more years to make a difference in the lives of Idaho wee ones.
Age and experience mean little to the powers that be, and yes, they would love to have two newbies for the price of my one salary. Nevertheless, it’s the students who say “I love English class because of you”, as well as “I understood Algebra because of you” that makes me stay those 6 final years. I went into the profession for the kids and will leave the profession when my impact is over. A few shining years left…… hope the big boys don’t make me burn out before I fade away. Hopefully, time is on my side.
My sentiments exactly. I’m very proud of my 43 years as an educator but am glad to be newly retired. I’m focusing now on my passion…local history.
Glad to hear from you, and welcome to the land of the rested.