By Lindsey Acton, KDP Director of New Teacher Member Experience
I went to dinner with some friends last night—some who are teachers and some who are not, but all who are supporters of my husband and me, and therefore of teachers everywhere. This was the first time we’ve seen many of them in a good while because of COVID-19 hitting our homes, and because life . . . is life. It was the first time I’ve been able to talk with them about my decision to leave the classroom and what I do here at KDP.
Naturally, as it often does in this current climate, the conversation turned to why teachers are leaving. The friend at the table who is also a teacher really struggled to articulate why she thinks teachers are leaving. We got deep into the conversation, wondering if perhaps Covid isn’t really to blame anymore. In other words, we realize Covid aggravated an already-difficult situation, but we also wondered if using it as a scapegoat moving forward is bad for teachers.
Let me tell you why I think my friend is right.
Before the pandemic, I think being a teacher was already impossibly hard, and the world had unrealistic expectations for teachers; teachers were already paid poorly, and society still hadn’t learned to place proper value on all the ways that teachers hold our communities together. And then Covid hit. And we all panicked. Well, teachers didn’t panic—but parents who suddenly became teachers did.
And for 2 years, we watched teachers reinvent the education system. We watched them build the plane they were flying so that kids could stay in school and parents could go to work
Society still hasn’t figured out how to place proper value on what teachers do.
I’m always a big fan of making decisions based on the information we have. And, teacher friends, this is the information we have.
So, how, as teachers, do we stay in the profession we love knowing what we know?
That’s a hard one. Because some of being able to stay is dependent on teachers’ abilities to do what they have always done: to ignore a ton of things about teaching that make it really unpalatable at times. And to hear this from me, a teacher who left, must be hard sometimes, my reader friend. I get it.
I will say to you that of my 15 years in the classroom, I probably spent 13.5 of them suspending my disbelief. I probably spent most of that time feeling like I had work to do and differences to make and, at times, I think I was really successful. So, I want to share that it can be done. I want to share that drowning out the noise of the world and listening to your heart is one of the most important acts of self-care you will ever perform—and that applies to every aspect of your life.
I don’t want you to think you have to be “in it for the kids” or that you have to accept a wage that doesn’t pay your bills or that you have to subject yourself to an abusive administrator in the name of the kids. Because you DON’T. And you SHOULDN’T.
What I am saying is that, in your heart and in your soul, if you still feel that you can make a difference with kids, if you feel like your work with them is not done, if you feel like your heart is leading you to them, then please stay. Please, for yourself, feed your soul with what sets it on fire. Feed your heart with what makes it feel full at the end of the day. And don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing something that anyone could do. We all know that’s hogwash.
Remember: You are a teacher. You are powerful and smart and capable, and you are doing a job that is hard and important and wonderful and awful and impossible some days. But you are doing it. And if you’re tired, please rest. And if you’re working in a place where you don’t feel supported, look for another position.
You are not trapped. You are not stuck. You are not a tree. Move to where you feel like the powerful, capable professional that you are. And while you’re pouring into kids, remember to pour into yourself as well.
That, my friends, is how to stay when everyone else thinks it’s time to go. And that, my friends, is how you prioritize yourself in a world that has yet to figure out how to prioritize you.#FirstYearTeachers