How much longer will I survive doing this?

Why would anyone become a teacher?

This is my fifth year teaching and I have begun wondering this more and more each day. There was a point when I loved teaching. I felt so content in my job and my life it was overwhelming. Then overnight education in my state began to change, and once change begins there is no going back.

Teachers in many states are having benefits taken away. If education is getting worse in this country, and you cut pay and benefits, will the good teachers stay? With the smart and talented youth go into teaching? Would you go into a field if pay was going down and benefits were being cut? Who will be left to teach?

Teaching is a thankless job. Maybe a few times a year a parent or student tells you thank you for all that you do. Some years, no one does. You turn on the tv and people are trashing teachers for standing up for themselves and their jobs. If you are sick and miss a day you are punishing the students. If you have to go to a doctor appointment, which are only open during school hours, you are punishing the students by missing work. During the school year, there is an expectation that you stop existing in your life and only exist for your students. You are no longer allowed to be human, you must be robo teacher.

Parents have switched the blame for failure from the kids to the teachers. No matter how amazing of an educator you are, not every single student will get 100% every day. But, expect to be punished if they don’t. In some schools your pay will be cut, in others the parents will yell and degrade you in front of a room full of people, and if you a lucky the students will be nasty to you and storm out to text their parents to come back and yell at you again. One school I worked for I was only allowed a certain percent of failures. If I had more I had to just change the grades, even if I had students who did not do a single assignment the entire semester. Of course, it is the teacher’s fault they refused to do any work.

Schools are falling apart in many places all over the country. I would come to work with rat feces on my desk every day. There would be an inch of dirt on my pants at the end of the day. I had to duct tape holes in my windows because they were never going to get fixed and I had to keep bees from coming in the classroom. When I asked the health inspector what they could about the rats, he said there was nothing anyone could do. Would you send your kid to this school? Would you expect your kid to be successful there? Who would you blame?

The worst part about becoming a teacher is having to send your child to school. I know what goes on behind closed doors. I know too much. I have never seen children come to harm at school, unless they were in a fight, but far too often have seen little education happening. I spend far too many waking moments trying to find someplace to move to that has excellent education, but surprise surprise the best education in the county is in the the wealthiest cities. Money talks.


*None of the stories apply to my current school, which is very well maintained, no rats, and I have never had a student fail, literally*

48 thoughts on “How much longer will I survive doing this?

    • I love the idea of homeschool, but at the same time I really want the social interaction for her. She is starting montessori school next year, and I think I am going to really like it. I highly recommend the Montessori philosophy.

  1. I think we all reach that point in our careers. I’ve been driving a truck for 13 yrs & I remember the days that I was excited to go to work. Now with all the new regulations & people that have come to trucking as a 2nd or 3rd career, who always thought it would really be neat to drive a truck & see the country, but can’t admit to themselves that maybe they aren’t cut out to be truck drivers, I could go on & on here, not so much.

    I still love what I do but some days just thinking about it makes me want to pull the covers over my head & say screw it.

      • I dunno, my dad loves his career. Maybe everyone at least has tiny gripes, but there have to be some people who never get bored or hate their jobs. Most people our age I think don’t fall into that category though

      • I think everyone has their ups and down…no it is not bipolar disorder, just good ole order and chaos. The light is defined by the darkness, can’t have one without the other. I stay at home with my children and paint and there are still some days when I want to say screw it and go find a job where someone else tells me what to do.

        Just watched Waiting for Superman last week and I cried. Sadly there are too many higher up that need that paycheck.

      • Eleanor Roosevelt once said,

        You must do the things that you cannot do…
        you gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face.

        If you love teaching then there is nowhere else you should be.

  2. I doubt anybody loves their job forever. However, as a former substitute teacher I saw some of the problems you discuss. It’s pretty crazy and I don’t get why people think they can improve education by damaging teachers. It’s so ass backwards its frightening in its implications for the future of our children.

    Well not mine. I have none.

