Leaving the classroom was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I cried about it. I prayed about it. I still battle with it. I still miss the kids. But I left the classroom for the same reasons so many teachers leave. I wasn’t valued as a teacher, I wasn’t prepared the way I needed and didn’t have the resources I needed. I left to take an opportunity that I hope will benefit Indiana teachers for years to come.
I arrived at 7A.M. and didn’t leave for 12 or 13 hours. I checked and passed back papers in a timely fashion. I designed lesson plans to teach my students the same topics in multiple ways, so all my students understood the material. I lost sleep over the welfare of my students. I stopped at Burger King too many times on my way home from work. I was exhausted, and over time, I became unhealthy.
As a teacher, I worked an average of 50 hours a week (not including weekends). It is impossible to be a highly effective teacher without working overtime. I felt like my work and my time were not valued. I was not the only teacher that felt that way.
Teacher retention was an issue in my building. Because teachers would leave and additional students would be added to my schedule, more than I could handle alone was added to my already robust daily load. Most of the time, the additional students added to my classroom were not in the grade level I was teaching. Every day, I reminded myself that I became a teacher to positively change lives and my students reminded me as well.
Although I was rated effective and highly effective during my years of teaching, for many teachers, the deciding factors for their ratings depend on students’ ISTEP scores and if the school met its goal the year before. That rating decides what kind of “bonus” a teacher gets.
Teachers stay for the kids, for the love of teaching, not for the pay. The kids are what kept me going despite the toxic environment I faced. The negativity outside of my classroom had begun to outweigh the good that was happening inside my classroom.
Teachers deserve to be paid for the countless hours they work serving the children in our community. They deserve to be trained for success and they deserve options that allow them to grow in their profession without leaving the classroom. Our children deserve prepared teachers who are paid what they are worth and incentivized to stay teaching once they have years of experience under their belts.