It’s that time of year. It’s the end….pack up the books, throw away the broken pencils and throw your cares into the sunshine and the pool. Crossing the finish line for teachers is achieving that goal of the joy of learning for another year, or in the case of current teachers- surviving.
But, what if it was your last year? Has it crossed your mind once, twice, or maybe 100 times this year? Are you really considering leaving teaching? What would happen to your students if you did?
There’s a lot to consider. Read on, oh exhausted one.
It isn’t you.
You know deep down you’re doing all you can to resurrect some semblance of teaching and learning in your classroom. Maybe the only time you felt worthy was AFTER testing was over, but you fit it in and the glorious looks of real learning returned to all of those cherubic faces confirming what you already know. The students still want to learn. That spark still exists. Education isn’t all bad; but it’s certainly not all good.
Education is, I’ll say it-a freaking disaster. It’s been a slow crumble for years and you’ve fought the good fight. It’s not you. It’s administration, it’s Common Core’s testing monstrosity, it’s government run compulsory education, it’s throwing good money into more technology (that never reaches the children), it’s mindless mandates that won’t be checked. It’s them-the controllers. It’s not you.
Schools and teachers are being affected in different ways to various degrees and that’s why you’ve hung in there this long. Sometimes you know you’re staying for the pay, the benefits (what’s left of them), and the children. They’re counting on you chucking your dignity for all of it.
The students will survive without you.
For years you’ve been told that every time your classroom money was slashed, your field trip requests disregarded, the data analysis demands increased, and you were handed more paperwork, it’s been “for the children”. That was a crock then. It still is. And you know it; yet, you go on. You know why you’re staying; it IS for the children. It’s for the kiddo who is bright, but just can’t get his work in on time, it’s for the snack you brings for the kids that don’t have any, and it’s for the extra time and effort you put in to reach those kids who need it. But, do you want to know the truth? They will survive without you. We know you want to save the world and I’m not being sarcastic or condescending. You really DO want to save every last kid at that school, but you can’t. They will survive without you. Sometimes you gotta’ save yourself.
You won’t realize how bad it really was for years.
Like the proverbial frog being boiled, it really is that bad. You’ve gotten used to it. You’ve found ways around, through, and over the system. You know that half of the initiatives your principal, your superintendent, or your governor think up will go full steam ahead and then get dropped in your lap as an afterthought. They won’t have the money, the organization, or the time to support you and you’ll be left holding the ball. Some of those “helpful” ideas will fade away and some will make your life even more hellish. Now IS the time to think about them. Not when you are stuck in the middle of the year. Hindsight really is 20/20.
You will feel empty.
You will go through all of the 7 stages of grief. You will look back and think, “Maybe the year I left, I could have changed things, “I wasted so much time following those stupid rules” or “I’ll only stay one more year.” You’ll be in denial, anger, or bargaining. You’ll be trying to hold onto a dream that no longer exists. You will feel like a deserter, you will feel weak, you will feel like a coward, but you will also feel free. You will see how much is really wrong and why you held onto every tiny bit of good.
You can get your integrity back.
You know you’ve lost it or your grasp on it is loosening more every day. You can get your integrity back. You know you’re not really teaching anymore. You’re going through the motions waiting for that knight in shining armor to save you, your school, your students. No one is coming. You’ve been reduced to rubble. You’re broken; yet still strong. You rationalize those scripted lessons are “research-based”, you push through those days of wasted meetings with clueless superiors. You second-guess yourself and your approaches because, after all, maybe you’re the one who needs more training. Maybe they’re right. Maybe if you just follow their way of thinking it will all come together and you can live with yourself. You’re digging a deeper hole and you know it. But, you can recover.
Life does go on.
You may never teach again. That may be too heartbreaking to deal with right now. You can join the growing ranks of former classroom teachers who are now homeschooling and blogging about it. You can get a job in another field and feel pampered in that hour long lunch and bathroom break without running through your mental to-do list. You can Facebook your former students and continue to support them in their endeavors. You can become an educational advocate and tell the REAL STORY of what’s happening in education and best of all, you can breathe. It’s not your circus and not your monkeys anymore.
Life should be full of happiness.
Don’t get me wrong, we learn through our struggles. But, maybe your struggles are about fighting a battle that you can’t win anymore. Are you sacrificing your own happiness for others and ending up miserable in the end? How much happiness fills your day? How much time and energy do you have left over for your own family?
When you leave, you will cry- a lot. But, you will also feel a great sense of relief that your battle is over and you fought valiantly. It’s not a defeat. You are no longer keeping the dysfunctional education machine going. You can enjoy life and though you’re closing a chapter, you’re not finished yet. You know how to find happiness and you’re smarter for all of the hardships. Your time is now.
You may be able to return to rebuild.
Learning will always find a way. Once the educational system that exists today falls apart and people truly understand, you can return. You can return to a new world of education where you’re appreciated, respected, and valued.
But not yet.
Know that there is life on the other side. Are you ready?