  3. I’d like to try homeschool too, especially since we won’t be able to afford private unless things drastically change at our house. There are many different ways to get them socialized with homeschool. But then again, I’ve always liked going to work with adults, aka having a career, and I’ve thought about getting certified to become a teacher. Maybe you move to Atlanta and we start our own private school?

    • Worked at a school for three years, starting the schools second year. Beyond hard is an understatement. You would need to teach for a good number of years before undertaking something like that. I would also so you need tons of money to start one. Not a bad idea, just a very daunting one.

  4. The best education I ever witnessed is a Friends education, sadly it comes with a huge price tag. As a parent I always made sure to recognize the teachers that made the biggest impact on my children and it rarely had anything to do with information from a book. In my opinion, the system has forced teachers to turn kids into professional test takers…it’s all about the score ya know…it doesn’t allow you to express your passion for igniting that spark for learning in a child and that is very sad, for everyone.

  5. Being a mom is a thankless job. None of my employers pay me or provide benefits, I only get a break when they’re away at meetings (a/k/a/ school), and I never EVER get time off away from the office – even on vacation.

    But the ultimate payoff is extraordinary. Much the same is why teachers teach, I think.

    This country needs get over it and start treating teachers like people and giving them the proper tools to get the job done. Likewise, if teaching wasn’t “a government job,” (it must be, because not every child can afford a “good education”), the best teachers would be paid better and have better benefits – the market would dictate all of that.

    It’s a dichotomy. A government “anything” doesn’t usually work the best because there’s no incentive for it to and because inefficiencies are always built in. Kudos for the teachers for striking, even though they’re getting a bad rap. I, for one, take good care of MY teachers; like nursing or CEO’ing, it’s not a profession I aspire to.

    • Mom’s totally deserve a pay check. In fact they should get paid vacation too. There are so many factors that impact schools that are outside of everyone’s control, that it is hard to find solutions in all of the chaos. I look at the states like Massachusetts, that have for decades had amazing public education and wonder why we cant replicate that in all the states?

  6. I was happiest with my kids’ education when they attended a private Montessori school. I chose to get my certification so that I could work in public schools. Now I wish I’d gotten the Montessori education. I think I’d be much, much happier and I might even have a real teaching job.

    • My daughter starts Montessori school next year! You can easily get certified in Montessori without having to go back for another full degree, or so I have been told. I wish I had the money to pay for Montessori K-12. Maybe it will just appear?

      • For both of us! Iooked into Montessori certification and you have to start from the itsy-bitsy kids and work your way up. I don’t think I have the patience! And I know I don’t have the money. BTW, I worked at the Montessori school my daughter attended and got free tuition. I taught Spanish there, so didn’t need the Montessori certification. Maybe you could do something similar and move where you want to move??

  7. You know what’s crazy? Somehow, some people justify budget cuts in education. Which is ridiculous when you know that nothing good can come from it.

    Though the awesome thing about my high school education is the fact that I had a handful of awesome teachers who sacrificed getting more money to teach me (thanks AP Bio teacher!). But somehow it’s still the teachers who get blamed for students not learning. Hello, the parents have a say people! I worked part-time at a school for two years and realized that these kids weren’t even being read to at home. School is a place to learn new things and enhance their kids learning skills. Not give their kids the a free ride.

    As someone who is about to become a teacher (overseas to teach English), I say you rock. You are awesome for posting this and talking about how bad it’s been in the past for you. I love hearing from teachers who love what they do (even when if they are also like, “wtf country, why are you cutting the budget” and wonder why they are still teaching). Keep on doing what you’re doing and their will be less stupid people running around. 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words, and good luck starting your career. There are so many amazing moments in teaching it can be truly life changing. I have seen so much money wasted in schools. They spend millions on programs and if they don’t work immediately, they cut it and pay for a whole new program. If they saved that money imagine what they could do?

