My earliest memory of wanting to be a teacher is the third grade; we had to dress up as our chosen profession and I donned some librarian glasses and a long skirt (how does one look like a teacher?) My afternoons were spent not playing with dolls but making lessons on my very own chalkboard for whatever friend I had coerced into being my student.
As I got older, family members and even teachers tried to change my mind, telling me I was wasting my ‘smarts’ and should go into dentistry or pharmacy. Something that paid well and had plenty of job opportunities. But I was stubborn and resolute. My plan for what subject and grade level I would teach varied over the years, but my decision to teach never wavered.
For the first fifteen years of my career, I coasted along pretty happily. I enjoyed my job, loved it even. Like most new teachers I bounced from term to term, subject to subject, grade level to grade level. Eventually I found my niche in high school and gravitated toward extracurricular activities that fostered student leadership. Yes, it meant a lot of lost lunch hours. It ate up time that should have been spent prepping and marking, and sometimes even required weekends away from my family, but the reward was seeing students blossom into young adults who could manage responsibility and who would go on to make a difference in their universities and communities. Some of the students I have impacted the most, and whom I still have relationships with to this day, never spent a moment as a student in one of my classes.
So what has changed? Well, in the last five years, the amount of time we have to give of ourselves as teachers has been consumed with the introduction of Tienet, Powerschool, SSP (or whatever it is called these days), professional growth plans and attendance policies that require us to make routine phone calls home. Add to that the introduction of a fourth course in the form of 3.5/4 (God forbid we have adequate prep time) and the threat of new teaching standards that will require even more paperwork and documentation, and you get the idea. I, like many others, am TAPPED OUT!! I have reached my saturation point. There is nothing left to give.
For the first time in my career, I don’t enjoy teaching. At times, I actually hate it.
I hate the pressure of trying to correct 120 essays and submit the marks in a timely fashion before students and parents start to inquire why they can’t see their grades online.
I hate having to decide if I’m going to use my now precious prep hours to photocopy, plan ahead, correct, make phone calls, or enter data into gradebook. Some days I’m so overwhelmed that by the time I’ve prioritized my to-do list, my hour is all but gone.
I hate feeling like I’m doing everything by the seat of my pants – that my students are not getting the best version of me. I’ve always prided myself on being a good teacher, one who could connect with my students and hone in on their struggles. These days, even as I stand in front of my students introducing a lesson or reading a passage, my mind is turning thinking about what I have to accomplish to be ready for the next class, the next meeting, the next task.
I hate feeling like I am constantly having to prove to my board and the Department of Ed. that I am a competent, intelligent professional. I resent that I have to make portfolios or give baseline assessments or make a document on Tienet to say that I will make “frequent check-ins” or give “visual cues” to keep students on task. I’m sorry, but the last time I checked that was called teaching! The fact that I’m not even trusted to make my own comments when reporting on student achievement is demeaning as a professional with six years of university, a master’s degree and twenty years of experience.
Most of all, I hate that what was once my favourite part of teaching, the extracurriculars, the working with student leaders, is now something I resent. I resent giving up my precious time. On days when I get zero time outside of a 40 minute lunch break, the idea of spending it at a meeting makes me bitter. And that is something I never wanted to be.
We’ve all worked with those bitter teachers. The ones who grumble and complain about every inconvenience. Who show up for the paycheque and don’t give an extra ounce of themselves. I had hoped it would be a long time before I became one of them, if ever. I certainly didn’t expect to reach that point halfway through my career. But here I am. And it isn’t because of the teaching. Closing my door and engaging with students is the easy part of my job. It’s the never ending, always evolving list of other ‘stuff’ that has broken me. The stuff I never dreamed of as a child when I played school.