Why I Quit Teaching
I don’t know. Every time someone asks me, my response is always different. Teaching is a dream job. You get to share your hard-earned knowledge and experiences to train the next generation. Why would I quit such a job? I don’t think there will ever be an objective answer, but I’ll try my best to go through my experiences and figure it out.
Student teaching was awesome. I had a great master teacher, the students loved learning, and class was a blast. Still, I was always really tired. This should be shocking because normally a teacher has to teach five or more periods, but I was really only teaching two. I wasn’t even lesson planning. Therefore, why would I always come home and go straight to bed, only to wake up at 5:00 in the morning? I thought it was mostly because I wasn’t used to working and that I’m innately shy, but I figured that eventually I would get over it.
Fast forward to getting my first job as a high school math teacher at a charter school. I honestly sent in my application really late because I wanted to rest more during the summer. I don’t really have a go-getter personality and I always try hard to be efficient. By efficient I mean, getting stuff over with as little effort as possible (I mean, I still turn out a quality product. Usually.). Still, after a little monetary pressure I sent in my application. I was hired almost immediately and had to start in 3 days. School started and I really only got to be in the classroom after about a week because there were some technical difficulties with the fingerprints. In any case, I had a rough start. Sure I liked the students, but they weren’t what some would call “easy” students. Most of them grew up in Watts, in the projects, and they got passed along to high school with sometimes elementary level math skills. Several kids told me how crazy their middle schools were. Chairs and tables would be flying. One kid even blew his mouth open by lighting fireworks in his mouth. Another kid told me about how their gang got their weapons confiscated by the police.
However, this was where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a light in the darkness. I wanted to give kids who society would dismiss as hopeless, hope. I soon found out that it was a lot more work than I bargained for. At the work place, I can work like a machine. But to make me work like a dog at home too was too much. I’m still single! I need to get out! Yet I found myself isolating myself from my friends and family because the stress was too much and I always felt “behind”. The charter school did offer a lot of support but I felt like it was too much support. Can there ever be too much support? Too much coaching? Too much professional development?
I wanted to go into teaching and do my thing. Turns out that I had to reset my grading system to match theirs. I had to read a book on how to properly teach. I had to collaborate with coworkers on how to properly implement one educational theory after another. I watched videos and read articles about effective teachers. My students typically scored far below basic on the charter school’s newly designed Common Core exams. I was told to give more exams, score more exit tickets, give more assessments. I was scored on a scale from 1 to 4 about how effective I was across a plethora of parameters. I typically scored 1s and 2s so I had to receive even more coaching. Everyone was very supportive, but I still felt like I wasn’t a good teacher. They encouraged me a lot, saying that I was improving really quickly, that the students liked me, that I would be much better next year. But still, something was lost. Respect? Pride? Dignity? I don’t know. It’s not good to be proud anyway but I felt like I wasn’t a teacher anymore. I was some new clay that could be properly molded into a good teacher using the latest research and data-based educational findings. I was clay that could be found anywhere.
Who cares if my kids liked me? Who cares if I brought them candy every week? Who cares if I spent over $200 on pencils alone? I was just another face that could become effective with enough training. I was an ineffective teacher. Many of my students scored far below basic on the Common Core based tests that they had to take every unit. They were frustrated. They lost confidence.
But then, something amazing happened. They didn’t require me to give the charter school’s manufactured exams. I could teach them my way. The students started gaining confidence. They were learning at their own pace, not an artificial pace to prepare them for an exam that most adults would struggle with. They started saying bizarre things like, “This is easy!” Still, I knew that next year the exams would come back. I would have to work harder and harder to just maybe be considered effective. If I’m not effective, then I say find someone else that wants to be molded into an effective teacher. If I’m not a good teacher, why should I stay teaching only to sacrifice my well-being while doing these students a disservice?
The students were upset that I was leaving and gave me their well-wishes. Students told me I was a really good teacher and were upset that all the good teachers were leaving. It made me wonder what really made a teacher a good one. I was so busy feeling inferior the whole time that I hadn’t really stopped to consider. The students signed my yearbook and gave me cards. I told them I was moving into a Computer Programming training program. They were happy for me as I’m set to double my pay within 3 years. If I work overtime, I’ll actually get paid for it. I’ll be able to do the programming that I love and be able to challenge myself intellectually as I learn new things every day. The more I learn and master, the less work I have to do! I won’t be expected to lesson plan in the middle of the night and wake up in the mornings to motivate students that hate school, that hate the system. I’ll be working for employers that appreciate my work as I fully utilize the talents that could not see the light of day while I was a high school teacher.
Bye charter school. Even though the principal, the two vice-principals, and six out of thirty-one teachers are leaving this year, I’m happy I’m leaving because I’m sure you’ll replace me with someone more effective than myself.