There were so many teaching-related posts I wanted to write in the past nine months. In the end it was too hard – too emotionally draining or too tiring or not enough time or worried about who would read it. So I didn’t write anything. I regret that now. I regret that I spent so many hours in conversations with colleagues about what we could do to take a stand. I resigned, but that isn’t taking a stand when the majority do not follow. I never wrote the letters to HR that I wrote in my head. Neither did anyone else. Most people were too scared. Who can afford to put their jobs in jeopardy this year with all the layoffs?
In the end my year didn’t seem all that bad. I often told my kids at the end of the day, “Don’t end on a bad note now. We’ve had a great day. You want to go home remembering that and not have it clouded by one bad incident at the end.” Equally a happy ending can rosily cloud a year’s worth of negativity. In the end my kids did well on their standardized tests. Reading could have been better, but all but a couple kids made a year’s growth. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of them. Sadly, though, a year’s growth from a second grade level to a third grade level will not get them over the fourth grade hurdle. The whole class did miraculously well on math and writing. I feel good about their performance, and then I stop and ask myself if the ends justify the stressful means. No. I wish I could have gotten them there a different way. I wish I had been in an environment that truly put the child first instead of the test results and school status first.
More importantly than the results, I ended knowing that I had not failed my kids as an encourager. That’s why I became a teacher in the first place. I want kids to feel loved and know they are important and worthwhile, especially the kids I’ve always been with in Houston who rarely get that at home or anywhere else. I hated who I was this year – part of a system putting undue stress on children, placing performance above everything else, harping on kids about arbitrary rules, taking the child out of the child. On the last day several kids told me they were going to miss me. One girl actually said, “I’m having a problem today.” I said, “Oh no, what’s that?” She said, “I’m really going to miss you.” Another girl told me that I was a good teacher for her this year.
I don’t know if I’ll miss them. I will miss individuals. I will miss the personal connections I had. I will not miss the class as a whole, the management, the teaching aspect, the cave-like classroom, the bomb shelter school building. I will not miss the hours and the stress and the lack of friendliness and positive feedback. Did I mention I won’t miss the stress?
Will I ever be a classroom teacher again? I don’t know. I thought I had left it for good five years ago and then life circumstances changed. I’d like to say I’m taking a different road now, but as of today I don’t know what that road is. Will it lead back to the classroom? I hope not. But only time will tell.