I was all set: Two years of teacher certification – done. Monthly observations and reflections for those two years – done. Passed the CSET. Passed the TPAs. I started this year as a fully credentialed teacher at a small charter in the San Fernando Valley. I loved my job, so why did I quit after only 3 months?
Teaching is a famously difficult profession. As teachers, we are asked to balance and manage an inordinate number of difficult tasks daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. You can work beyond your max, give up your personal life entirely, and yet there is always more to be done. This year, though, is when I believe things have gotten out of hand.
In the post- Distance Learning school, children are showing up grade levels behind even where they were before – which was typically below grade level. Add to that the fact that they have lost all of their social skills, don’t know how to relate to each other or how to behave in public after a year and a half at home, and you’ve got a storm brewing. The last time my 7th graders had a normal year, they were in 4th grade! They have new hormones, new concerns, new needs – and most have not been able to acheive the developmental milestones to bring them safely to this already challenging year.
Administrators, meanwhile, are behaving like this is a normal year. At least, they are attempting to manage the school and it’s teachers as if they are functioning under normal conditions. We have all been traumatized, and are all trying to adjust to new ways of being and doing. Yet the focus of schools continues to be on test results, and teachers are being reprimanded for their students lack of social know-how. School is supposed to be a safe place, and everyone’s home away from home. What we need is time and programming to re-adjust to being in the classroom and process what we’ve been through. We’re not getting it, not in the least.
Holding teachers to an impossible standard has never happened to such a degree. That is to say, administrators continue to hold teachers to the same impossible standards they did before COVID, but now, the circumstances are immeasurably more difficult. This is the reason teachers are quitting en masse. What we need is support, cooperation, and understanding. What we are facing is constance criticism in the face of an impossibly challenging situation.
After I quit my job in October, I began substitute teaching. I can take a day off when I need to, but I work just about every day. Working every day, I make the same salary I did when I was working a permanent job, but I don’t have to take any of the work or problems home. My weekends are mine again, and if I happen to be up at 5 am, it’s because I’m doing yoga, not frantically filling in plans for my day before my paid worktime has even begun.
The school system needs to be more fair to teachers. Too often, they are considered low-level and expendable. When really, they are the driving force in education, the ones who know the students, and plan, instruct, manage, and assess all of their work. I have never understood why “teachers are undervalued” so much that it is common knowledge. And maybe that will take time to change. What can change immediately is the school administrations attitude towards the people who do all the work of making learning happen.