The beginning of the story actually takes place in 2013 when I applied for graduate school to get my Master’s degree in School Counseling. Some of my most apparent God-given talents are the ability to listen, remain non-judgemental, and provide unbiased guidance. As I discovered these talents, counseling seemed a perfect match. In the state of Texas, school counselor’s are required to possess a Masters degree and a minimum of 2 years of teaching experience. Knowing this, my heart felt challenged. I knew I was called to counsel, but I never felt called to teach. Here I was having to decide whether to accept a position that was naturally uncomfortable for me in order to pursue my passion.
I decided to obtain my teaching certification and begin work on my Master’s degree, and begin those 2 years as quickly as possible. My first year of teaching was the 15-16 school year and I taught 4th grade math. My first year of teaching was hard to put it lightly. I was uncomfortable with the math content for 4th grade and the strategies taught, I was uncomfortable with the curriculum as it was unlike the curriculum used by the district I student taught in, and I was also uncomfortable about the age of my students. I was thinking, “I student taught in kindergarten and I’m teaching 4th graders!?!” But I had made the commitment and so the teaching began. I put in long hours at school getting my room set up, getting my lesson plans prepared, attending meeting after meeting, having parent-teacher conferences, tutoring, preparing for tutoring, RTI, preparing for RTI etc. I never knew what was priority, and I never had the support I needed to grasp the math curriculum in 4th grade. It was a hard year, there was so much anxiety and stress and worry. There were days I thought I’d never make it to the end of the year.
During the summer, I did whatever possible to find a teaching position in the school district I attended growing up, and ideally as the school I student taught at in that district. When very few positions were available in that district (and fewer were for k-2), I began to accept the reality that I would be returning to the same school. Before summer break, my principal moved me to 2nd grade math, then to 3rd grade writing/science. Mid-summer while I was relaxing at home with my puppy, my principal called moving me to kindergarten. My thoughts immediately went to “Wait! What!? YAY!” thinking that I had just received my dream position.
I walked into my kindergarten classroom late-August and met my students. Day one, 19 kiddos. They were a struggle. By the end of the week I was at 23 and my partner teacher was at 24. In my classroom I had many students with behavior challenges and each one of those students had entirely different needs than the others. 23 students was too much. Classroom procedures took twice as long to practice, the class line was unmanageably long. I went home exhausted and frustrated, and with a migraine every day. Week 2, still 23 kids, 5 with serious behavior challenges. Juggling students running out of my classroom, hitting classmates, grabbing my arm so tight it hurt…”Will this get better?” I wondered. Wednesday at 5pm while in a meeting off-campus I was made self-contained with these 23 children. Thursday, I learned that we would see relief as a teacher was moved to kindergarten monolingual. “YAY! HELP! Things will start to get more manageable” the catch. Every single teacher in kindergarten would be self-contained starting Monday.
Monday came around and I discovered quickly that 4 of my 5 behavior challenges were still in my classroom, but I had a much more manageable 15 students. Nothing got better. My students still didn’t follow rules, directions, and procedures any better. My behavior challenges were just as difficult to handle as ever, and one even pulled my hair unprovoked. Though numerous people were coming into my classroom to observe or complete their job, they would see the struggle I had no matter what classroom management strategy I implemented. Support never came, and instead I was blamed for their behavior, I was blamed for them running away from the class in the halls, I was not keeping my challenging students safe enough. And on top of that, completely thrown into the reading and writing curriculum over a few days and not given the materials I needed, I was told that I was not “teaching the curriculum” as expected and needed to stick to the curriculum.
This is the story. This is the facts. I was working from 6:30AM – 5:30PM, driving home, and then working from 6PM until I went to bed at 11PM. The hours were already unsustainable and “not enough,” and then I was told I needed to put my practicum hours for graduate school on hold. I went home every day in uncontrollable tears, and often cried in the morning as I left home to go to work. I vented my frustrations to my partner teacher who was facing similar frustrations, to my best friend, a teacher at the same school in a different grade, and to my fiancé, who truly faced the worst of it. I was exhausted, sleep deprived, over-worked, unhappy, and sliding into depression. I was becoming unrecognizable and we were only 3 weeks into school.
With the support of my fiancé, I walked in the next morning after being emotionally broken down the day before, with my letter of resignation, printed, signed, and ready to go. Effective immediately.
Leaving that quickly might seem dramatic, and the hardest part was walking away from my students because many of them are wonderful and deserve none of the blame here. The true problem, what could have prevented everything was support. Not support in the form of a lengthy to-do list (that I was provided by 4 or 5 different people, all prioritizing different things) but in the form of actual support.
I have the benefit of having made many friends at that school, so I have heard how this past week went without me. I heard about how the principal and assistant principal are always in the classroom and cannot manage the students either. I heard about how a teacher “auditioned” for the position and it was described as a “hot mess.” It feels good knowing that it wasn’t my fault as I was told again and again. But the fault of the education system. Where teachers are not able to discipline students, parents rush to blame the teacher first, where administrators make impulsive decisions at the expense of their teachers and their students.
This is why I resigned. This is why I gave up the dream of becoming a school counselor. I don’t regret this decision for a second because each year, this situation gets worse.
I’m a statistic now. I’m a member of the 50% of teachers that leave the profession within their first 5 years of teaching. I loved the students, and I enjoyed teaching, but everything that comes with it, just isn’t worth it.
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