As a graduate student in the Education Department I was relieved to find out that there are students like me who wonder if teaching is right for them. Much of this has been based on the experiences I have had not only in schools but also what I have heard teachers saying about their working conditions.
In a recent conversation with a classmate of mine she said that she doesn’t think that after she completes her program she will go into teaching, or at least not immediately. For me, I’m not sure if I want to teach or if I just don’t want to teach in the United States.
Though I have enjoyed the experience of education in the US and the way teachers and the education system tries to ensure that students get all that they can from school, it can arguably be absolutely exhausting. I find this true for the amount of things that teachers are responsible for, the amount of things teachers do, the amount of things that are required of teachers and the minimal support that teachers get to fulfill all their responsibilities. From my experience in field placements, I have noticed that teachers are expected to attend Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings, keep up with all the laws that are being passed statewide and nationally, keep up with all the changes in curriculum on top of catering to the individual needs of 20-30+ students, cater to the demands of the students’ parents, answer to administration and keep track of all the content, grades, IEPs, etc. of students.
According to a Burnout Prevention and Treatment article, burnout isdescribed as “feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring”, which may be a phenomenon that many people deal with because of a variety of different experiences. Teacher burnout however, according to the National Education Association is when an educator has exhausted all the personal and professional resources necessary and still feels like they’re unable to do their job. From my experience and viewpoint, teachers often go into the profession wanting to help the students and wanting to make education a better and safer space for students. However, the result is that teachersoftentimes get bogged down by the amount of work they do with sometimes little to no fruition of their goals.
According to a study from the American Educational Research Association, teachers in the US are 20-40% more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety in comparison to workers from other industries such as healthcare, the military and farming. While anxiety may not be a stranger to some of us, anxiety being induced by working conditions is a very serious issue. This is further compounded when concerns raised by teachers are going unheard or teachers are afraid to voice their issues because they feel like it puts their jobs at risk.
The visual that I’ve gotten of being a teacher is depicted as coming into work when administration requires you to, do exactly as they tell you to, use the bathroom when they allow you to, speak only how they tell you to and leave when they give you permission to. A conversation I had with professionals in the career field in recent months was that I give too much of a pushback when given advice/comments that I don’t like and principals don’t like that. I was told that I shouldn’t ever have an issue with anything that administrators or principals say to me because that means that my job will be in jeopardy. If my job is in jeopardy my career is as well, because professionals speak and schools are connected. you can be blacklisted by schools, districts and more because of how a an individual may act or belive something should be done
The profession, to me, seems to lack the cognizance that teachers are people, teachers have families, teachers have lives outside of school and there will be situations that arise that are beyond their control. I believe that there are going to be circumstances where teachers are unable to come into school and don’t have time to find a sub to cover their shift or prepare sub plans. As such, I would argue that teachers need understanding, compassion and grace from administration, the district, the Department of Education, parents and anyone else involved in the education system. From my viewpoint, teachers need to be treated with respect, they need to be paid livable wages and they need to have autonomy in a profession that they chose and studied to be in. I do not believe that it is viable to substitute these values with pacing guides and curriculums that exclude the voices of teachers that are in the classrooms interacting with students on a daily basis.
By Khadejra Golding-Litchmore, Reporter
Graphic by Shae-Lynn Henderson, EIC