This story is heartfelt and it makes me very sad. It also makes me angry. What are the politicians and policymakers doing? Why aren’t they giving teachers the support and respect they need to do their work? When I read this, I wonder if the Rhees and Kleins and Gates and Broads and Waltons and all their buddies can look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about what they are doing to education in this country.
|After 27 years, I, too, retired last August. Yes, it was a legitimate choice. I had always thought I’d teach at least 31 years; that was my unspoken goal.
Teaching has been my passion, having told my principal three years prior to my retirement that I had the best position in the district (elementary art teacher, pk-4). At the time, he argued, saying that he had the best job as the newly assigned elementary principal after having been a teacher only a handful of years. We laughed as we argued, and I told him with his leadership, our school would soar.
Unfortunately, this same man was soon named superintendent. Transitioning from teacher to principal to superintendent in such a short span of years, changed the person I thought I knew. Or maybe it just opened my eyes.
As superintendent, his new theme at last year’s opening inservice became “Get on the treadmill with me or get off.” Honestly. Together, the district staff watched a ten minute motivational youtube video of “Will Smith’s Wisdom” in which Smith (the actor) urged listeners to “get on the treadmill” as he stressed work ethic and journeying for success.
I had never thought of the parallels of education and treadmills. However, as I thought about the idea, the treadmill connection was apparent. So many of us are running ourselves ragged just by trying to stay on the treadmill. Even Race to the Top is a treadmill…state against state on the treadmill, with only a few winning those precious carrot-dollars.
After the third day of inservice last year, I submitted my request for retirement. I had to get off the treadmill. This was the day before the official school start. I had a 2 1/2 hour meeting with my superintendent (and NEA Uniserve Director) sharing with him my reasons, my concerns, and my fears for education locally and at state and federal levels.
I’m not certain he actually heard me, but I said my piece. It felt good. I highly recommend it.
I packed my 27 years of teaching and moved out by midnight that very night. Of course, before I locked my room for the last time, I left a lesson plan for each grade level for the next morning with each level’s supplies set out, the all-so-mighty curriculum book that I’d put my blood, sweat and tears into developing, a brief statement about how to use my filing system of three filled five-drawer file cabinets, the updated inventory, the short list of new inventory, blank seating charts for each class, the class lists—if you’re a teacher, you know the routine. It IS all about the kids, even as one is leaving.
Now, after a year of retirement, I know I’ve done what I needed to do for me and for my mental health.
In the nick of time, I might add. Next week, my district begins implementing a four-day school week. Oh, all the money we’ll save, AND it’s “all about the children.” Who are we kidding?
And thus, I can be an advocate for children in other ways. I am. I will forever be.