My decision to quit my job as a teacher didn’t just come about over the course of this very eye-opening school year. It’s a dream come true, an answered prayer and a leap of faith.
The teaching profession as the Antagonist. Not only do teachers receive the same pay they were receiving 20 years ago, if you think of the increase in the cost of living, but they have fewer medical benefits and less job security than only a few years ago. The health hazards of the profession include tinnitus, a dropped bladder, depression, and obesity. The ringing in my ears started several years ago and gets worse with noise and stress. Restroom breaks whenever my body needs them is a privilege only for other professionals, I must rush and feel guilty when I do. Obesity may be a sign of depression. Yoga, meditation and self-help books help, but it’s not enough. Depression comes from frustration and lack of motivation. Lack of motivation comes from being frustrated. It’s a vicious cycle. The feeling of not having enough is another cause of depression. The positive financial gain of the modest state retirement plan program for the future when all is done and said, is offset by the lower wages received throughout the career years. It just comes to be reality that you can never amount to much more than making ends meet at a mediocre level. In order to keep your status you pay exorbitant amounts to live in a ‘nice’ neighborhood, and then have to burn gas to get around and risk foreclosure. That’s all your salary is good for and we must be grateful for that! During lunch I discovered there were two other teachers in the building who had had a foreclosure. And to top it off, students, parents, administrators, the whole world feel disdain towards teachers. After all, “those who can’t do teach.” If teachers want respect, well, they need to just get it.
No one really wants to help. The Union has a book of rules. It says that if a teacher has a complaint and wants to make a grievance about the working conditions, he/she has 30 days to file the grievance after being aware of the condition. So you really can’t wait until it affects you, you must do all this within the first 30 days of school when all hell is loose and teachers have a million things to do. Nice rule. I wonder who it helps. So I have 6 classes instead of 5 and get no planning period, as I should according to the Union rules; but the other rule says I cannot file a grievance after 30 days. So if I was hoping there would be more students coming in up to the head count month in October, so that another teacher could be hired and it didn’t happen, I just have to take it or leave it. So I did what was right. Someone has to. My advice, hire the right amount of teachers. That’s who research says makes the greatest impact on students’ performance. Don’t overload your greatest asset, it will stop being great and the consequence is lower student performance. Student-teacher contact hours shouldbe limited as it is detrimental to teacher’s mental and emotional health. After a few hours without a break it gets unbearable. But who is listening?
Once, after standing up and refusing to click thousands of times to input a grade on a practice being enforced upon the student body on their own time, I was called to conference and asked to submit complaints in a private way. But I thought I had done it the right away, out loud for all to hear. Why should I have to click thousands more time to input a grade for something that is not a subject matter that I teach or a program that I implement with my studetns in class? On top of not having a planning period to call parents, plan for two different types of subject matters and do grading, I have to take on another clicking job. As if my job description was that of data entry clerk. Not only that, they also wanted me to call the parents of studetns who are not getting on. My reply during tht conference was that we were creating a nation of dummies. You should the lack of personal touch in that program. We complain about kids on video games and give them a senseless one to learn to and analyze text? Teachers usually meet behind closed doors to criticize the new mandates heaped upon them and nag, but they’re silent like sheep to the slaughterhouse during faculty and departmental meetings. Protesting and demanding your rights takes courage and self-respect. “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is easy or fun, and choosing to practice values, rather than just professing them.” Annonymous.
When outsiders want to make an impression in the world for being the good guys and/or want to get the millenial market, they look towards schools. But they never send a teacher to help the studetns learn for more than a couple of hours. The docent visitors come and show off how wonderful they are, teach the theory and never come back. The teacher gets stuck with the rest. Hands-on activities where children make a final product take place in many instances but it is at the expense of teachers who make the extra effort. That was the case with the TV network that donated thousands of assets in equipment to the school but never sent anyone to teach the students how to use it. They only send professionals who show and tell about their acclaimed successes. Again, they’re left with the teacher to do the day to day of doing something.
Passing the dreadful tests becomes a greater challenge for schools and equires that more time is spent in preparation than in doing meaningful activities. State tests change to a more difficult version once a high percent of the low socio-economic population is able to pass them. Imposing the reign of terror and the strategy of keeping people behind, in direct opposition to the No child left behind Act in the state of Florida, is what I have witnessed in these 22 years. Right when students started passing the FCAT and teachers were teaching more again (a danger to the minds of students), and the children were learning more things (another danger to society), the powers-that-be decided it was time to adopt another test, a much more difficult one, the dreaded FSA, one that will prevent the masses from passing it. Therefore, they will not be able to earn a high school diploma or enter colleges.
The last thing the state wants is to have real good teachers who are not willing to take abuse or compromise for a lousy paycheck any longer or have any kind of imagination. The mindlessness or mindfulness of our future generations will be the final product. We are already witnessing lack of sensitivity towards humanity and an absence of compassion in much of the world around us. Take a look at the messages behind the highest paid forms of entertainment available to all, movies? The state wants teachers who are cookie cut to obey orders without taking into consideration what is best for students and teachers and instead want to serve the State and local bureaucracy, not the people. What would you say about a car manufacturer who doesn’t listen to the mechanics on board about what makes the car run better?
The solution is blowing in the wind. For me, it’s time that I stand on my own two feet. Hopefully, there will be more like me, willing to stand up for their beliefs and travel to the other side where all is possible. In this pasture, we are teaching compassion, it starts with loving yourself by doing what you love to do. So far, I’ve submitted to Film Freeway, to the Audience Awards, and have started research for my next new project. My other projects are moving along spreading their wings. More original projects are getting a thrust and I’m able to be in silence, exercise more and take restroom breaks as I please. Monetizing my skills and imagination is just a matter of attracting it with thoughts and actions.
The teacher in me loves having a good time with my students and my goal is to entertain them with stories about the past and future in unsuspected places where anything could be possible, there are no judges and people follow their own lead. I was once apalled when someone said I would always be a teacher. Horrified, I said, “Oh no, there is no hope for little old me.” But then I spread my wings and flew over the coccoo’s nest only to realize he was right, and I will always be a teacher. But now I am a better one, for I am teaching self respect, integrity, imagination, hope, faith, and perseverance by all that I do to get to the mind of my students at large with these wondeful stories of enlightenment. Want to read one? Visit http://amzn.to/2n37oxI and purchase the latest edition of Utopia on Kindle.