20 April 2012

Why I Left Teaching

Yesterday I had an opportunity to interview students while on a visit to a high school in the eastern region of Kentucky. My colleague and I asked a number of questions to capture a snapshot of life for students at this high school. The students were very impressive, and they praised their teachers for providing challenging course work. They mentioned the research papers being written for English class; they emphasized the literature they are reading (Heart of Darkness); they conveyed the importance of studying literature to “better understand people.” They talked about the pig they were dissecting in science class and the challenging work required in pre-calculus.

 Following the interview with students and the subsequent conversation with our team, another colleague asked me: “Why did you leave the classroom— It’s clear you are passionate about teaching?” Coincidentally, I have been asking myself the same question and was even preparing a blog post on the topic a couple of days before her question. So, why did I leave the classroom?   Difficult to answer but important to ponder (and I ponder it often).

What I love about teaching

 Interacting with students
 Helping students make connections in learning
 Advising students about life after high school
 Designing and delivering engaging and effective instruction
 Collaborating with colleagues in other disciplines
 Establishing a positive and safe classroom with high expectations for all
 Coaching, mentoring, and learning with new teachers
 Reflecting and refining the art of teaching and learning

 What I don't love about teaching

 Lack of respect for profession
 Pressure to practice for “the test”
 Hoards of papers to grade
 Lack of time to plan, grade, meet with parents
 Rigid daily schedule (no time to sit, eat, use the toilet, attend events for sons)
 Constant interruptions of instruction from outside sources (walk-throughs, intercom requests for   students, etc.)
 Lack of funding for attending professional conferences and other events that invigorate
 Lack of time to spend with my own children because I spent so much time with my “other kids”

 No one item had any more impact on my decision to leave than another item, but after eleven years, I grew weary and needed a change. I certainly never thought leaving the classroom was a permanent choice, just an opportunity to try something new in the field of education for a few years.  I’m often asked if I will ever return to the public school classroom. It’s hard to say, but with many of the impending changes in public education I don’t imagine my list of what’s tough in teaching will become any shorter. That’s why I persist with a commitment made to myself when I left—I aim to raise the voice of teachers and students in public education.