To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week I have decided to appreciate myself by resigning from my job as a teacher. Let me tell you why…
I believe education is all about the children. There are many complex factors that come in to that picture, but ultimately the children should be the focus. If education were a jigsaw puzzle the picture on the box would be a smiling well-adjusted child whose needs are met and who is learning to his/her full potential. The pieces in the box are as varied as the child…the family unit, the community, the teachers, the curriculum, the budget, the environment, the resources, the value of education, the structure of the home, the brain of the child, emotional factors and the list goes on. Now take that puzzle box, and 15-23 or so other puzzles…pour the pieces all into one box. That is a classroom. The teacher is saddled with the responsibility of figuring out all the puzzles in his/her class. Honestly, it is something most teachers like to do. It is a challenge and like a real puzzle, there is great satisfaction when the pieces come together.
Each teacher goes about his/her puzzle building in a different way. Most of us know that first you have to have the edge pieces together because that is what everything else fits on. The family unit is part of the edge, and so is trust in all its forms. Resources are there too because if a child hasn’t got food, shelter and clothing it is hard to do anything else. However, there are some puzzles that have missing pieces. Their edges are filled with gaps, their images full of holes. As the picture comes together, there are layers of complexity and it is difficult to discern how the picture will look when completed or if it is even possible to complete it at all. These students are the difficult ones for a classroom teacher. If he/she had only one puzzle there is the possibility it could be done, but with a room full of moving pieces it is next to impossible.
The good news is that some of the pieces are support people. They come in to help the teacher with the students who have pictures that are more difficult to construct. They are highly qualified specialists who work on a specific area of the puzzle, because we all know that if we can get one section of the puzzle together the other sections will come more easily. The curriculum for these students is another crucial piece to the puzzle. It is adjusted to fit because if a piece is forced into a place that it does not work the whole picture cannot be completed. Sometimes the brains are not constructed in the usual ways or the emotions are put together differently. We have teachers who are specialists in those areas too. Truly the puzzle building process is a tremendous one that, when it is working successfully, is amazing to watch. Each classroom begins to take shape and the pictures begin to fit together and create a community of learning that is beautiful.
However, in recent years, the puzzle building process has not been working successfully. More children are coming to school with their edge pieces missing from the box before the teachers even get started. There are learning gaps that are as big as the family gaps. For some children, there are so few pieces to put together you cannot even tell what the picture is supposed to be. It is disheartening to say the least.
Yet, school systems like ours continue to remove pieces from the box. Funding, one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle, has been cut and cut again. Teachers are handed a list of standards and are no longer given curriculum because it is too costly. Teaching by Pinterest is the norm. Text books are a thing of the past.
The latest cuts in our system are the support personnel, of which I am one. There will no longer be specialized (EIP- Early Intervention Program) teachers working on specific areas to help teachers in their quest to complete the puzzles in their rooms. Instead, the specialist will now be in their own classrooms with their own 18 or so puzzles to complete, thereby reducing the services to those who need the more individualized help. The most highly qualified teachers are not sought out…instead they are pushed out in favor of those “we can afford.” My skills and expertise are no longer valued. This leaves classroom teachers fending for themselves and trying to complete the most difficult puzzles on they’re own, while still working with all the others at the same time.
I for one know that I am a specialist. I have been for my entire 20 year educational career. I am certified K-5. I have a Psychology degree with a Minor in Child Development. I have worked for the National Institute of Learning Disabilities as an educational consultant. I have a Masters degree in Teaching and Learning. I have been Teacher of the Year. I (along with a fabulous team of others) won second in the state for our intervention program. I have been working with small groups for 16 years of my career. I am good at what I do…but I am a specialist. I am not cut out to work on 18 puzzles at once…or even 15.
Therefore, it is with much sorrow and a heavy heart that I have resigned my position. I can no longer be a part of a system that is removing pieces from the box. I do not believe in this climate that the best interests of the children are at the forefront. To take away this type of support from children as well as teachers is only going to make the holes in the puzzles bigger and more difficult to put together. The resulting teacher stress and difficulty for students is not something my heart will allow me to participate in. Recently I realized that under this current administration in our county I could no longer be a part of it. It is my opinion that the decisions that are being made are detrimental to children.
I have loved working with my students and I believe I have made a difference in their lives. I know they have made a difference in mine. I will miss puzzle building. It is a specialty of mine, and I have gotten pretty good at it over the past 20 years. I do not yet know what I will be doing next (maybe tutoring) but whatever it is, I am at peace with my decision to walk away from teaching. Thanks to all of you who have enriched my life by sharing your children with me. I love them all.