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“What Made You Leave Teaching?”

that, my friends, is the million dollar question.

The only problem is the ones who should be asking this question are not.

With that being said, today I am telling you my story of why I left teaching.  In the almost 2 years I’ve been out of the education field, I still get asked why I left.  In the last month or so, I’ve had at least 3 people reach out to me about my decision to leave teaching because they have it in the back of their minds at this point.  In fact, last week within 12 hours I had another two friends from college, who are currently teachers, reach out to me as well.  They’re frustrated with the system.  Yes, system, we are over you and have been over you!  With that and the inspiration of other some other bloggers, I dedicate this Teachin’ Up on a Tuesday post to educators everywhere.  I encourage you to stay strong, use your voice, and know that what you do matters.

So, why did I leave teaching?  This question is either overlooked by those making the decisions in education or as I experienced first hand, asked and then taken back in a flash.  Just like when kids realize they gave away their favorite color gummy bear to their friend and then SNATCH, they jerk it back really quickly.  This type of scenario happens when, on the rare occasion, government officials/board members seek out to find “answers” to their questions about why good, passionate teachers are leaving the profession ((even if you’re not in the education field, surely you know someone who is and can empathize & be that person of encouragement for them on their rough, and even easy, days)).

I can just picture it now «enter two suited up men in a government-looking building»:

{Man1 says to Man2}: “Man2, these teachers are bugging out.  They are totally killing my vibe on Twitter.  Maybe if I just change my bio to ‘Making North Carolina  Education (and all Education) better one tweet at a time’ they will chill out?”

{Man2 responds to Man1}: “Yea, Man1, you change your bio and I’ll change mine too!  We should change our bios AND put out a memo to the districts & their administrators and invite them to come to our commissioners meeting next month.  We can say that they will have the opportunity to speak and tell us why they’re leaving teaching, but then when the time actually comes, we’ll just tell them that the discussion has been postponed to the next meeting.  Boom.  #postponingeducationonemeetingatatime .”

{Man1 to Man2}: “Ah, yes, Man2.  That’s the perfect solution!  It’s probably for the best that we don’t let those who are actually teaching & in the schools every day help us with the decisions that effect them anyways.  I mean, what do they really know?  What are they really doing besides just wearing 200+ different hats?  All they have to do is give out our data tests and then what?  I mean the students get their scores and then the teachers get theirs.  So what if they happen to get observed and rated based on our cookie cutter system in the mean time?”

{Man2 to Man1}: “Exactlyyyy and so what if they’re just working with students (aka: data robots) of all different languages, backgrounds, home lives, skills, learning levels, etc.?  I mean, gah, don’t people know how long it takes us to write up policies and bills that are entirely too long and 9 times out of 10 are bad decisions for education?”

Okay so I’m no Spielberg or Aziz, but I feel pretty confident that I got my point across.  People ask me all the time: “Did you leave because of the kids?  Oh you taught middle school?  Eeek, yea I don’t blame you.”  If by kids you mean the adults who are in charge of making the decisions about education, then yes, I left because of the kids.  If you’re asking if I left because of my students?  I’d tell you no.  I loved my students & I miss them and being in my classroom with them every single day.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some days that a few students drove me cray, but it was mostly because I knew they could do better and I wanted so badly to help them find their greatness & go after it every day.  In these times, I had to take a step back and remind myself that they may have had to take care of their younger siblings all night while they’re parent(s) were working their second job or they may have just moved to America and had to leave loved ones behind.  These are the realities teachers are faced with on top of unrealistic expectations, busy-work overload, and yes some days disrespectful students.  Luckily for me, for the most part, as time went on a majority of my students knew what lines not to cross.  Yes there were always a couple who crossed these lines 4/5 days of the week, but most knew their boundaries & if they made an effort, respected everyone, and did what they were asked, they knew I’d take care of them.  

One story and feeling I will never forget was a moment when I gained a “tough-guy’s” trust.  This student was being accused of causing some trouble.  I was in the right place at the right time.  I saw first hand that he (as most would probably say ‘for once’) was not the culprit.  The fact that he knew that I knew he was innocent AND I stood up for him instead of just pretending I didn’t really know what happened & throwing him under the bus because of his past behaviors did wonders for this student.  He started coming to class prepared, participating, doing his classwork & homework (and not just in my class, in all of his classes) and really trying.  Like any human, he had his days, but on those days instead of the adults in his life nagging him and putting him down, we all worked with him in different ways that allowed him to make better decisions and stay encouraged.  For me, this was my purpose in teaching: to help encourage those who have been told they can’t do something because of who they are, where they come from, or because of their past.  The first time I felt this feeling was during my Student Teaching where I was in a Title I, IB, 8th grade American History class.  I simply told, yet another tough-guy, that he and his group were doing great work.  It was that simple.  He gained respect for me and with that came trust.  This also led to some younger ladies who were “too cool for school” to eventually trust me as well.

Teachers are advocates for students like this as well as many other types of students (the labels of students these days are forever being added to Webster), but it goes without saying that this is what makes education.  Between all of the pressure put on teachers AND students with testing, data, and typically irrelevant expectations you can say goodbye to the caring, respectful, and hardworking generations of America.  Instead, you can say hello to non-motivated robots.

Am I happy with the career change I made?  Yes.  Yes I really am.  Do I like the fact that I left the education field after only two years because I got so frustrated with trying to make things right every chance I had and nothing was done?  Not one bit.  Oh yea, and I also find it odd that during my second year of teaching, our faculty and students’ safety was jeopardized more than once and I anonymously went to the county and (yep, you guessed it) nothing was done.  Oh and I just love telling the story about how educators from all over my district were invited to speak at a county commissioners meeting about why teachers were leaving education and when the board was faced with the reality of educators ready to hash out the issues and come up with solutions [[you know, sort of like our Founding Fathers. #nbd]], instead educators are put on the back burner for the ‘next meeting.’  To me, it wasn’t even necessarily a discussion about teacher pay.  Yes, that is clearly an issue; however, this is just one issue that needed and STILL needs to be addressed.  Sorry I’m not sorry that educators are not just your typical government employer who can be silenced with money.  Haven’t you seen Scandal??  Pretty sure there is no episode where a teacher is paid off to keep quiet about how they can truly impact students and help get them to where they want to go no matter what their background may be and/or their score on a completely ridiculous test.

Like I previously stated, I am quite glad I took a step back from education; however, I will admit that it broke. my. heart. to leave teaching and it still hurts my heart when I hear that other ‘good-ones’ are questioning leaving what they love as well.  Most schools (depending on your geographical location) are becoming a low-morale place to work with very little “light at the end of the tunnel” possibility.  When schools get back to a place where more days than not the morale is high, teachers are happy, students are happy, and there are positive vibes going, then yes America, your chances of having another great, World War II-like generation are much higher.

Even though I am technically no longer a teacher/educator, I will always be passionate about the field and all it entails.  I still keep in touch with a couple of my students & plan to continue to do so.

For those of you who have rough days and/or are on the fence about teaching, I am here as an advocate, friend, third-party, call me what you will, to everyone in the field.

This is pretty lengthy in comparison to my usual posts, but I wanted to lay it all out there – so I appreciate your time & feedback.  Please leave your thoughts, comments, and/or questions below or feel free to reach out to me via Social Media (including e-mail: missetayla@gmail.com).

Have something funny or inspirational you’d like to share??  Do it via Social Media with the hashtag #teachinuponatuesday – I look forward to hearing from y’all! ♥

Do it like Drake and go UP on this Tuesday!

XO,

missEtayla

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