I need to write this for myself, and if anyone else cares to read it to gain a deeper understanding of why a person would willingly give up a career that they invested so much time, money, and dedication into building, just to start all over again. Three degrees later, two of which are in education, and 5 and a half years of teaching experience, and I am finally looking for something new.
Rewind to Josie’s practicum experience in 2015/2016: I did not enjoy the practicum experiences very much, but I was encouraged by other teachers in my family that things would improve with experience. Classroom management was my issue and has always been the main issue because as one person, you can only do and see so much at once, and when you teach in very high need environments, this feels extremely overwhelming. And I am sure that being someone with generalized anxiety disorder makes the chaos of the classroom even more challenging for me. As an aside, I am also waiting on ADHD testing (which is something I have seen signs of in me since high school). I do not know if most teachers just always feel as over-stimulated as I did while teaching, or if the way I feel in the classroom has to do with having some concentration difficulties, also.
Year 1 of Teaching: Josie gets the stomach flu often (likely brought on by stress) and has to miss some time, using her sick days. She is told by her principal “They are watching and it looks really bad on you to be missing so much time” to which her response was “Well, I wish ‘they’ could see how hard I am working and think of all of the days when I came to professional development sessions without getting paid, as a forty percent teacher”. Then when it came time for an assembly for grade nine students, the principal called me “naïve” and laughed about his statement in front of the whole school, including parents and guardians in attendance, and praised the other teacher who worked in a 40 percent position because she also managed to offer an after school art club. Just because I was drowning in work and couldn’t manage to take on any extracurricular activities for students, I was made to feel like a bad teacher. It doesn’t matter how great you are at planning, organizing, researching, writing, and delivering lessons, you just need to somehow keep noise level and behaviors under control to be considered a good teacher in todays’ classrooms. This is all most administrators seem to care about. (I am sure many others agree.) This was the main lesson I learned during my first year teaching. No one notices when you go above and beyond with the actual planning and teaching of lessons when your students misbehave constantly and do not respect you, and this is what happens with the majority of students, especially today. And it is getting worse. Parenting seems to be getting worse, demands on peoples’ time are getting worse, technology is getting in the way of students knowing how to be creative and have a longer attention span, etc.
Year 2 of Teaching: Josie taught at her former high school, Duncan MacMillan, and was fortunate to have her former teacher as a supervisor. I am so grateful to her for being one of the few people, outside of my mom and sister (teachers too), in all of my teaching career to sit down with me and offer classroom management advice in such a kind and respectful way. I have the utmost respect and admiration for her as an educator and mentor. Throughout my years teaching French courses, I would find myself reminiscing on the days when I was her student and phrases she would use and jokes she would tell. I often found myself using the same catchphrases with my grade seven students that she used, like “À bientôt escargot et plus tard homard” and “C’est une blague!” I enjoyed how much humour she brought into our French lessons and tried to do the same. But most of all, I loved how she made me feel as a student and I envisioned having a similar relationship with my students, but sadly the behavioural concerns overtake all else for me with teaching and I am just so tired of feeling disrespected. I am really very sad that this career turned out to be nothing like I envisioned. I will always have a love for French grammar and someday hopefully I can assist my own child with their French language learning and help foster their excitement and confidence for it, like Amanda did for me.
Year 3 of Teaching: At this junior high school, I wished that the teachers who had been there for a while were helpful, rather than condescending. Instead, for a teacher going to a new school, it is usually just like beginning high school all over again and I hated the social dynamics of high school. I had other teachers coming into my classroom unannounced to talk over me or to a student, on the regular. When French Immersion students were working in the hall, other teachers would jump down my throat about the fact that some English was being spoken in the hallway, in front of students. It was very uncomfortable being disrespected by both the adults, including administration, and the students themselves. The principal that was supposed to evaluate my teaching was never in my classroom all year, except for the one time he was walking by and a kid yelled out profanity, so he came in. I was at the other end of the room helping a student with their French work and had been circulating, and the principal just said loudly, “There is way too much going on in here, like I can’t. I need a minute.” And he left and did not come back. When it came time for him to write the evaluation of my teaching (which he never witnessed at all), he wrote that I would be better suited to teaching elementary education. Ok, because the behavior there is so much easier to deal with, bud (sarcastic tone). Hahahaha. It is hard to take advice from people you don’t like or respect so I didn’t take his advice. “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”; yep, and neither do adults. Oh, I also had my entire teaching schedule changed around on the long weekend before school started, so I had to spend all of my evenings and weekends planning all new lesson material. I had been preparing to teach different courses all summer and I had many units already planned.
