I dedicate this article to me. It’s not for you, although many of you may relate. It’s a much needed venting session, more than anything else.
I have spent nearly all of my 13 years of teaching battling people. I’m tired. I have windows in my classroom for the first time in seven years, and I find myself staring out of them, imagining I’m standing on the other side, waving goodbye, from time to time.
I don’t want to confuse you. I love the profession. I don’t want to do anything else. I’m just tired.
I don’t want to confuse you. I love the profession. I don’t want to do anything else. I’m just tired. I want to ignore everything around me. I want the bliss of ignorance. However, no matter how often I withdraw, I am sucked right back into the upside down.
When I write, I tend to spill the beans and tell things I would never speak of in person. I experience generalized anxiety disorder, dysthymia, and autism spectrum disorder (had no idea as a child). I say experience, because I don’t “suffer” due to these issues and I don’t say “have”, because I am not sick. I’ll let you research those if you care. I only mention them because It’s partly why I want to withdraw from it all at times, yet always find myself obsessing over issues I find important. I also mention them, because teachers are human. We experience the same life issues as parents and students, yet teacher issues are never on the table when it comes to reform, except when it is to give us more responsibilities or to blame us for the failures of society. So, it’s time to stop dumping on teachers.
You could also say I am constantly battling myself. And yes, It’s why I don’t stop and chat you up in the hallway at times. Warring with others and internally makes a person sleepy. I used to nap. I have kids of my own now. So, I don’t nap anymore. I found myself a couple of years ago in a state of withdrawal and realized I had to fight what was happening to my profession or I was going to quit or lose my mind – whichever came first.
The teaching career began in August of 2007. After a six-plus-year career in Journalism, I accepted a teaching position at Western Middle School, located in the West End of Louisville. It was in the bottom 5 percent of middle schools. If I am not mistaken, it may have been in the bottom five of all middle schools. Those first three years, I taught sixth-grade English-Language Arts. I still remember walking into my classroom on the first day, getting cursed out by a tiny girl, being given data showing more than half of my students were beginning readers, nearly throwing up in my mouth at the sight of mold growing up my wall, and wondering how in the world was I going to this job, considering I was given no resources and told good luck.
I survived. I actually became a pretty good teacher. During those three years, I got a lot of non-readers to score apprentice or proficient, and move up multiple grade levels, but it was never enough for those state people, who constantly told me what I should be doing but would never model the advice in my classroom in front of students. That’s when audits and the war began.
I experienced at least two significant state audits in my first four years at Western. The second resulted in replacing most administration and nearly the entire staff. We were told we could re-interview for our jobs. I did. I wanted to be at Western. When I was hired, I requested the school. And I was one of seven staff members to be brought back. It felt good to be wanted, but it was bitter sweet, for sure.
These auditors and state personnel kept telling us poverty played no role in student achievement and our perceptions and attitudes were responsible for the school’s lack of success. At that time, I told auditors during my interview, point blank, they were morons. I am who I am and I do what I do. It works sometimes, other times it doesn’t. Authenticity all the way. It’s a side-effect, symptom, or whatever, of ASD.
My last year at Western, I went to war with a principal who sexually harassed staff, was blatantly racist, told me he didn’t “give a (expletive) about school culture”, and told me to transfer despite nearly doubling test scores from the prior year. He would eventually be fired for his behavior, but I had already parted ways with Western.
I decided to transfer to the now defunct Myers Middle School, where I was heading a new proposed magnet program in Journalism and Communications. At least that’s what administration told me. That position lasted half a year. I wasn’t given any of the resources I was promised and the proposed program was scrapped as soon as another audit removed the school’s administration. The next year-in-a-half was spent moving students up multiple grade levels in reading and dealing with some of the worst student behavior you can imagine. I watched a large eighth-grader push and hit a female teacher and a district ECE resource teacher proceed to explain to her and everyone around that the child could not be held accountable because it was a “manifestation of his disability.” Eye roll.
During that time is when Donna Hargens assumed the role of JCPS Superintendent. She would become the focus of the next fight.
Seven years ago, I transferred to Noe Middle School, where I now teach eight-grade social studies. I love my school. It’s such a unique oasis. However, during my time at Noe, teachers have fought Hargens over pay freezes and other issues, politicians over pensions and funding, a governor over hateful and disparaging remarks, and just when we can take a breath, now we have to fight for safe working conditions and the right to come to a work environment free of verbal and physical abuse. I fully understand why nearly half of all teachers quit within their first five years.
This rant wasn’t intended to inspire, inform, or do much else other than get a few things off my chest and mind. I could go on and on, but it’s long enough. And I already mentioned I’m tired. However, if a non-teacher reads this and takes only one or two things away, please let it be an understanding of what most teachers endure daily and the willingness to speak up. I don’t want to quit. Few of us do. But where do we go from here?
We are all (expletive) tired.