Reading these answers really made me grateful for the wonderful teachers I had in my youth who worked incredibly hard to make learning fun. Thank a teacher if you get the chance!
This piece is based on an AskReddit thread.
I once did the math to convert my yearly salary into an hourly wage based solely on the hours spent working (not subtracting all the money I spent to make my classroom workable). I didn’t get into teaching for the money, but there’s a certain frustration that hits when you realize I would have been better off working full time as a waiter.
I had a 6-year old pull a knife on me while screaming, “I will kill you! This was the culmination of a lot of various incidents with the same kid. What was most infuriating was the parents claiming they had the sweetest little boy and that we (the school) must be liars for saying otherwise. Eventually he was transferred to a special school after we filed a report on the various incidents.
I felt really bad for the kid because when he wasn’t freaking out over something, he really would be sweet, asking a ton of questions and participating in the activities. But he was highly prone to sudden burst of rage.
The incident with the knife happened in an after school setting, where the kids go to play and have fun. Apparently another kid had done something he disliked so he was kicking and spitting on him when I pulled him away. He ran straight to the drawer and found a kitchen knife. Due to his size it was pretty easy to wrestle out of his hands though, so no harm done.
I guess dealing with lousy parents was what made me change my career.
I worked in a high needs behavior class. I got hit, punched, scratched and spat on daily, but every day I went in and did my best for those kids. I was so battered and bruised that my husband wouldn’t shop with me anymore because people would stare and sometimes even comment that he must be mistreating me. But I loved my job and every one of those kids.
One day, I was called to the office to talk. It was Christmas time and things weren’t great at home. As anyone with kids knows, the holidays makes children especially high-strung so things were also wild in the classroom. My boss said, “You seem awfully stressed.” I thought, how nice of her to notice.
She said, “You have 6 weeks to sort it out or I’ll have to let you go.” (continued…)
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I was crushed. It literally broke me. Six weeks to get less stressed…how does that even work? I found myself just showing up to show up and I realized that wasn’t fair for me or for the kids.
Six weeks later I get a call back to the office. I am congratulated on the amazing turn around and sent back to class. I was baffled. I was more upset and stressed than ever and they congratulate me?
More and more I showed up to work just for the pay-check. One day I just decided screw it, I wasn’t a teacher anymore; I was a robot fearful of showing any negativity. I quit that week. Never went back to teaching.
I quit when a corporate job offered me three times the salary AND a 12% annual bonus.
Now my kids can afford to go to the college where dad used to teach.
The director of the school told me I was hired as a new teacher because it was cheaper than hiring someone with experience.
My first year I did not even have textbooks. I was printing out hundreds of readings for my students every week just to have something.
I quit when it became “education” rather than teaching. Let me explain.
I taught 4th grade. Math is heavy on fractions. So, to my thinking, two things in life you do using fractions are cooking and woodworking. This lead me to creating units where we learned to cook and build things with hand tools. We’re making cookies. We need to know how much half a cup is, or a third of a tablespoon. You get the idea.
I did this for years. I loved teaching, the kids loved learning (mostly), and my students did well on the state tests (which I hated even back then). Then things changed. Testing was king, but then it became God.
In response, my district required all teachers at a grade level to teach the same topics, the same way, on the same day. No more cookies. Now I had to use worksheets and constant testing. It was to the point where we were told exactly what to say. It was scripted.
I argued, loudly. I fought against it, but lost. So, I did it their way. My students hated math and school. There was no joy in it for anyone anymore. Then, I was told I was “under review” because my test scores were too low. (continued…)
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I was at risk of being fired for incompetence. So, I decided to go back to doing things my own way. To fight the system. And then they came to me and informed me that at the next board meeting I was going to be fired for incompetence and insubordination. Lawyers got involved. I wound up resigning.
Do I miss it? Sometimes, but I get my teaching fix through higher education courses and being a guest in classrooms (in a different district) for things like hatching chicken eggs or history presentations. Besides. I’m making the same money with less work selling real estate.
I had a student, maybe 11 or 12, sitting with me and having pizza. She had been having some trouble, so I asked how her life was going. Was everything okay? She says:
“Well, my dad’s a drug dealer so he’s always got people coming over to sell or buy drugs or play cards so I can’t sleep. My mom’s dying because she has a hole in her heart and they can’t fix it. And I have a boyfriend but I’m afraid to tell my mom because she’ll tell my dad and he’ll punish me.” She said it casually, like it was everyday stuff.
So, as a mandatory reporter I went to my Dean of Students and told him all this. He just got irritated and said, “Yeah, but that doesn’t excuse her behavior.”
That’s when I knew I was done.
I realized that I was being more micromanaged every year. I expected a lot of oversight when I was a new teacher. I actually had more people watching my every move and every word once I had a master’s degree and fifteen years experience. I never had a single complaint. Parents and students loved me (even requested me).
But administrators who needed to justify their jobs were constantly in my classroom or calling pointless meetings to discuss pointless things. I spent less and less time teaching and more and more time filing out meaningless forms, responding to emails, and sitting through meetings.
In a meeting with other English teachers, an administrator said: “6th graders will no longer be reading novels. It’s not statistically proven to improve test scores.”
