It wasn’t you.
“Oh, you work with middle schoolers? No wonder you quit teaching!” I have heard this more times now than I can keep track and every time I correct them. “It was never my kids,” I say, “It was everything else.” They all say it and they say it because they don’t know any better. They don’t know that I did everything in my power every damned day to protect you, to love you, to feed you. They don’t know that I’d stay up at night worried about you or that I stuck my neck out to protect you from immigration, police officers, and our school administration. My kids, you were the reason I was able to make it to work every day. As I struggled with leaving my son every morning, clinical depression, and generalized anxiety, you made me smile. You lightened my heart and showed me love when I didn’t think I deserved it. My kids, you are why I held on as long as I did; you are not the reason I quit.
For the first time since I entered the doors of my park district preschool, I am not packing my back to school lunch and laying out my first day outfit in anticipation of the year to come. I will not be joining my friends in the seats of a sweaty auditorium getting pumped up by the staff talent show and our superintendent’s yearly speech. There will be no ice-breakers with new staff and there will be no data review of the year prior. For the first time since I was just old enough to get a library card, I will not have a “first day of school.” For, I quit teaching this year. I quit teaching and I am never going back.
But, my kids? It wasn’t you. If there is anything in this world to be sure of, please let it be that. It was the hours, the lack of support, and the disrespect from leadership. It was being told by another teacher that they would have to “pull rank” because her class was “more important” than mine, and it was the toxicity of it all. But, my kids? It wasn’t you. It was working harder than I have ever worked in my life just to be told what I did doesn’t really matter. It was the expectation that I would continue to do more with less, that I would sacrifice precious family time to get the job done, and that I would do it all without administration support. It was the fact that I’d spend more time at work being put down than at home with the people who loved me, it was the side-eyes I’d get when I offered a suggestion, and the reprimand I’d receive for standing up for my students’ best interests. But, my kids? It wasn’t you. This I promise with my whole heart.
Teachers are the most incredible humans I know. There is no other profession I can think of that works overtime with no pay without a second thought and few other professions that work harder for less pay. In this day and age, teachers are expected to raise decent humans no matter students’ home lives, act as a human shield in the case of another school shooting, and do it all with a smile on their face and a “Please Sir, may I have some more,” attitude. And, my kids? I just got tired.
You will have many other teachers throughout your educational careers, ones that will inspire you and ones that will annoy you but I hope that somewhere in that list, you will remember me. For you have all been imprinted in my heart for the rest of time. My kids, if I have taught you anything, I hope it’s this: You are important, you are worthy, and if you don’t feel that way, something needs to change. And I needed a change.
But, my kids? It wasn’t you.
With all my heart,