Let me start by saying I have always been “that teacher”. The one that kids come to for help, the one kids stay in contact with years after leaving my classroom, the one that people say reaches all kids from the naughties to the advanced. I have prided myself in being a great teacher and in knowing that I helped kids in an inner city district get to college and beyond. This year though I have finally hit my breaking point. I have finally been defeated.
I’m not defeated by the students or by the increasing need for mental health services needed in schools. I’m not even defeated by the fact that this week I was assaulted by a student and this isn’t the first time. I am defeated by the ever dropping line of expectations in public schools, especially those with high at risk populations.
The laws and powers that be who are running the schools are allowing kids to bring weapons saying oh but they weren’t really going to do anything with it so how about just a day suspension if that. Kids can threaten teachers and even draw images of how they are going to kill them which is met with a student conference and a referral for mental health services that a parent may or may not do. Or just like myself who was punched in the jaw this week because I wanted a student to start their test over because they were cheating and I was given an apology letter from the student explaining why I deserved to be punched in the face.
This country is losing their greatest asset in our future. People no longer want to teach in conditions like these. Schools around this country are hostile work environments where teachers do not feel safe. We are sworn at, threatened, have things thrown at us, and are physically assaulted. Just speaking for myself I have been punched not just this week, shoved down, and stabbed in my hand. The kicker here is that I’m the favorite teacher in my building so if these are my experiences I will let your imagination take you to what others are going through.
I love my students and I want the best for them but where I am right now I’m not sure what’s next for me. There comes a point where I have to protect my own sanity and my own peace of mind. I can no longer sleep at night worried about work the next day, I can no longer find joy in going to work, and I feel my light for being a teacher becoming extinguished.
I hope that someone, somewhere does something because I have no power in what needs to be done. We need smaller class sizes, we need mental health services in every building, we need accountability for students, parents need parenting classes, and we need academic support for students who are so far below grade level they can’t even read a sentence in the book, let alone write one. The last thing that needs to be done is teachers need to be paid and treated like the champions they are. You can not keep expecting quality educators when the pay doesn’t reflect what we do and we are constantly disrespected by adults and children. This is only my opinion, that of a defeated teacher, one that is hoping my light doesn’t go completely out because it is just about finished.