What’s Next?

In yesterday’s post, I admitted that I reluctantly left the classroom about 15 months ago because my mental health was suffering dramatically. I was fortunate to be in the position that I had qualified for retirement and that our family could afford this change. This was about three months before the pandemic shut everything down in the United States, and I was congratulated on my prescience by many – despite the fact that I obviously had no idea of what was to come. Though I knew I was fortunate, I found it hard to be thankful because the hardships that unfolded for so many of my colleagues made me feel even guiltier that I had walked out on a career I once loved and people I continued to admire.

Since that time, of course, conditions continued to worsen. Some colleagues have resigned, some others are deciding this will be the last year, and some are actively looking for new opportunities. With demands on teachers increasing – while support either remained the same or decreased – many educators have sadly come to the conclusion that I did – that our system in the United States makes it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy personal/work balance.

I taught for nearly 30 years before I came to the above conclusion, so I am not advocating for teachers to abandon classrooms in droves. But if you have reached the same point in your journey where you feel you are no longer able to do a good job in either your work or your personal life, you may be looking for a change. I saw a post on Twitter where a teacher confessed this, and asked for suggestions. I thought it would be helpful to include the post here.

There were many great responses on the thread, so I want to mention a few here that are outside the usual sites such as LinkedIn:

I hope this post is helpful to anyone who is seeking a new adventure related to education. Students need great teachers now more than ever – but you can’t be great if your mental and/or physical health are suffering.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

2 thoughts on “What’s Next?

  1. I was teaching technology at a private school until I was 64, then the school needed to be recertified, and I was asked to take 3-4 classes to meet the standards for the recert process. I declined, because of my age, the expense, and a lack of desire to take more classes. During my tech teaching career, I had already taken classes so I could teach Java, HTML, Visual Basic, and a few others (I’m 73 now; my mind is obviously going!) so I decided to retire earlier than I had planned. I didn’t start teaching until I got my MEd at about 45 and all my 4 children were old enough to not require constant attention. I started teaching 4th grade, and migrated to technology because of my interests and its challenges.

    I sense that we have to radically change how we’re teaching in schools. Pandemic aside, teachers are being asked to do far more than they should be with children and parents who are less respectful or supportive of educators than in the past. Now they are being asked to do even more, and sometimes to put aside personal opinions or convictions to teach new curricula. More parents are homeschooling, putting their children in private/religious schools (despite religion sometimes), and thinking outside the box in educating their children because of Covid restrictions and work demands.

    There are topics that should be taught at home which are relevant to family and cultural values. In schools, there are truths and foundational ideas that should be taught in the core curriculum. Fact and opinions (or unsubstantiated truths), like climate change, are not the same. History doesn’t change because someone wants to rewrite it; it is what it is. Over the passage of time we can see how it has evolved to actually be more in step with the Constitution. I have always seen and appreciated a close connection between literature and history; but they don’t have to be inextricably bound together. There are some works of literature which have withstood the test of time, and can be reread with different emphases and discussions. Two of my son’s favorite books (in a private school) were the Iliad and the Odyssey — because they are still relevant! And certainly, there should be more focus on black authors and poets, and perhaps other other ethnic authors or situations. Some of their works are insightful and beautiful. The curriculum should be tweaked, but not changed to a new “woke” mentality which is neither truthful nor character building.

    We need well-educated individuals who have the basic truthful information at their disposal to learn how to make decisions and analyse problems using a firm foundation of accepted knowledge. I shudder when I see on-the-street interviews with people (including those who have just graduated form high school or college) who don’t even know who the first president was, who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation or what it meant, what the first ten Amendments to the Constitution are called, and so on. This is core knowledge. Students should know it.

    How do we change a system of education, which like a cake with too many layers, is starting to fall apart under its own weight? Teacher unions seem more involved with maintaining the status quo both for their school system and themselves, that they are not even considering what changes could help students learn better, and make it more interesting, relevant, and enjoyable. That is possible.

    Finally, in my county and the one next door, they have been introducing differentiated schools. In one county, elementary schools teach differently: there are 5 different elementary schools including a traditional school with uniforms, to Montessori. (Obviously there are still other standard, location based schools.) Students may attend these schools through a lottery system. In my county the choice begins in elementary schools where several are foreign language immersions centers with at least 5 different language options. In high school students may attend special programs at other high schools, like the Technology Academy at one high school or the Arts Academy at another, among others. Some programs offer certificates which enable a school graduate to immediately go to work with credentials, as in cosmetology and car repair, and the Tech Academy concludes with the first certification in Microsoft Networking. Even further differentiation in schools, like charter schools within the existing system, could serve students much better than the existing system. These efforts that have been made by the two cited counties are very successful and over-subscribed. Thus the demand is there for innovation.

    The private school I worked in had a teaching assistant in every classroom, as well as lowered class sizes. Compared to teachers, teaching assistants are “cheap” and make an unbelievable difference in the classroom. Even one at each grade level would help. There are ways around education problems, and some bright ideas that could be implemented. Look at the materials you share continually — these are wonderful ways to up the game in various subject areas.

    Keep inspiring. I often send your posts to my two daughters who homeschool and they have used some of them. I offer suggestions about how they can implement or modify them for a home school setting.

    Sincerely Valerie Waddelove

    On Wed, Mar 10, 2021 at 3:05 PM Engage Their Minds wrote:

    > engagetheirminds posted: ” In yesterday’s post, I admitted that I > reluctantly left the classroom about 15 months ago because my mental health > was suffering dramatically. I was fortunate to be in the position that I > had qualified for retirement and that our family could afford thi” >

    1. It seems we agree on many points! I appreciate your perspective, and I also believe that there are some innovative ideas out there can help with school reform. I hope that you and your family are staying safe during this difficult time.

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