Retiring Davis educators express gratitude, frustration and optimismJul 07, 2022 02:48PM ● By Peri Kinder
Teachers nationwide are considering a career change. According to a National Education Association survey released earlier this year, 55% of teachers might leave the profession. Since January 2020, more than 600,000 educators have quit, with a disproportionate number of Black (62%) and Hispanic/Latino (59%) educators leaving the field.
While a teacher shortage isn’t new, the combination of COVID, low pay and what educators feel is a lack of respect is driving the crisis. NEA President Becky Pringle addressed the troubling statistics in an article on the organization’s site.
“This is a five-alarm crisis," Pringle said. "If we’re serious about getting every child the support they need to thrive, our elected leaders across the nation need to address this crisis now.”
Before retiring in June, Amy and Ellen (whose names were changed at their request to provide anonymity) worked as teachers in Davis School District for a combined total of nearly 50 years, teaching elementary-aged children. Amy had five kids when she went back to school at age 42 to earn her teaching certification.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had to learn and relearn all the ways they expect you to teach, and that first year was just a killer,” Amy said.
She said the last decade has demonstrated a distinct upheaval in the classroom with more high-attention students, a lack of accountability from parents and the fear of ending up in a viral social media video.
“Teachers and the administration and the district fear those who are going to call up the newspaper or the TV and give their side of the story that’s very slanted,” she said. “You have to say the perfect thing every second of every day or you’ll be on the six o’clock news.”
Ellen experienced the highs and lows that comes with teaching but is worried about the future of the profession.
“I feel sorry for people who are just getting into it and starting their career, because I hope they can stay with it,” Ellen said. “I hope education can stay in a positive direction. It’s bad because education is so important.”
COVID only added to the crisis. Amy said she used to have a couple of students who didn’t finish their homework, but now at least half of the class doesn’t do the work. That means more review work and less progress.
Dealing with parents has also changed dramatically. While parents used to stand with teachers to create a united front when it comes to school, now teachers experience abuse from parents who blame a lack of learning or behavior issues on the educator.
“I think there is a huge group of kids who are very responsible and motivated, but I think they don’t always want to take responsibility any more. They don’t want to have stress or anything,” Amy said. “Having one really difficult child can disrupt everything. I had one last year that was one of the hardest I’ve ever had.”
But there are bright spots for educators, as well. Ellen said she’s built her best relationships with colleagues and parents, over the years. Amy will miss the interactions with fellow teachers and the students she’s watched learn and develop.
“I have loved the associations with people I teach with,” Amy said. “I actually like the administration. They don’t make perfect decisions all the time, but I don’t make perfect decisions all the time. The kids and parents for the most part are really amazing.”
Ellen said she’ll miss the everyday interactions with other educators, whom she respects.
“Some of my best friendships have been made through colleagues or parents that I’ve taught their children,” she said. “ Not very many other careers do you get to develop those kinds of relationships.”
One way to rebuild the parent/teacher/child relationship is communication. Both Ellen and Amy said the best way to understand a situation is to talk to those involved. Getting the parent, child, teacher and administration on the same page can often stop a problem before it blows up.
Having parents set ground rules would also help educators, since parents set the tone for how children approach schoolwork. Many self-motivated kids do really well, but most of the time, students need to learn skills to deal with assignments, social situations and stress.
“If you never feel any stress, you don’t learn how to deal with stressful situations,” Ellen said. “We need to teach kids it’s okay to have stress. All these kids have so much potential if they’d just do what they are supposed to do.”
Teaching children how to schedule time for homework, and making them accountable for attendance and tardiness, would go a long way in helping educators. When parents set expectations, the classroom works exponentially better.
Both Amy and Ellen said they have great memories from their time in education and they’re looking forward to the next stage of life. λ