After a long day at school, I will get on my phone and see what stories are in the news. I read lots of articles about teaching. Recently, I have been reading too many accounts of why teachers have chosen to leave the profession entirely. I find this distressing.
Teaching is my second career. My undergraduate degree is in advertising, and my first career was as an account manager for an advertising agency. I thought it would be exciting, but I did not enjoy it. I wasn’t really connecting with anyone and I wasn’t making a difference. I decided I wanted to work as a teacher, so I went back to school and got my Master’s Degree in Special Education.
I can honestly say that teaching makes me happier than I ever thought I could be. Teachers make a difference. I know that I help someone each day and I feel I am doing something meaningful with my life.
That being said, I also understand the frustration – I have lived it. Teaching is the best job in the world but is also the hardest job in the world. I have to admit, sometimes I check the want ads to see if there is a better position out there for me.
To those of you out there like me, colleagues who are committed, but bone weary and frustrated, I would like to propose that leaving the profession is not the answer. Choosing to stay – that is the answer. We should choose to stay because our students need us.
If we are going to “keep staying,” then we may need to try a few things to make the job more manageable:
- Don’t go it alone. Find someone you can talk to and work with at school. I am a resource teacher, and a few years back, I paired with my school’s social worker. Not only were we great friends, we were able to tag team when things got rough. We would cover for each other when we needed an unscheduled bathroom break. We sat and talked to each other after school, and sometimes we cried together. She was my support, and we backed each other up. Things are easier to handle when you have someone to help you in your building.
- Be a teacher mentor. There are so many things to learn and manage as a new teacher. Volunteer to mentor someone in your building – share your expertise with others. Not only can you help someone new learn the ropes so that they can choose to stay, you will remember the reasons you decided to teach to begin with. It can be a transformative experience!
- Join your school district teacher association. Attend meetings, make friends at other schools in your district. Get to know your school board members and state legislators; call them and write them emails when there is an important issue to discuss. Sometimes, all it takes is one or two phone calls in order to get a policy maker to pay attention. If things need to change, work with other teachers to change things for the better.
- Change things up by taking on a new project. My mother taught high school, and every few years, she signed up to sponsor a new club. She loved the theatre, and she took over the drama club to switch things up. My sister, also a teacher, got a second endorsement. Now, instead of teaching second grade, she is the school’s ESL teacher, and she is excited to go to school every day. A few years ago, I chose to get my National Board Certification. I spent more time being reflective about my practice, and really analyzing what I was doing in my classroom. I believe earning my National Board Certification made me a better, more reflective teacher, and it continues to help me every day.
If you don’t remember anything else, remember this: leaving the profession will not make things better. The way to enact meaningful change is to stay, and keep staying, by looking for ways to re-ignite passion for teaching.
Michele T. Morgan
Granite School District
Elementary Special Education Coordinator