Read This If You’re Thinking About Leaving Teaching

I know you’re exhausted, but hear me out. You need to stay.

You wake up every day, ready to spend hours on Zoom. You play some music as class begins to engage students and keep yourself awake. Black boxes with a myriad of names stare back at you as you try to teach reading comprehension or biology or algebra.

It just doesn’t feel like teaching anymore. There are no little humans to connect with or to learn about or to smile at in the hallways. We haven’t even seen the faces of many of our students, just the white text in a black box that sometimes shoots something into the chatbox.

Most of your time is spent calling, emailing, or texting students about missing assignments, about their mental health, about where they’ve been. Or calling, emailing, or texting parents about supporting their child at home and how you need them to hold the kid accountable.

You’re tired of hearing about low GPAs and future SATs because you know, at this moment, none of that matters. You just want the kids to be ok and to maybe learn something from you, and it’s tough to do that through a screen.

Maybe it’s time to be done. You’re exhausted and burnt out and crawling towards spring break. Maybe this is it for teaching, the year you find somewhere new to work; it’ll never feel the same again and it’s lost its unique magic.

I am right where you are. I see the black boxes every day and it brings me down. I call out kids’ names only to find out they’re not even at the computer they’ve signed in on. I remind them about assignments that are missing and I get emails asking why their grades are low.

Many days, I also want to leave and to find something comfortable, something that doesn’t make me feel like I’m failing every day.

But hear me out, because maybe this year can help us keep going, even if it feels like we need early retirement to happen now. Maybe, there are things we’ve learned as teachers that can help us make a change and improve the broken systems we work in.

Maybe we need to stay.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The kids are the biggest reasons to stick around. No pride compares to the lightbulb moments that you help create or the safety and comfort you provide or the life advice you pass on to the children who come into your classrooms. They’re always the #1 reason.

But, we also need to examine the lessons we’ve learned and the strengths we’ve gained through this chaotic year of online teaching. We have learned to actually put social-emotional learning in the forefront and to address the trauma that we’re all facing throughout this pandemic. We have shown our kids our humanity and helped them know it’s ok to be human, even in a classroom. We’ve found and invented online tools to make learning engaging and creative and enjoyable, even through a computer screen.

This is the time to stay in the classroom and make a change. You have found countless creative ways to address students’ academic and personal needs this year — take that back to your physical building and keep pushing forward. The students need you to remember the difficulty of this year and to integrate it into creating better and stronger and more human systems of education that truly prepare them for their lives ahead.

This isn’t real teaching. You’re not teaching most of the time, you’re calling and emailing and texting. If you can acknowledge that, you know you can’t base life decisions off of this one measly year.

Let’s look forward to the next (school) year. We may not go back to “normal,” but that’s probably a good thing. We may need to continue to take it slow and continue building skills based on where students are at, but that’s ok (and no, my students aren’t “behind,” your systems are just too old and rigid).

Let’s look forward to the connections that we’ll have, the relationships that bring us joy, even on the darkest of teaching days. Let’s keep in mind the new perspectives that we carry into the school year — perspectives of humanity and trauma and creativity and technology.

Let’s keep making learning happen, because that’s what we have chosen to do every day, and because if we can do it during a global crisis, we can do it for many years to come.

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