An Ex-Teacher's Revelation
Surrounded by boxes upon boxes of teaching supplies and materials, I wept. It wasn't an all-out sobbing, but the tears came slowly and I couldn't stop them until they were all gone.
Last year was quite literally the year from hell. World events made teaching harder, but an emotionally and verbally abusive administration made working in a classroom unbearable. I loved my students. There were challenging students every year, but I loved them in a way that only a teacher can. You see, teachers are like bonus parents, quite literally. We get to know our students, your kiddos, like they were our own kids. We learn their personalities, how they thrive in a learning environment, and what they need as a person. We can tell just by their posture when they walk into school what kind of morning or weekend they had. We can tell when they need extra one-on-one time because something is bothering them and they can't focus.
It's hard. Teachers bare this burden of parenting anywhere from 50 to 150 students every year (sometimes on top of our own children), and that number is conservative. We don't do it because we have to, we do it because that is why we are in our profession. Teachers have such a love in their hearts for what they do.
At the end of last year, I was so unbelievably numb and emotionally raw. What's worse is my students and the teachers around me took care of me when I didn't even realize that is what they were doing. My students packed my classroom. Every year at the end of the school year, students love helping their teachers prepare for the summer. This means packing our classroom because we are being forced to switch rooms, there might be deep cleaning scheduled, transferring schools, or in my case, leaving the profession altogether.
My stuff was quite literally thrown into boxes. I was so extremely hurt by how I was treated that my husband put everything in storage so I wouldn't have to see it until I was ready. I was tired of paying for the storage space so this last week we emptied everything into our garage in preparation for a garage sale. I had boxes filled with 800 books from my classroom library, I had boxes of teaching resources and developmental books, supplies, my beloved Harry Potter classroom décor, and so much more. The last 15 years of my life spent in education were thrown into boxes and baskets.
You should have seen my Harry Potter classroom. It was nothing but magical, and even the most reluctant reader felt comfortable and safe. You see, it wasn't just about Harry Potter. The books provide everything a reader should feel. They pull you into a completely fantastical world where there were endless possibilities and countless experiences of self-discovery and heroism. The most important lesson, you don't have to be magical to make your life magical. My classroom had countless floating candles from The Great Hall, the sorting hat sorted my students into houses every year, and my bulletin board containing 'The Power of Growth Mindset' posters was always a hit and students loved to read them.
Seeing my wands, quidditch robes, Diagon Ally 3D puzzles, everything made my heart ache a little. It's like I was grieving a friend. I had known I needed to let go and the time had finally come. I started going through all my boxes, saving my books for last. They were my prized possession. I worked hard to get my classroom library where it was. It was then, as I sat on my kitchen floor surrounded by books and boxes that the tears came rolling down my cheeks.
My students had left notes in my books and put sticky notes on the outside with words that brought tears to my eyes. I sat, surrounded by books (my happy place), with tears rolling down my cheeks. Every note, every drawing, brought such wonderful memories of students.
It was hard to leave, but I knew last year, with utter clarity, the classroom was not where I was meant to be. However, leaving the classroom didn't mean my heart was not a teacher's heart any longer. This year has been a year of discovering myself in new ways during this time in my life. We should always be continually self-reflecting and making ourselves better. I have found strengths I didn't know I possessed by doing so.
School districts are at a crisis level trying to get new teachers into classrooms and for existing teachers to stay. It's really quite simple, treat your teachers with dignity and respect as other human beings. Quit making the profession filled with unattainable expectations. Listen to your teachers, and when they talk to you, do not dismiss them. When teachers leave the profession it isn't on a mere whim, it is a life-altering decision that we do not take lightly.
Take it from this ex-teacher, I was told horrible things and "took" the abuse because I believed I was that bad person and I was a bad teacher. There are SO many teacher friends being treated the same as I was, and these veteran teachers are being beaten down by their administrators and the education system. If you are an educator going through what I've been talking about, it wasn't me, it's not you, it's them. It's administrators on a power trip trying to make themselves look good. It's education agencies with higher-ups who have never stepped foot in a classroom or have been out of the classroom for over 15 years.
There are great administrators out there, and I have seen firsthand how great administrators make all the difference in a school just like bad ones can turn schools into a revolving door for not only teachers but teacher aides as well. Teacher aides don't get paid anywhere near what they should in the first place, so why are you surprised you cannot keep their positions staffed? Don't you think if your educators, aides included, were happy that your students would benefit from it?
Once an educator, always an educator. There are so many options in the education world outside of teaching in a classroom. Educators have so many skills and so much experience which can be applied to other careers! This is what I have found on my own. I can now call myself a ghostwriter. I am currently working as a virtual executive assistant for a company that was just invested in by Mark Cuban, I tutor on my own set hours, and I'm still discovering what I am capable of accomplishing! I even had someone inquire about my virtual assistant services while at a doctor's appointment and scheduled a meeting with me! Take my advice, put yourself out there!
I wouldn't lie to you, it's been a little scary. I had a consistent paycheck for the last 15 years, where I knew exactly how much each paycheck would be. I'm living the total opposite now, so it's been quite the adjustment. But I have the most supportive husband who pushes me and believes in me, I have an awesome family, and I have the absolute best friends surrounding me. I will never stop learning, and I will never stop in my pursuit to provide for my family by doing something that I love and that makes me happy while having the ability to be present for my family.
Thank you to everyone for your support, you know who you are! Be on the lookout for my next venture! Don't forget to subscribe so you won't miss out on all the new things! If you're still in the classroom, hold your head high and KNOW you are an amazing educator.