It’s my 5th year teaching in public school and I don’t know if I can do it anymore.
It often seems like education is a field that a lot of people value. Even if you don’t have kids that currently go to school, you - yourself - have participated in school; either private or public. That’s why we all pay taxes for public school. We as a society have agreed that education is necessary for the betterment of our children and the future.
This belief is what drove me to education and teaching in the first place. When I first started, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I spent a little over a year at a D middle school in a poor district and left to work in other fields. It was my core-belief in helping young people and passion for education that drove me back again, this time at a B high school in the same district and I stuck it out for 4 more years.
When most people think of teaching, they assume that you go to college for teaching, you work as a student intern at some schools, and then you get a job as a teacher. After that, you can enjoy 10 months of teaching young people about your passion and 2 months off with regular holidays and benefits.
The truth about the field of education is that we never stop working. The moment you are hired as a public educator (even with a 4-year degree in education) you are required to continuously take coursework in education for non-English speakers, education for students with special needs, educational technology, education standards and district policies, testing regulations and requirements.
If you are a first year teacher, most of these courses are expected to be completed within your first 3 years. If you are a teacher from another state, you are required to prove to the state you have that coursework or are taking new coursework to be in compliance. On top of all of that, we are expected to maintain quality lesson plans, engage our students in learning everyday, and keep an accurate record of our grading system and accommodations.
For me, I was not an education major. However, that did not stop the education system from encouraging me to apply. I had a degree in English Literature which labelled me as “Highly Qualified” in the subject of English. In order for me to be certified, I was required to take a general knowledge test, a subject-area exam, and several courses in English. All of which were to be paid for out of my pocket. When I first started teaching, I was told I could complete my coursework through different programs.
One option presented to me at the young age of 23 was to complete my required coursework through a Masters program in Education. After finishing, not only would I have a professional certification in Education, but I would also have a Masters degree which would increase my pay.
It wasn’t until I was nearly done with the 3-year certification period and my masters program that I found out I had not completed all of the required coursework to become a certified teacher because my masters program did not provide them. Yes, my masters program in education did not provide all the necessary coursework for me to complete my education certification.
Through a last ditch effort (and lots of money) I was able to take the coursework needed to complete my certification requirements by the expiration date (in two weeks). I submitted the needed documents to the state and waited for my approval to be put through.
And I’m still waiting. Due to a backlog at the State Department of Education, I have been waiting 4 months for my professional certificate that I have worked so hard for. On top of that, I am unable to graduate from my masters program because I don’t have my professional certificate.
Even though I don’t officially have my certification, my district has allowed me to continue teaching 180 10th graders English Literature. Why? Because no one else will do it.
After 5 years of study, work, and passion I have nothing to show for it except a very full Google Drive and some t-shirts. No pay raise. No promotion. No masters degree. No certification.
I write, film, and edit videos for my students. I create lesson plans designed to differentiate and engage. I pour my heart, soul, and money into my classroom. I have worked so hard for four years. I thought that once I got through everything I needed to do to become a professional teacher I would feel empowered! I would feel free! I would feel like I could take advantage of all that time off.
Instead I feel depressed. Everyday. I feel hopeless for the future. I look at my students and all I see is the same bureaucratic nonsense that I’ve had to deal with eating away at them with every test they take. I feel like my soul is being slowly scratched away with every class bell. I am in the darkest emotional place I’ve ever been.
And I have literally no clue how to fix it. My certification is in limbo, so I can’t apply for another teaching job anywhere. I’ve called the department of education every week since I applied for certification to no avail. I’ve taken on new jobs at the school like sponsoring clubs and teams, volunteering for our teachers union, and supporting our academic programs.
I don’t think I’m a bad teacher, but I think I’m about to become one just to make it day to day. I have so many people in my life who support me and feel for my struggle, but have no tools to actually change anything.
I love teaching. I love interacting with my students. I love seeing them learn new things. But I hate my job.
From conversations with other educators, my story doesn’t seem so uncommon. Other teachers are feeling belittled, exhausted, and frustrated. According to Edweek.org, 44% of new teachers leave the field within the first 5 years. In my county, that number is more than half.
If we as a society value education, why don’t we value our teachers? Why do we allow more than half to leave after 5 years? Why do we require them to take on more work without more pay? Why do we treat “highly qualified” teachers like lazy, ungrateful dirtbags? Everyone accepts that we have a problem, but what do we actually do about it?
I am a self-motivated, hard-working, quick-learner. I need help changing the world; contact if interested.