If reading doesn’t improve testing, then your testing is…
I taught 8th grade math, and I had one student who literally couldn’t multiply. So I would give him the same tests I gave my special education students. He’d usually fail anyway, but not as badly. He never knew that he was given a different test. When I made the different versions, they were essentially the same questions, just with much easier numbers to work with.
One day, I was grading his test, and I notice that he missed every single question. The weird thing was, he had all the correct answers to the normal test. (continued…)
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However he showed no work. So there was literally no way with the numbers he had, that he could get to the answers he got.
So I called his mother in (I had to stay like an hour later than normal to meet with her). I presented her the evidence, which most people would find pretty convincing. She just turned to him and said, “Did you cheat?” He, of course, denies it. Then she looks at me and says, “You say he cheated, he says he didn’t, I don’t know who to believe.”
I got up and left right then.
Parents are the reason most teachers leave the profession. They tend to make the teacher the enemy.
Two 16-year-old kids were facing each other (I had the classroom seats in a U shape) and were silently challenging each other to fight while I was in the middle of a lesson. They suddenly jumped up from their chairs and came at each other with eight inch knives with me in between them.
I was pretty built, having been a stonemason’s apprentice in college to help pay my way through, but these kids were both bigger than me. Without thinking I grabbed each by their collar and shouted, “SIT. DOWN.”
I didn’t stop shaking until that evening. I was done a week later.
I stopped when my annual review with the new program dean focused on the 10% of student reviews that were negative rather than the 90% that were positive. There are too many aggravations working against teachers. At the least, the administration has to have your back.
I quit after 2 years when a student threw a desk at me and the administration did absolutely nothing with the referral paperwork. I went back 10 years later and it’s still a very stressful job that a lot of people have no respect for, but I’m good at it and care very deeply about what I do so I put up with making half what my husband does while half of the country thinks I’m sitting by the pool all summer banking $80K.
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I got placed at a high school with minimal support from other teachers. It was basically an old boys club. They had formed their own cliques and weren’t interested in the new folks. Many people were highly judgmental. Honestly, the whole process really did feel like being back in high school. Trying to get oriented in a new school is tough enough when you’ve got people actively trying to help you.
Many of the teachers weren’t even good with the students. They, the teachers, were smart and knew their stuff, but it seemed like they were jaded to the actual teaching part and riding it out to retirement (some of them “riding out” with 10+ years to go).
In the end, I decided I didn’t want to work with those people, and, as important, didn’t want to turn out like them. I got another degree, found an industrial job in my field, and make more than I would have if I had I continued teaching.
I liked teaching and my students – it was other teachers that made me quit.
School started the Monday before Labor day. I was hired the Friday before Labor day. Not once did anybody talk to me about how I only had 3 days to start planning math lessons or offer to help get me on my feet.
I had to drive 90 minutes one way, which meant leaving the house at 05:00 and not getting home until 18:00 and still having to make lesson plans for the next day.
My 1st class was all ESL students. Administration determined that despite being present for all their other classes, an ESL teacher’s presence was not necessary in my classroom.
My 2nd class was 16-21 year old 8th graders. My 3rd class was 30 7th graders. I had 24 desks. I was never given so much as an orientation. I still could not find anything but my classroom.
I lasted 4 days. I never got paid.
I taught high school English for ten years before finally quitting for the corporate sector. Honestly, it was a lot of small things that built and built until I realised it wasn’t where I wanted to be. The largest of those “small things” is the stifling focus on standardised testing.
I lost weeks and weeks to test prep at every grade level. I couldn’t teach novels I loved teaching because I ran out of time. And those standardised tests are useless. (continued…)
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They prove nothing, but offer schools a pat on the back for the high performance results. Which, mind you, do not transfer at all to college success. And too many public schools force the idea of college. Why? Is it because it’s for the betterment of the kids? No, it looks good on their graduation statistics.
But there is nothing wrong with not going to college. And I’d tell that to my AP students as much as my kids with the 12 average for the year. You have a 3.8 GPA and want to be a plumber? You go. You be a plumber. You’ll make more than I do.
I knew I had to quit when I tried to have a conversation about literature with the head of my department and got a blank stare in return.
I taught English.
Im doing my PhD now and am surrounded by faculty and students who are significantly more engaged.
Nepotism is a major problem in smaller school districts. Yes-men, family members, and friends will get hired as the school system is one of the better paying jobs in the county. All of this is done in return for loyalty and not questioning if any given decision is best for the kids.
One of the bigger nails in the coffin was when I was pepper sprayed by the school resource officer AFTER myself and another teacher had broken up a fight and were sending students back to class.
He sprayed to “disperse the crowd” spraying myself and our female assistant principal in the face and causing three students to have asthma attacks. For as little as I was being paid, I could find a safer place to work where people were less incompetent.
I realized that my students needed someone (parent, grandparent, guardian) at home who cared, or whose caring didn’t force the parent to work two jobs and never be at their to nurture the kid. No amount of lecturing, cajoling, or charisma from me was going to overcome a 12-year-old telling me that their homework was less important than keeping their younger siblings clothed, washed, and fed.