An Open Letter to the Teacher Planning to Quit

Please do everyone a favor, and quit quietly. Your very loud, fed-up, I-cannot-take-it-anymore letter of resignation will be counterproductive. If you shout from the social-media rooftops all the atrocities present in public education you will not only state the obvious, but you will also denigrate a system that has, in fact, been one of our nation’s greatest success stories.

Since you do not know me, allow me to provide a bit of background. I am a mother of four children, all of whom are homeschooled, each of whom follows a completely different program of education (This is called differentiation and individual education plans in the school system. Since one has a serious chronic medical condition, you could say that she has the equivalent of a 504 plan for accommodations). I have 15 years of teaching experience (6 in the public schools), and I have held a Professional Educator’s certificate for 15 years. My Masters degree is in Education, and my PhD will also be in Education (completion is expected in 2019). I currently teach English at a private college. I do not have 150+ students, and I do not teach six or eight periods each day. Actually, I only have about 60 students, and I teach only one or two courses per day, depending upon which day of the week it is. I teach only four days per week, and I never deal with parents.

But my job still has stress— I still have to make lesson plans, typically for four preps per semester, and for the past three years, I have had at least one brand new prep each semester, which means I am constantly having to find new resources and make new lessons. While I may not have to shuffle my way through Common Core, I do have deans and accrediting agencies to consider. While I may not need to meet with parents for conferences, I do have additional student advising duties which take up most of my out-of-class time. The remainder of my work day consists of meetings to fulfill the responsibilities of various committees. From the moment I arrive on campus, until the moment I get in my car to go home (because, frequently the advising sessions carry on out to the parking lot), my day is spent in ways that I would not necessarily choose. It is somewhat stressful, no doubt. — But this is what I signed up for; this is the trade I made so that I could do what I love to do, what God has called me to do, and what I know I am created to do— TEACH.

You are probably not called to teach. You, the one who has only been working in a school for a few months, maybe two or three years, or maybe even you who has been leading various classrooms for 20 years or longer. I say it this way— that you have been working in a school— rather than TEACHING, because there is a difference. I have seen the ones who show up everyday with no passion for their subjects, no love for their students, or sometimes both. If you are one of these, then you are not called to teach. So quit. Find another job. You will, of course, love anything more than your current job.

But, please, for goodness sake, leave quietly. Do not do attempt to start the latest Resignation-Gone-Viral social media blast. Everyone already knows that the school system is facing many uphill battles right now. Everyone knows that Common Core is causing major headaches, that teachers are upset about the evaluation process which is clearly unfair and illogically evaluating them based on students they never saw oftentimes. Everyone already knows there are mounds of paperwork, disrespectful students, unsupportive parents, and overbearing administrators.

So, there is no reason to further denigrate the school system that also provides hundreds of thousands of meals to hungry children everyday, the system that provides supervision and structure for the children of broken homes, experiencing trauma or abuse at home, or merely facing the battle of surviving with very few resources. Instead, try to remember that the same school system that you are begging to depart from is the same school system that provides the opportunity for upward mobility to impoverished families. You have been teaching in the school where a child will discover what he wants to be when he grows up. You have been teaching amongst a group of people who have been looking to you for guidance about their uncertain futures. You have failed now to manage your stress in a manner with which you are comfortable, and you are still standing in front of the people who stress you out the most. But these people, these children, these teens, these young adults— they are the reason you are teaching— UNLESS they aren’t.

If you are not teaching for the love of teaching, for the love of your subject area, or for the love of the students, then you definitely need to quit. This is not the job you signed up for. You signed up for summers off and winter break. You signed up for a guaranteed salary, and you signed up for free healthcare. You signed up for a workday that ends at 3pm, no weekends, no holidays. You did not sign up for the job that would stress you to the max and then demand more. You did not sign up for incessant questions, continuous quality improvement plans, action research, intervention plans, individual education plans, 504 plans, parent conferences, and student attitudes that do not always align with yours. You did not sign up to be the difference in someone’s life. You did not sign up to take on more than you could handle, and you certainly did not sign up to learn to be flexible and adapt to new standardized curriculum every year. You did not sign up to watch other people’s children struggle to read. And you certainly did not sign up for tutoring sessions during your lunch break. You never thought the day would come that students would claim to have neglected homework assignments in order to care for their drug-addicted parents. And you certainly don’t believe the girl who claims she couldn’t write the essay  due today because she was babysitting her 2 young siblings yet again.

When my children attended public schools, you were their teacher. You were nervous when you found out they already knew how to read before they arrived in your class. You would need a new lesson plan, and that terrified you. Then, you were the teacher of my best friend’s little girl, and you did not believe that a 6 year-old could have anxiety, so you called the mother a liar— to her face— and your principal backed you up. You were the teacher who declared to a parent in my presence, “There is something WRONG with your kid!” You were the teacher who refused to recommend my friend’s child for the IB program, because “although she is smart enough, she probably wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure.” You were the one who made parents question their own ability to raise a child. You were the one who expected Common Core to go away, so you didn’t pay attention when you were supposed to be learning to navigate the new requirements. You are the one who is making the rest of us look bad. You are the one who is failing the children. Yes, the system needs improvement, but it is not the system that is broken. This is not your calling. So, please, find what you love somewhere else. But go quietly.


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