In the beginning I was a teacher, I grew to be an educator and now find myself seeking to be respected as a professional. The following represents the motivating factors that influenced my decision to resign my role as a public servant and begin the transition into the private sector.
Oh Education, how I have loved being intertwined with your pedagogy, respected by your admirers, growing with each swing of the initiative paradigms, and experiencing the numerous, exuberant characters that entered my classroom each and every period of each and every single day. Education has provided for me the opportunity to coach sports teams to championships, guide Science Fair participants to record breaking gold medals and placements, mentor youth at risk and aid in their finding a focus and purpose in life.
Parallel to serving the needs of students, Education as a career presented an opportunity to assist fellow educators become more efficient in their respective disciplines through various Professional Development sessions I was able to facilitate; Science Ideas that Motivate, Social Media in the Classroom, Web 2.0 Services for Educators, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). To top this all off lets go ahead and add in a Masters in Educational Administration degree and that my teacher evaluation holds me as a “Distinguished Educator” as measured by the diagnostic tool for my State.
I share all of this with you not to brag, but rather set the context for the remainder of this post so you may know that what is shared from this point forward is not from a jaded, do nothing, leech on the system individual just biding my time until tenure. I am not a teacher who was only in education for the “summers-off”.
Where to begin…?
Wages – I make less now then I did 6 years ago and have not received a raise in that same amount of time. Sorry, one caveat to that as there was a 1% raise that was accompanied by a 2% increase in Social Security deductions. This reflects the statistic that being ranked 46th in teacher pay with the average NC teacher making $10,000 less then their cohorts in other states.
But wait, “teaching is not about the money!” and you’re right IT’S NOT!
Parents – Yes, parents can be stressful at times but when one takes into consideration that a parent’s most important job is to ensure the success of their child, one can appreciate the vigorous approach parents take towards education.
Students – No complaints here about the students. Yes, a few tend to annoy a person, but to complain about this a person would have to be a total jerk. They’re kids; get over yourself. I have had amazing students who provided constant checks and balances of ego, kept me up to date on the lingo/music/movies/dress etc… I will miss our daily interactions and professional dynamic the most.
Colleagues – Those with whom I work on a day to day basis have been some of the most innovative, respectful, caring, dedicated individuals I have ever met and tears will be shed for this loss. If you have a moment give the Lunch Crew a read and you’ll know what I mean.
What, then? What can be left…?
Leadership – Well, we have finally arrived to the heart of this post.
During the past four years the leadership that governed my day to day existence was one of a Leader, not that of a Boss (see above image for clarification). Now, we all have issues or disagreements in one area or another with coworkers and Leaders; there are people few and far between that may agree 100% with our thoughts and pedagogy, and that’s okay; we all should not think the same. I had freedom to create, innovate, expand, and push the limits of creativity in the classroom. Because of this freedom and trust, I was willing to accept those things I didn’t agree with, and any discontent was marginalized through this filter of reciprocity.
If trust in the teachers is removed, innovation will be stifled. If the creative freedoms of educators are actively suppressed, the climate of engagement at a school will drastically change. The preceding examples correspond with a Boss mentality:
Do as I say not as I do. Do it because I said so. I don’t have to explain my actions. Loyalty that is to rise but seldom does it trickle down and pleasantries are feigned only when a specialized skill set service is required and arbitrary decisions of restructuring are implemented.
All of the above qualifications are symptoms rather than the sickness. That which is lacking, the true sickness, is that of a mission, vision, purpose, focus; what is lacking, to bring it all under one concise term, is a Philosophy.
In a profession like education there are two distinct sides to the profession: instructional and administrative. Although in the past I may have vehemently disagreed with my next comment, I have come to see some truth in it. An Administrator is better off having classroom experience. The obvious caveat to this is in respect to those duties that tend to focus solely on the business side of education, those duties being strictly administrative in scope. However; when instruction and the overall vision of the school is at stake having a background in the classroom is essential. It is always quite apparent when a Boss lacks an Educational Philosophy because lacking, too, are viable explanations for decisions perpetrated on their staff.
It is really easy to create an environment where teachers feel undervalued, under-appreciated, underpaid, and under the bus: when teachers are met with over-zealous, over-reaching, overt retributive actions by a Boss. I know; I’ve lived it and seen others around me drown in it as well. A Boss can count for only so long on the philanthropic nature of the classroom teacher until the stark malevolent reality must be addressed.
So what do teachers do in this situation? THEY LEAVE. A teacher may choose to transfer to a new school or they may even leave education altogether. Teachers with any years of experience know that, at heart, there is little deviation between school aged children of similar socio-economic status regardless of City, State, and yes even Country and having taught in another country I know this to be true.
I know what you’re all wondering, and the answer is YES, I too have now left Education after defining myself as an Educator for thirteen years. For me, it is about Leadership. It is about seeing the same traits in administrative Bosses time and time again and realizing that no matter how I could try to shoe horn myself into a Boss role, my philosophy will never match the foot print. Boundaries are self imposed limits to which one can choose to duck under the orange safety ribbon and abound in the pleasantry of freedom and innovation afforded by such an act. Or one could choose not to transcend into an unknown and stay on the beaten path or beaten on the path.
I choose to duck under that ribbon and I cannot wait to see what awaits. How about you?
The following are related articles and content that I just did not have the ability to address in this post. Please take the time to read what these Educators had to say about their experiences:
A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become a Teacher
Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’
A letter from a disgusted teacher: I QUIT