Ok, so I’m pretty new to the SD forums, so I hope I am putting this in the right place. If not, my apologies.
I would really like to know how people get off hating and disrespecting teachers so much. If you are someone who feels like teachers complain too much, are overpaid, have it easy, etc, please respond to my following story and questions. I’m going to try to be as civil as possible, but this is a topic that I feel very strongly about and causes a great deal of RAGE for me.
First, a bit of background. I am a 25 year old who spent his first 2 years after earning his Bachelors in Physics and Masters of Science in Science Education teaching high school physics. I quit this summer to persue a different career outside of teaching, even though that was my passion. It was a difficult decision, but I just couldn’t live with the complete lack of disrespect certain people have for teachers.
Some teachers get out of the profession because they can’t control their classroom, connect with their students, or just don’t like working with kids. That’s completely understandable, and I commend those teachers for getting out of the workforce after realizing they were never going to love working with the kids. This was NOT the case for me. I loved the students, and I am going to miss working with them greatly.
What DID kill teaching for me was the fact that no one was ever on my side (except for the other teachers, most of the time, who had no power to really help me). If a student was failing my class, I was the one to blame. The students blamed me for unfair grading, tests, etc. The parents blamed me for not teaching well enough or other things. The administration blamed me for not having enough experience, not being prepared enough, too many mistakes. In my two years of teaching, I had only one parent and one student who accepted responsibility and didn’t try to pawn the blame off onto me.
To compound this fact, I was pretty much told by my principle that he would not “support” a grade a student had earned at the end of last school year. When pressed, he told me not much would happen, but as everyone in education knows, you do NOT want to make enemies with your administration, as they can make life very difficult for you.
No one had ever asked me how hard I had worked with my students to make sure they understood the material. How many hours I spent after school tutoring. How many nights I actually went home and cried because I felt like a failure when students would do poorly on a test, and then went back to help them learn it again and again. How much time I spent uploading resources for them online, finding extra guides, visual aids, demonstrations, etc to help them study. No one cared about how much I cared. They just saw that failing grade as MY problem that I needed to fix for them, by any means possible.
At the end of the school year, I knew that I had done a great job in a difficult situation. My colleagues who also taught physics continually told me I was doing great, and that I was going to be a phenomenal physics teacher. I loved the subject matter, knew it well, and loved working with the kids. I was constantly implementing actively engaging techniques in my classroom (working in groups, small white boards, interactive response remotes, smart boards, etc), doing the things that administration wanted to see and that I was taught in graduate school to do in order to be an effective educator.
And what did I get for all this work? Constant and unrelenting dissaproval. From parents. From students. From administration. From politicians. It is just ridiculous, and I couldn’t take it. I knew that I was going to become very apathetic if I stayed in teaching. So I had to get out. And fortunately because I have a physics degree, I was able to get a better paying job where I will only work half the year in the private sector, with better benefits and much, much less stress.
This is the case with many science and math teachers. There are far better jobs in the private sector, and the toxic attitude towards teachers drives them out of the profession. Teachers in other departments are almost forced to stay in teaching (English, History, Health, etc has limited private industry opportunities that allow them to persue their passion), and I feel bad for them.
In my 2 years of teaching, I didn’t meet a single teacher who loved going to work every day. In the faculty lounge, they would constantly complain about the lack of support and respect, and how they wished they could quit and do something else. Our school lost 3 physics teachers who all had to be replaced last year; I was one of those three.
This country needs to wake up and seriously start supporting teachers. Parents need to make their students accountable for their own actions. Administrators need to start backing up their teachers more.
We are not facing an epidemic of bad teachers. In my two short years, I can think of maybe 2 or 3 who honestly should have been let go. And they were. There are SOME bad teachers who should be removed, but until teachers start getting the respect and support they deserve, schools will never be able to retain highly motivated and excellent teachers.
Was I the best physics teacher ever to live? Hardly. Was I even in the top half? I don’t know. I’d like to think I was better than the average high school physics teacher, who probably only took one or two college physics courses and barely understands the material they are trying to teach. My colleagues seemed to believe in me, and were sad to see me go, so I must have been doing something right. I just know that I’m not the only one who was driven out of teaching for similar reasons, and it is very sad that so many students out there are losing potentially great teachers for this reason.