  8. Bonnie,
    Teaching is such a difficult profession; even more difficult than when I first started teaching over 25 years ago. Please don’t burn out and keep up the good work. Sadly, we need to educate the adults around issues of the labor movement and quit scapegoating teachers.

  9. I carry around reminders (literally and figuratively) about why I decided to be a therapist. I don’t counsel *for* the thank yous, but every time I get a written one it goes in my work bag. When I feel shitty or need reminding, I put out the thank yous and remind myself that I am appreciated, I am helping, and I am doing a kickass job. There are also those breakthrough moments in therapy where I say to myself in order to highlight the moment: THIS is why I do this job! THIS MOMENT, RIGHT HERE.
    For me, highlighting the good parts helps me keep my sanity.

  10. I’m just starting teaching in the UK, I’m already a qualified TEFL teacher but starting a PGCE. (Post Grad Certificate of Educaton). I have enjoyed the work i’ve done in class but the hours are long, the kids ungrateful and the teachers over worked. I want to do it because, I want to make a difference, like everyone, but its getting to the point with legislations, time restraints, class pressures, how can you. Is it even worth it?
    But then, every job is thankless, your boss doesnt say cheers when you’ve been helping save his arse every week in the office, but your two minutes late one day and he busts your balls, wherever you are, people don’t really appreciate the hours you do, the time you gibe, that little bit of yourself you part with every difficult day but then, if there is one less youth hanging around with no qualifications, no life prospects, and no hope then, well… I can say I did my job.

  11. I think the biggest problem is that society no longer sends their children to school to learn – they send them there because they are too busy to raise them. There is no discipline in the homes, only excuses for bad behavior. No accountability for the child, only blame placed on society, living situations, medical conditions real or created, etc. Poor Johnny is doomed to failure because there are no expectations placed on him for excellence. This is what teachers today have to deal with, and with so much babysitting going on, who has time for teaching?

    • Very valid points. It makes me so sad that there is no longer a goal that people should be educated for the sake of a greater quality life. And that people should continue to learn throughout their entire life.

    • I think logic is becoming a thing of the past, for the moment. Why use logic when you can make up lies and people believe them. It is like a giant revival out there, they are scaring people into thinking all kinds of wack a doo things.

  12. Ill start of by agreeing with you 100%. Education as a whole is on a downward slide. The fact that as a teacher, regardless of level, your not only educating your students on the book work, but also have a hand in shaping their lives. I feel the low-pay and cut backs that are happening all over the country are rediculous. I personally wanted to become a teacher, but in a world like today how do you get the pros to outweigh the cons? I have personally always thought a neat social experiment would be swapping the salaries of teachers and NFL players. How many football players would still play for the love of the game?

  13. First off, I agree with you 100%. Our nation as a whole is enduring an educational slump. I would like to say thank you to you, because your not only teaching your students on their bookwork, but part of shaping their lives. The fact that educators are underpaid and with the additional budgetary cuts, how do you get the pros to outweigh the cons? A social experiment Id like to see is swapping the salaries of teachers and NFL players. How many players would really play football because they love the game?

  14. Keep on keepin’ on. I was a teacher in my pre-mommy life, so I can empathize. It always strikes me how the people making decisions about education have little to no experience in education. But that is how our country likes to do most things. We need people like you to stay strong or there is no hope. And I agree with the woman who holds on to the thank yous she receives as a reminder. I STILL have a file in my basement with notes from parents and students…and I have been out of the classroom for seven years.

  15. Good post. I recognize a lot from when I worked in a small high school in the Rio Grande Valley. Changing grades to make the students pass classes… It’s all political. The superintendent either got his contract renewed or not, depending how many students graduated during his reign. That school happened to be immaculate, brand new, and they were building new stuff all the time, but none of it had to do with teaching. I have great admiration for good teachers who manage to keep going. I don’t know how you do it.

    • It is sad how people view no longer view education as something we ought to invest in and the ones that do pull their kids from public school and invest in private. I wonder if we are moving towards all private education.

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