April 15, 2008

teacher turnover

I'm in my math methods class, talking about how most of us are leaving teaching at the end of our two years in TFA and how worried we are about education and its systemic problems. One woman talked about how she's always wanted children, and the terrible state of education makes her feel like having a child is a bad idea. We're talking about our guilt about abandoning our schools. And what it would take for us to stay.

While the things we talked about - feeling valued, feeling effective, being able to learn to be better teachers - matter, what it would take for me, as a baseline, to even consider it is very simple: it would have to be a better environment. People being nicer to each other. Less yelling. It's hard for me to concentrate on being a better teacher, on learning, on students learning, on having good relationships with kids, when kids are yelling at each other and other teachers (and sometimes me) and administrators are yelling at kids and other teachers (and sometimes me) and I need to yell to be heard in the hallway. It's just really stressful all the time. Make my day feel better. I still probably wouldn't stay, but I would think about it, at least for another year.

I think a lot of us feel this way, but it's hard to admit that we can't handle the environment, that we're not tough enough to hang - that it's not ok with us to get punched or threatened or cursed out or belittled or yelled at in front of students, and have that just be the cost of doing business. (All of those things have happened to me or teachers I know, and all but the punching have been done by both students and administrators). So we talk about professional development and observations. Not that they're unrelated. Just one is more important than the other, for me anyway, and it's the one we're not talking about.

I wrote this mostly on Saturday and a little on Sunday, and then yesterday school was awesome and I feel like a rock star. But all of this is still true, even when things are great.

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