RUTHERFORD COUNTY TEACHER: “I’m scared I’m going to walk away from a field I genuinely love.”

 

“Teachers will do what we have always done. We will make it work!” 

This was a quote from my last teacher blog post at the end of teaching in my first pandemic school year. While we are still experiencing the effects, this post has nothing to do with the actual nature of the pandemic on my teaching experience.

I am absolutely tired, y’all!

I am tired of just making it. I am tired of breaking my back to get it done. I am tired of the endless nights of worrying how I will complete my tasks. I am tired of smiling and shukin’ and jivin’ with other adults when there is not a single thing humorous occurring within this educational institution of which I am employed.

Imagine being so excited to receive a gift. You know that feeling of anticipation and giddiness that you experience while sitting with your eyes closed waiting for it to be placed in the palm of your hands?

That was me waiting for the beginning of the school year. I couldn’t barely sleep the night leading up to the first day to get back. I had made contact with my parents in mid June, set up my teacher webpage, made my rosters and started preparing first week “get to know you” activities. Two months in, and my students and their parents met my level of excitement. Working with them has been amazing. Such great support and open communication. It has been wonderful.

But, what I also found out two months in, was that the anticipation of the gift was all I had.

The actual gift of the school year wasn’t wrapped in pretty packaging or neatly put together. The gift that was placed within my hands was wrapped with barbed wire paper, taped tackily together with pieces of controlling micromanagement, held poorly together with a large and abrasive bow of disrespect and disregard for teacher individuality, and lastly slapped on with a crooked label of mistrust of teacher intelligence.

To know me, is to know that my teaching passion is as wide as the ocean is deep and as high as the endless sky above. I care about students. I do extra for them. I push them. I motivate them. I will dance and sing for them to learn. I will attend their sporting and after school events. I will hug them when they’re scared. I will tend to them when they are hurt. I tie dirty shoelaces. I go above and beyond for them because I think it’s important and school should be a place of magic and fun while kids learn.

The current demands being placed on me are zapping the last bit of energy I have and making it so difficult to go that extra mile. I hear the phrase “you can’t give from an empty cup.” Well my cup has a million pinholes and the water is trickling out at such an alarming rate that I can’t fill it quick enough to quench my thirst.

I’m scared I’m going to walk away from a field that I genuinely love. I’m scared I’m going to  dread when the alarm goes off and I have to go to work. I’m scared that my negative attitude is going to be noticed and impact my students. I’m scared that I won’t be a good teammate because of the frustration I feel.

I recently called the board of education to see what my “contractual obligations” were just to be aware. I found that our “contract” is basically terms of service dates and most of the day to day and expectations of teachers are generally at building administrator discretion.

Here in lies my issue…

Each building administrator chooses the guidelines and expectations of their building and then as teachers talk from school to school within a district we see how our experiences are often drastically different. While there are always positives and negatives, I personally feel that I am on a slippery slope to the negative neighborhood right now.

I don’t know where many of the expectations that we are being asked to meet are coming from, and I understand that we all have a job to do, but what I do know is that these expectations often feel unreasonable and leave me and my peers in a state of confusion as we try to implement them.

I constantly have to juggle doing what I think is a best within my classroom and meeting a bullet point on an unrealistic checklist. I often go with my gut and trust myself to do what I know works.

It is truly so much that people outside the education field don’t know about our profession, but when those of us in the profession try to speak out we are ridiculed and told our job isn’t that hard and if we don’t like it then we should quit.

Well let me tell you it is hard as hell!

It’s hard seeing your coworkers in tears because they are struggling to meet a goal, it’s hard to be a teacher mentor when you are trying to navigate a school year yourself, it’s hard to ask for help when others look like they have it together so you think something is wrong with you instead, it’s hard to sit up all night to make a lesson plan that you won’t even use because you don’t need it, it’s hard to want to go the extra mile and be creative when you have a guide to follow and can barely deviate from it without explicit evidence as to why you are doing so, it’s hard to listen to people tell you that they are there to help you, but they rarely do anything to help. It’s hard to care so much, but you can’t do anything to make it better. It’s hard to listen to people who have never worked with children make the rules.

I’m exhausted from just pushing through the hard stuff.

The teammates I have this year are basically rockstars. We all contribute doing what we can to create successful learning opportunities within our classes. We share, collaborate, and communicate effectively during school and even after hours. We go hard for our students, help each other out and sometimes it feels like we are damned if we do or damned if we don’t from outside spectators. They don’t see our day to day or how we work our butts off. It’s all about what we aren’t doing and that is damaging to our spirit!

When you feel like your creativity is being blocked  every step of the way and you’re being restricted to follow a certain plan, you find yourself with an internal struggle. You ask yourself, do I do what I know doesn’t work or do I do what is best for kids that will get them to grow? My passion has been and will always be for my students and making their learning experience amazing any way that I can.

I can no longer stand for being questioned at every turn, asked to implement trivial tasks, or just go with the flow when it’s detrimental to keeping my mental peace and protecting my joyful spirit.

My job is to teach kids and I will continue to do that to my best ability. However, that may now mean that I get reprimanded for speaking out, get labeled abrasive, or that I am not a team player, but I will always go against the grain in my profession when I know that what I am doing is right.

I can’t “just make it” anymore because that’s not good enough for me or my students. If it’s just to meet an institutions absurd often impossible requirements, I will question it. If I know you aren’t answering my questions I will question you. If you are wasting my time, I will remind you I have important things to do and that you need to get to the point, respectfully.

I will show up on time and leave on time. I will work hard in my room with my students and go hard for my teammates. I won’t break myself for the sake of unrealistic, emotionally taxing, and unattainable expectations handed down to me to be implemented without rhyme or reason.

As far as this topsy turvy educational system goes, I will do what I have always done. I will continue to make it work, but within reason and with respect to my peace of mind.

I’ve learned that teaching is a wonderful, enriching part of my life that I genuinely have passion for, but this educational system will not ruin my life. I’m setting boundaries and sticking to them. I value myself too much to second guess my abilities by a system that I feel truly doesn’t value me.

Jessica Trice

Rutherford County Teacher 

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