A Tale of Two Schools

It was the best of times

I’ve taught in my building for years. Long enough that I know how everything works, who to go to if there is a question I can’t answer. Long enough that new teachers now come to me instead of the other way around.

I know the kids and their families. I’ve had the big sister and the little brother and the cousin and their neighbor across the hall of the apartment complex. I can go to a parent night for any grade level and wave to a number of families; I know them and they know me. I’ve already called dibs on the youngest members of the family who aren’t in school yet, and I talk to younger siblings about the older siblings who have since graduated from my school.

I’ve taught long enough that I know what I’m doing. I know the ebb and flow of the curriculum, of the children’s behavior, of how I always tend to get sick at certain times of the year (unfortunately). I know what’s right for these children at this age, and I do my best to do it. Not saying I’m perfect, but there is something to be said for years of experience. Inside my classroom you might find us talking a little too much or straying off-topic, but you also will find a lot of reading, a lot of learning disguised as play, and a lot of love. A true little community that I work hard to develop every year.

it was the worst of times

And then you step outside the classroom door. Where to begin? The data walls that shame children, especially special education students and those still learning the English language. The no talking in the cafeteria policy. The minimized recess. Prisoners get more time outdoors and more conversation time than my kids do. The push for test scores with no regard to the child or how children learn and develop over time.

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness

I entered teaching with a lot of ideas and not much true knowledge. As one of my friends has said, “I would hate to encounter the kids from my first year. I knew so little!” I’m a learner by nature, so I devour professional books and blogs and whatever resources Google can help me find. (Side note: that’s not all I do. There is a life outside of teaching.)

Yet the more I learn, the more I see what should be done in the classroom, what is the right way for children to learn, the less I see that. The freedoms of teacher and students are increasingly being squelched. Not just by Common Core. Not just the reauthorization of ESEA. Not just things happening on the state or even district level.

It’s what I see, what I hear, what I experience every time I step out of my classroom or check my school email. The idiots are running the asylum, the emperor has no clothes.

But the emperor is still employed.

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair

Every time I think we’ve hit a new low, we sink to a lower level. Morale? There is none. Bullying? There is plenty to go around. Teachers are crying every day before and after school. Teachers pull into the parking lot and remain there, unwilling to get out of their cars. The use of antidepressants is on the rise.

Doctors have told some teachers it’s time to quit. Their health, their life, or their job.

Some have already left. In all my years of teaching, I had never seen someone leave mid-year. This year is not like the other years. This year, we place bets on who will be the next to leave, and will they go quietly or in a blaze of glory.

Googling phrases such as “symptoms of stroke” is becoming commonplace, no matter how young or old you are.

The children know. Not details, not exactly what’s going on, but there’s no way for them to not sense that things aren’t quite right. Especially as teachers start leaving the building for good; that’s the most obvious sign to them that things are falling apart in their school. For many, school is their safe place from whatever they face at home.

It may be physically safe, but emotionally, it’s not anymore.

And I hate that. I hate that for my kids, past, present, and future, who deserve better. I hate that specifically for this year’s kids, who often have a teacher whose insides clench whenever the door opens–is this another spying session by administration, nitpicking to find what’s wrong? I hate it because I’m on edge every day in a way that is new to me, and I know that no matter how hard I try, I’m probably expressing some of my frustration to them. I know I am physically present less this year, because if there is a way to be out of that building, I’m going. I’m not abusing sick days or professional leave days, but I’m taking as many as I can. It’s the only way I might retain some of my sanity.

I’m still teaching in developmentally appropriate ways, still reading aloud lots of great books to inquisitive, funny children, still setting up science experiments and pulling up maps to show different parts of the world. But mentally, it’s all I can do some days not to fall apart.

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way –

When I started teaching in this building, I honestly thought I would be there for decades. Maybe never leave.

Those days are gone.

I’m counting down the days. I’m not ready to leave the profession like some of my colleagues and friends, but I’m more than ready to leave this toxic environment.

I hate that for my kids. All of them, even the ones I’ll never have. That’s why I keep fighting. For them.

But it’s time to go. I look around my room and unconsciously start calculating how many boxes I’ll need.

I used to think I could stay for the children. Even that’s not enough anymore.

in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

This is one teacher’s story. One out of hundreds of millions of teachers.




The more teachers I talk to, this isn’t just my story. It’s your story. It’s the story of your children’s teacher. It’s the story of the teacher down the hall. We’re everywhere, and we’re heartbroken. We’re bullied, and no one seems to care.

So we’re getting out.

with apologies to Mr. Dickens


4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Schools

  1. Rene Diedrich February 23, 2015 / 8:23 pm

    Reblogged at hemlovkontherocks.com t. Teacher solidarity NOW


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