Year 4 and 5 of Teaching: Behavioral issues continued, but I finally stayed at the same school for 2 years in a row. Thank you to the support from the administration in talking through my decision to take a leave of absence with me. I also had the chance to gain some advice and had some good connections with the teaching staff there. Most of the teachers who were at this school for quite a while wanted to help in any way they could, and if I hadn’t felt so much time pressure, I would have taken their support. I was also taking my Master’s degree courses during this time, so that was something schedule-wise to consider as well.
Returning to Teaching After a Year Leave of Absence:
Year 6 (made it until closer to the end of February): I decided to give high school a try and this was going to be my final shot at making this career work. To summarize, a high school student came to me with an extremely serious issue that needed to be reported to the police. I went to administration immediately, and was confused by the fact that they brushed me off and told me the student has a history of fabrication. I stood up for what I knew was right and wanted action, and in trying to get this action, I was out on a leave with pay while they investigated. I still don’t know what happened in the case of the student but they were removed from my school class lists without any word from administration or anyone in the school. Lovely operation and support for teachers and students. At this point, I was not surprised that I had to intervene and that the support required was not being given. So this conflict was “resolved” by me agreeing to transfer to another school because the high school reputation was apparently hurt by what little old me wrote in an email to the union members about administration not doing their job correctly/things being neglected. And there was not just one case of neglect at this school, but we don’t have enough time to discuss all of their wrongdoings here. Great conflict resolution skills, HRCE! 😉 Move the teacher who was trying to help her student (having gone through a similar situation myself) to another school and keep the slackers who are not doing their jobs correctly there. I will always have some anger for how they handled this and rightfully so!
So Josie arrives at her new school as the fourth teacher taking over for about 10 different sections of courses to teach (i.e. quite the assortment). Yes, 3 other teachers left the position before me, but teaching isn’t stressful, nooo…hah Josie’s walkie talkie was supposed to be her new best friend for sending kids down to the office every 5 minutes in between getting some teaching accomplished. I had to teach with the walkie talkie in my hand and then I eventually bought a strap for it and felt like I was set to go on a tour.
Josie quickly learns that yet again, there WILL NEVER BE any time to discuss academics or anything she is doing in the classroom, other than how she is “managing the behavior”. Josie feels attacked by her principal who is in the room at least twice a day to point out some little thing she is doing wrong. But, hey, at least she came out of her office and into the classroom; guess I should be pleased. So that was fun, to be disrespected by kids, and then have no trusting, caring adults at work to talk it through with. And the one person who is willing to talk about the behaviours with you, talks at you about it and makes you feel like she didn’t notice anything you did right, or anything you have been trying. It was a tough gig to fill and not once did anyone ever tell me I was doing a good job! …So I left. I quit one day with 30 minutes of the school day remaining. I walked out of the room and marched downstairs and said, “I’m done. I resign. Done with the disrespect.” And that was a good fucking day.
I do not deserve to be talked over so much that I feel I cannot even get a sentence out in my place of work. The amount of distractions that there are in today’s classroom and the amount of varying abilities, and especially the lack of consequences at home and school, are going to make for an interesting future for public school education. I am so glad that I will not be a part of it.
I choose me and my family and hopefully with some time, I will find a job that fulfills me and does not drain me. I am done giving my all to a career that has given me nothing but worsening mental health in return. Lastly, thank you to Curtis, who got to experience the joy of talking me down most days after school! And thank you for anyone close to me who has had to listen to me whine about my job for the past 5 and a half years. It is unsustainable for me if I want a happy life.