I feel lucky that I have a job, but the teaching profession as I once knew it is long gone.
As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, I have had more questions than answers lately and one of the biggest unanswered questions has to do with finding my purpose in life.
I really thought I was on solid ground here, since I LOVE teaching and interacting with my students. However, the recent myriad of changes in education has put me into a tailspin of emotions over the last year that I compare to the five stages of grief first proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”
I am in no way suggesting that my feelings rival those of losing a loved one, hardly! But when I began to think about how I have been feeling and what I was experiencing, I couldn’t help but notice that I WAS experiencing somewhat of a loss, and the grieving that goes along with it.
Due to the way in which the new common core curriculum is being imposed on students and teachers, with no regard for pedagogy, individual differences or creativity, and the overuse of high stakes testing, we are experiencing a perfect storm, of sorts, in education; We have abruptly replaced (not phased in) the previous curriculum with a new, non-data-driven curriculum, and, at the same time, we have instituted more opportunities for high stakes testing of students whose scores impact both students’ and teachers’ futures. Poor test grades can impact a student’s placement in classes, which can further impact his or her college application, and they are also counted against a teacher in our new observation rubrics.
At the heart of my deepest grief is that poor test grades make students feel bad. I became a teacher to help kids succeed, build them up and make them feel good about themselves. With a scripted curriculum and an increase in high stakes testing there’s little room for creativity, personal connections, and, you know, the fun stuff.
“The first reaction to learning of a loss is to deny the reality of the situation.”
When I first heard about the massive changes in education, I thought that it wouldn’t happen any time soon, if at all. Afterall, it didn’t make sense.
“As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.”
When I realized the changes were imminent, I felt frustrated and angry. I wanted to blame my administrators, but they were not to blame and often felt equally frustrated.
“The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. If only….”
I recognized I was not happy with the situation and it wasn’t going away, but now what? If only I could get a different job, but at my age, what would I do now? If only I could switch careers and make close to what I’m making now. If only I could retire from teaching. If only….
“Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid farewell. “
I regretted that I didn’t have a Plan B, and that I wasn’t talented or trained to do anything else but teach.I regretted that I started my teaching “career” later than most and therefore have so many more years until retirement (but I never regret the fact that I was a stay at home mom to do so). I regretted that I didn’t warn my son to switch career tracks in the middle of his teaching education. But I hardly saw it coming.
“This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.”
This is where I feel I’m at now. I have reached a level of acceptance that things aren’t changing and I have no options but to continue teaching, for now. I feel calm and have no desire to fight for what I don’t agree with. This attitude is unfamiliar to me, even a bit scary. Those that know me would agree. But, hey, at least I have a “job.”
Perhaps my view of what education should be is outdated, and I hope for the sake of the new teachers it is. New teachers will not be disappointed if they expect to deliver scripted modules, test, and then repeat. In speaking with my son, I think he knows what he signed up for.
I quiver at the thought of what our society may become if schools completely lose their humanity, because for some kids, schools (and teachers) are their salvation.