Career Questions: Ambivalent about Teaching
Q: This past year was tough. I think I do a good job in the classroom, but the widespread negativity about teachers in general has been tough to take. Our school cut about 15 positions, and while some people returning are happy just to have jobs, others feel resentful and angry about the lack of state funding that is going to impact all of us (like larger class size, for example). I still have my job, but frankly, I’m kind of ambivalent about even coming back next year. How can I feel good about teaching in the midst of all this criticism?
A: Here’s a question to ask yourself: Do you still love working with kids? Ignore for a minute all the other distracters and just think about that question. If your answer is no, then you probably ought to be thinking about a career change. If it’s yes, then you need to be thinking about how you can focus on being an even better teacher while tuning out what happens outside of your classroom.
National and state criticism is hard to take for teachers who have been committed to doing the job responsibly and with love. But there are some things that you can’t control, and general public criticism is one of them. One of the things you can control, however, is choosing the people with whom you socialize during your school day. If the faculty room has become toxic, avoid it whenever possible. Do your job and do it well. Stay within your lane, as they say. The satisfaction of influencing kids’ lives is worth it.
There will most certainly be changes to the educational system, but to my mind, what happens between good teachers and kids – teaching and learning – remains the same. Criticism stings; extra duties take their toll. And you may need to add your voice to dissent when it’s appropriate. What’s best for kids is often what’s best for the adults in their lives too – but not always.