The day after I left teaching
I wrote and posted this on Facebook December 21, 2019:
Yesterday was my last day of teaching. There are a lot of reasons why I stopped teaching, but the reason I’m writing this is because of the pride I have for the people who are teachers and have the strength and stamina to continue teaching. I also want to advocate for the support and respect that teachers need from everyone.
In many ways, I feel guilt and shame for taking a step back from teaching. I’ve been working in education for 12 years and teaching full time for 10. I feel like a firefighter that can’t handle a place that is too hot or a soldier who is too weak to carry her pack and runs away from a battlefield.
I was not Hillary Swank in Freedom Writers. I never was able to get my students to stand on their desks and yell, “oh captain, my captain.” Though there were many times I told students to please get off their desks and asked them to please stop yelling.
What is the point of this post? Teachers need more support. More. Lots more support. Think of the most support and respect that could be given to any position and that is what they need. Teachers are not perfect and make mistakes, but teachers are people, highly educated people, who have hearts that ache to help students.
And there is only so much we can do. It’s like we are doctors in a room of people who are sick and injured and dying every day we have to decide who gets what treatment, who needs what intervention, and then one of them starts to bleed out or seizes and then people look at YOU and say, “what did YOU do to stop this from happening?” You feel helpless because they came to you with injuries and stab wounds and you stitched them up and gave them medicine, but still they are sick and dying…is it your fault that they have not been healed yet? Or were they too sick and injured before you got them? And that sense of responsibility is enough to make me feel crazy sometimes because I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I was a little quicker, a little smarter, I could have saved all of them.
And you want to save them all. Every one of them. You want to help each student and you want to help the teachers on your team and sometimes you’re so tired and exhausted you fall asleep before 8pm…or before 7pm or 6pm if we are being brutally honest, because it’s so exhausting and the real problem is there is only so much you can do because you are only one person. Teachers are on anti-anxiety meds and have trouble sleeping and have real medical problems because of what they go through. Teachers are hurt and on the front line and are being asked every day why they aren’t doing more, why they aren’t able to dig deeper and find the strength to help more.
Listen to teachers. Support teachers. Be very very very kind to teachers. The hurt and pain and guilt that some of us carry is very real.
I’ve been to four different funerals for four of my students. That’s what I carry. I carry the thought that on my birthday one year, I was at a candlelight vigil for one of my sweetest students because the students needed me to be there to help support them. And I was there after returning from a family funeral and from my sister having her first baby. But I was there because I believe the students needed me there.
I carry the memories of students yelling obscenities at me and laughing when I felt stressed and overwhelmed. I carry the moments when all I wanted to do was to help them show kindness to each other and wanted them to learn something new, some resource that would help them later in life to be happier and more successful. Those same moments I tried and they ignored me or laughed at me or were just plain cruel to each other. I carry those moments.
I carry the notes, the thank you notes, the ones that expressed even a little bit of gratitude and appreciation for what I did. And I carry the thought that there were far too many that I was unable to help, whether because of my own shortcomings or because the circumstances were beyond what any teacher could have been able to overcome.
I am so very proud of my fellow teachers. And I want to help. I really truly want to help the students and the teachers and I have a lot of ideas about how that could happen, but first I really think that people need to listen to teachers, good teachers, strong teachers, struggling teachers, all of them and more of us need to be able to help them and ask, “what do you need to be successful? What do you need to have more joy when you come into your classroom?”
I am not as strong as some of my fellow educators. I am proud of the teachers I have met, the ones who have given so much, sacrificed so much to be there for students. If you’ve read all this, thank you. If you’re a teacher, please, if there is anything I can do to help you and support you, know that I want to help. I still want to help. I want people, students, parents, counselors, everyone to show teachers kindness, compassion, respect, and support.
Teachers are heroes. I am proud that I was able to be a part of such a group of amazing people. For now, I know I am not able to continue with the stress and frustration and pain I’ve encountered because of my time teaching. But at some point, maybe I’ll return. No matter what though, I carry the joy and pride of being a person who was given the chance to help and make a difference. No matter what, I will support teachers because they do more than anyone outside of the profession could ever imagine.