If you’re new to my website and my blog, then you probably don’t know that I have been a teacher for the last fifteen years. I have taught in private, public, and charter schools. I wanted to be a teacher since I saw my 7th grade world history teacher, Mr. Perdy, bring the topic to life in 1983. But no more.
In 2013 I resigned from a teaching position in Denver Public Schools. I had been harassed for some time by administration. The final straw was when I got demoted from high school to middle school (it was a 6-12) at the semester break. During that meeting I literally heard the voice of God tell me I was not coming back.
I finished my master’s degree that spring, and applied widely. And got nothing.
I was hired for two long term sub jobs in 2014.
In 2015, I applied everywhere, called all my friends in education, applied widely; nothing. I didn’t even get interviews.
By October of 2015 I was desperate. I called a friend, Elisha Roberts, at a charter school. She suggested I come to a mixer her the charter company was hosting. So I slapped on my whore make-up, put on my best pearls and high heels and went to this thing. I charmed a principal, who hired me in November, as their Dean of Students.
On Thursday, January 14th, I was fired from that position. So, after much consideration I now realize I no longer want to be in education. Here are my top five reasons;
5.) Most administrators are fucking awful.
I am 45 years old. I remember when administrators were people in their fifties and sixties. They were pros who spent twenty years in the classroom, went back to school and got a license/MA/EDD, and then ran a school. Not anymore.
Many administrators are in their mid-thirties, some are in their late twenties. Why? And why does it matter?
The ones in their thirties have usually realized that they can’t effect the change they want in the lives of students being in one classroom. More commonly, they realize they hate teaching, but like the benefits and four months of vacation. So they decide to become administrators because they’ve invested a lot of time & money and don’t want to go back to school to learn something else.
The other group of people never really wanted to be in a classroom at all. They always wanted to be an administrator. Which means they were just “passing time,” in the classroom.
The first group are usually type A personalities, or even OCD. They can’t explain what they want, so they try to find other weirdo’s like themselves to populate their school. The second group can barely wipe their ass, so please don’t tell me how to teach if you’ve been in a classroom for under five years. I have computers older than your teaching career.
Neither know how to lead. So they fall back on fear and terror to manage their teachers. They don’t make relationships with students and then blame the teachers for the school culture. This is akin to dropping your car keys under your car at night, but walking across the street to look for them under the street light because the light is better. It just doesn’t work.
I will no longer sit in meetings with guys a decade younger than me and listen to them explain how to teach. I know how to teach. Learn how to lead.
4.) It’s too political
There is two kinds of politics in a school; the Democrat v Republican stuff that goes on everywhere, and school politics.
School politics have to do with towing the line on things many people might have difference of opinions on. School testing, gender equity, disciplining minority students, etc. I have never worked at a public school where I could voice a dissenting opinion without getting in trouble.
It’s not enough that you go along with what your principal wants (I have never had a problem with following orders,); it’s that you have to be enthusiastic about bullshit policies that simply don’t work. If you don’t smile, clap enthusiastically, and rave about the emperor’s new clothes being awesome, you are given the mark of Cain. Classes you wanted to teach will go to the less qualified; other teachers who toe the line will coach those sports or run that club; you will be shunned.
3.) There are no consequences for students.
The biggest problem in education is that we treat every student like a victim. They have no agency. Yes, we must learn cultural competency. Yes, we must reach out to their families and get them involved. Yes, racism still exists in America.
But when I hear a student cuss out a principal; when middle school student smokes pot with his mom before coming to school, when an 8th grade boy physically threatens a woman teacher, this has nothing to do with any social issue; this has to do with right and wrong. And when a student does wrong, they need consequences. Meaningful consequences. (And all of the things mentioned I have witnessed.)
Did you know that, according to the discipline ladder in Denver Public Schools, a student can use foul language (not directed, at the teacher) five times before I can send them to the dean’s office? That’s crazy.
2.) The curriculum is shit.
How are we supposed to compete with the rest of the world when our English (not fucking “Language Arts,”) classes read very few books?
When I was in sixth grade, at Longfellow elementary, we were required to read a book a month. If you were in the gifted program, it was a book a week. They were middle grade novels, to be sure, but they were still novels. (Judy Bloom, mostly.) That was in addition to in-class reading and other homework. We had spelling tests weekly.
Now, I could be wrong, but the last time I checked, middle school students aren’t even completing a whole novel in a semester. They read excerpts and short stories – which have their place – but how do we expect students to learn a love of the novel, to truly enjoy reading, if they only one or two before high school?
In social studies, its worse.
Why do 7th graders have ancient Inca’s and Medieval Japan in their curriculum in Colorado? It’s not like its ever taught again. Shouldn’t they be learning about Ancient Greece and Rome? At least there is a cultural link to those societies. We can learn about Western ideas and how those ideas came to be. We should be teaching kids about their rights, how our modern beliefs about equality under the law and democratic principles developed.
Instead we make toy Mayan calendars and play games about the Sub-Saharan Salt trade. Then we never talk about those subjects again.
The curriculum is also canned and cookie cutter. Everything has to be in lock step, taking the educators passion for specific parts of their curriculum out of the equation.
1.) It’s not about the kids.
Public education can hang its hat on a lot of things, but caring about what’s good for students is not one of them.
Schools are about justifying their budgets to legislators and winning elections. I worked at a school for eight years. In that time I saw administrators and faculty build something wonderful – and then watched as it all fell apart – three times! I watched this cycle occur three times. There was a rumor that the district actually wanted our school to be bad so they could prep there principal interns for the worst of the worst. (I hope that was not the case.)
I saw principals try to bribe teachers with “Retreats,” and trainings where they got to go to San Diego and Atlanta on the district’s dime. I saw schools waste money on tech toys, then not pay to train the faculty to use them. That way they could brag to potential donors and to local legislators that they were “on the cutting edge,” with tech in the classroom. Meanwhile I had to struggle with no textbooks in my class.
Look, I am not saying all schools are bad. They’re not. But I clearly don’t know the rules of the game these people are playing. I am tired of educators and students telling me I’m a good teacher, then being verbally dismantled by administrators in private meetings. I’m tired of being respected and applauded for my passion for students, then shunned the next and I don’t know why. I am tired of the gossip, the lies, and immoral behavior coming from all directions. (Remind me to tell you about the mom who threw pot & beer parties for her middle school kids.)
I freely admit this is on me. I never fit in at a school. I always felt like I wasn’t part of the faculty. I was always worried I would do or say the wrong thing. Rarely did I socialize with other teachers. My politics, my beliefs about education, even my worldview were different from the rest of the faculty. I actually got along better with the custodial, security and office managers then I did with the teachers.
But in my defense, I saw dedicated teachers hounded out of the profession. I saw people rewarded for unethical behavior. I saw incompetence applauded and I heard so much more. It’s a madhouse people. A madhouse.