I was struck by a piece on Facebook the other day, which attempted to analyze why, teachers leave teaching, which was what I did after seven or eight years (I honestly can’t remember how many). I didn’t read the piece mainly because I had my own reasons.
One of the reasons I ‘did not’ leave was anything to do with my students. I liked my students, indeed I’ll profess I actually loved some of them – and not in any sleazy way, but with genuine parental affection. I have had to reassure a number of former students over the years in this regard: “Kids, you were not to blame.”
And I ‘did not’ leave because I disliked the process of teaching. I liked pedagoguery and I was always intensely gratified when a lesson went well and my charges actually learned stuff. I like to think my kids learned stuff.
At a later time when I worked as an addictions counselor I found that dealing with a group of clients was a very similar process to teaching, and I still liked it. Granted, some of my rehab clients were a little more dysfunctional than most (though not all) of my public school students.
And now I get to the crunch of why I left. This one is twofold. In the first place I learned to loathe the system of public education as it’s practiced here, there and likely everywhere. I didn’t like having to prove my worth to trustees (some worthy and some unworthy) and I especially didn’t like having to prove my skills to the ministry which largely was clueless about what was important in the business, yet I was obligated to obey their decrees. If some counterproductive ‘change’ was invoked I had to comply regardless of how boneheaded it might have been. And many of the ed-biz theoreticians in the ministry were boneheads or philistines.
We once had a cabinet minister (who shall remain nameless) who referred to the arts, fine arts, including music, theatre and even English studies as “Tippy-tappy, airy-fairy, baloney.” In other words, a waste of time. Anyway, we got ours back and my creative writing class produced a slim volume of satire which, even as I look at it now, I find quite decent, literate and witty, which we titled: “The Tippy-Tappy, Airy Fairy, Bolgna Book.” Some of my former students still remember that moment of mini-rebellion. Blessings to my principal of the day who let it, with the title, pass official muster.
The other reason I left (and this may be the most important reason of all) was that I did not want to spend the rest of my working life in high school. If you teach in a high school you are, in effect, always in high school and the high school ethic prevails. And, as in high school when you are a student: The jocks rule. There is no getting around it. And since I hated that aspect of my schooling when I was a student, there was no way I liked it better when I was a teacher. This was not a milieu in which I wanted to spend the rest of my working life. That reality came to me profoundly one day when a colleague expressed concern about something his wife had said. They had just had their first child and his wife was concerned if he’d still be at that school when his son became a student there. And I could only think, Oh God. That’s like 15 years from now. Does that mean I’ll still be at this same place?
I honestly did not want that to be so. I wanted to be frying some other fish by then.
And so I was. I went into the newspaper business. No big fat pension. Indeed, none whatsoever arising from my time. But I loved virtually all of it, as opposed to ‘some’ of it as was the case with teaching.
But, I sure wouldn’t mind having that pension right about now.