I can remember standing in my parent’s basement smothered in wood panelling and orange shag carpet with a dry erase board and my second grade math homework. I can remember lining all of my stuffed bears and hippos and whatever else into a strategic seating chart so they could all see the board and I could walk around “the classroom” to ensure each student was on task. I assigned homework and stayed after school to plan for the next day or at least until dinner was ready. Teaching has been my dream since I was cognizant of the fact that a career was possible for me.
I attended an elite teaching school in Colorado, took college credits in high school, made every career decision and personal to match the teaching timeline of my life.
Most recently, I moved back home with my parents, back to the shag carpet and wooden panels, back to lesson planning and seating charts only this time for a real class with real students and real responsibilities for changing the world.
Only I felt like I wasn’t.
I have spent the last several weeks in a fifth grade classroom (as well as semesters before in numerous other grade levels and school buildings) filled with eager to learn students, a passionate teacher, and all the resources a new teacher could ask for. But I quit today.
And the reason I quit is because I felt my dream job wasn’t doing enough. Like it wasn’t living up to everything I have choked it up to be. In fact, I felt that I was doing more harm than good while standing in that classroom.
When it was my job as an educator to do everything in my power to make sure children were learning how to be successful in and out of the classroom, I watched as they slipped through the cracks. I watched as a young boy came to school hungry every single day and yet was expected to write the same five paragraph essay as the girl who ate cage-free eggs that same morning. I watched as a ten year old slit her wrist and laughed off the depression hours later: her social-emotional health being blatantly neglected but the “no blade” school policy being implemented in full force.
That is NOT okay.
As a teacher, I had to ignore the fact that these young, moldable minds were being neglected and rather focus on if they were able to recognize 3-5 important events in a National Geographic article from 2007. The thing is, I didn’t care if they knew how to sequence, or how to dissect vocabulary, I really didn’t even care if they knew how to add two-digit numbers (which all fifth graders should be able to do). The fact that most of these children were behind academically meant nothing to me when they responded to the prompt “how are you” with sad or hungry or upset. The rest of the day: manipulatives, graphic organizers, sentence strings…How could I expect them to learn through any avenue when their mind was clearly somewhere else, somewhere more relevant to them.
Children are so quick to get lost in the education system, some of them just squeezing through standards and expectations- literally being shuffled through the system like products on a conveyor belt. Names become test scores, emotions are lost amongst the constant transitions between word work, number corner, and homemade science curriculum.
It made me sick.
Teachers are absolutely doing the best that they can with the resources and the funds they are offered. I am not demeaning or attempting to disrespect any human who gives their life to the classroom. I respect each and every man and woman who is helping mold the young minds of our world.
But it’s not my dream job. Not anymore.
It’s back to the drawing board for me. And this time- with a child’s mental health, safety, and hunger status at the forefront of my passion.