A couple days ago, two memories appeared in my Facebook feed. The combination represents some of the best moments of a fifteen year career combined with the reason I left, and I struggle to reconcile the two.
The first post, from six years ago, contained photos of gifts and thank you cards from students telling me how much they loved me/my class. The second displayed an article I wrote last year titled “An Angry Teacher and Mr. Rogers.” The article had over three thousand shares on Facebook after LoveWhatMatters.com picked it up.
I left teaching six months ago, and the posts stirred a mixture of emotions in me. Disappointment, joy, pride, and a touch of anger all came rushing in.
I had always vowed to leave teaching before I became one of the teachers who was bitter and angry. I left a bit too late. But I had never stopped caring, wanting the kids to succeed, or loving the challenge of finding a new way to bring the content to life.
The passion that kept me afloat was also what wore me out.
I couldn’t stop the frustration of working against a system that disregarded everything research shows us concerning adolescent development. Our administration stripped the teachers of the tools necessary to help students succeed and then blamed the teachers when kids struggled.
I was sinking, and I knew I had to come up for air.
To help you understand what many of teachers are experiencing, I want you to picture a lifeguard attempting to get a drowning swimmer to shore. Even though the individual can’t swim on his own, he doesn’t see the point of going to shore and flails about violently as the lifeguard attempts to save him. The crowds on the shore yell about how they feel the lifeguard should be doing the job differently (seeing as they have children in the water on a yacht who are doing just fine and not at risk of drowning at all). And just as the lifeguard is getting through to the drowning individual, her supervisor throws her a pair of flippers made of cement. The swimmer drowns and nearly takes the lifeguard under with him. Everyone blames the lifeguard.
So, yeah, it feels good to breathe again. And with each breath I am finally coming to a place where I can begin to release some of the frustration and acknowledge all that I lost when I left my career.
I feel sorrow and relief. As I paddle through the sea of emotion, I breathe in gratitude for where I am now and slowly exhale the pain of separation.
I will use my next breath to say a prayer for all those trying to swim with cement flippers.