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My teaching job is a Nightmare!

May 18, 2012

My teaching job is a nightmare

Hi Everyone.  Luckily, I don’t view my teaching job as a nightmare, but I have met several in my profession at different schools who do.  One, who sticks out in my mind (and is actually a very good 2nd grade teacher) felt her job was a total nightmare, this was at my last elementary school, not my present school.

The reason this lady felt her job was a nightmare was simple: She felt that with the large number of students in her class who were struggling to learn English she wasn’t able to help them progress fast enough to do well on district benchmark tests.  She wistfully told me about teaching years ago when there wasn’t such never-ending discussion revolving around test scores, and the pressure that those discussions engendered in her.

The title of this post comes from Slate.com, there are a couple of stories here written by educators…I find them instrumental to read through.  Right now I am lucky to be at a good school with great staff, but there is always testing pressure…always.

Dear Cary,

I feel ungrateful for complaining about my job while so many are desperate for work, but this is where I find myself. I am a teacher, and have been in the same school for five years. During that time, I have felt the atmosphere turn toxic. Things have spiraled out of control, and it is a top-down spiral. It is out of my hands. This toxicity has left me bitter and I dread coming to work for another day of feeling useless. I try to just focus on my students and what is happening in my classroom, but the atmosphere is smothering us all.

I am trying to find another position for next year, to try to find a place where I can breathe, but this is a tough time to try to find a job in any profession, and teaching is no exception. Almost all of my colleagues that I like working with left after last year or are trying to leave now.

Quitting is not an option for me as my husband does not make enough to support both of us. How do I survive in a toxic environment? What if I am stuck here again next year? I am worried for my health and sanity.

Sincerely,

Trying to Breathe

______________________________________________________________________________

Teacher A:

I know exactly what this person is talking about. Many teachers feel this way. It makes me sick to acknowledge that we are all in the same boat.

I started teaching in 1985.  When I began, teachers were free to create a curriculum that matched their students’ needs. Teachers worked together to create projects that would reach and inspire all their students.  Now, the environment has become competitive.  Teachers worry if their scores are not as high as their colleague’s scores.  Scores differ because classes differ.

All we do is test. Math teachers at our school are being raked over the coals this week because their latest Benchmark scores were too low.  Their scores were low because the Benchmark that the district created did not match the sequence of the textbook.  It tested info that had not yet been taught.

Just this last weekend, I was with one of my fellow teachers and, of course, the conversation turned to school. I know firsthand what an excellent teacher she is. We ended up talking about how to get out of it:  the constant testing, pressure, criticism from the district.

She’s thinking about moving into administration — not because she wants to be one of them, but to get out of being one of us.

Another excellent classroom teacher moved to PE to avoid the testing nightmare.  We are all considering our options.  The problem is, we love the jobs we signed up for, not the jobs they have become.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Teacher B:

It helps to have a strong sense of self, a belief in yourself, and yes, in some cases it means moving on.

My teaching partner became my best friend and taught me so much. We worked together for 18 years. During that time, there were mean teachers, bad principals, an uprising of parents who retaliated against the district and started a charter school when our school was closed. But having a close friendship with a colleague provided support and that helped me weather the storms.

When I was asked to become a principal, my teaching partner was very upset. It was hard, and I lost that support. I don’t think I realized how important having that was, especially since she not only was a co-worker but a friend.

As a leader I tried to get my small staff to cooperate and work together. That was part of my job as a leader. Even though I  was given teachers that no one else would work with, we made it work.

The last thing I wanted was what the LW described, a toxic environment. I would have done anything to avoid it, and I did. I pitched in and taught and picked up their classes to give them time together to make them feel less stress. But I could do that. The program was small and I could get to know them individually. It wasn’t always smooth, but it was successful for everyone.

Cary, I said all this to show you that this is not easy, but things change. What this person has to figure out is, Can she get support and figure out a way to make this work, or change schools? Do something to mitigate the situation until there is a change for the better? Get union help? If there is really no way out then perhaps another district, but as you can see, it may not be any different somewhere else.

This isn’t an easy job; it drains us emotionally, physically and intellectually. No one seems to understand this; it’s unlike any other profession.

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