Now that school is out, Jessica Gentry can finally explain why she’s leaving teaching. And it has nothing to do with her salary.
As Gentry wrote in a viral Facebook post, there are a number of reasons why she made the decision to leave teaching. But when people learn she’s leaving the profession, they tend to jump to the wrong conclusion:
I think it’s easier for people to believe that I left teaching because of the lousy pay. It was easier for my former HR director to believe it was because I found something that I was more passionate about. Some would allow them to assume that … let them be comfortable in their assumptions because your truth may lead to discomfort of others. Well … I’m not some. That ain’t me.
Now Gentry wants to set the record straight. As she puts it, “the filter comes off now.” She’s very willing to explain why she and other teachers are leaving education “like their hair is on fire.” In fact, she has five reasons why she can no longer be a teacher, despite her passion for the job.
First, there’s the fact that things have changed. Not kids. Gentry disagrees with those who say that “kids have changed.” She believes that “kids are kids.” What is around kids — their influences, the expectations, and parenting styles, however, have left kids feeling uncertain.
The filter comes off now..I think it's easier for people to believe that I left teaching because of the lousy pay. …
As a result, Gentry says children act out at school because it’s a place where they feel safe and where they encounter boundaries (sometimes for the first time). She wrote:
PARENTING has changed. SOCIETY has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that. Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/co-parenting situations, terrible media influences … and we are going to give the excuse that the KIDS have changed? What did we expect them to do? Kids behave in undesirable ways in the environment they feel safest. They test the water in the environment that they know their mistakes and behaviors will be treated with kindness and compassion. For those “well behaved” kids — they’re throwing normal kid tantrums at home because it’s safe. The kids flipping tables at school? They don’t have a safe place at home. Our classrooms are the first place they’ve ever heard “no,” been given boundaries, shown love through respect.
Despite — or perhaps in response to — this cultural upheaval, schools are changing too. This is the second reason Gentry gave for leaving teaching. She writes that schools have changed their focus toward becoming “21st century schools.”
This translates to is a preoccupation with technology that ignores the importance of having teachers whose skills are based around working with kids, not computers:
So forget the basics of relationship building and hands on learning. Kids already can’t read social cues and conduct themselves appropriately in social settings … let’s toss more devices at them because it looks good on our website.
When the focus on technology doesn’t have the desired result, it leads to Gentry’s third complaint — a focus on teacher training over classroom instruction time.
As Gentry wrote, when the technology plan “doesn’t seem to be working,” schools decide it must be because “teachers need more training.” As a result, she lost valuable planning periods to deal with the training demands. To make matters worse, the training added nothing to the quality of instruction she was able to provide:
Just this year, a new math assessment was introduced for K teachers. We had to attend a training on a school day (time missed with students) then it took us THREE WEEKS to administer it … one on one … to 21 students. Such. A. Waste.
Then there are the parents. Gentry wrote:
Instead of holding parents accountable … and making them true partners, we’ve adopted a customer service mindset.
The teacher noted that she has seen complaints from parents about getting truancy letters, seemingly ignoring the fact that their children can’t learn if they’re not in school. She says she has been “cussed out by parents” who ignored multiple opportunities to sign up and chaperone field trips — then, once allowed to chaperone, spent the whole time on a smartphone. And the problems continue:
I’ve had parents stand me up multiple times on Conference Days then call to tattle on me when I refused to offer an after school option. I’ve had parents tell me that I’m not allowed to tell their child “no.”
The stresses of the job took their toll on Gentry. She wrote that every day, “my mental and physical health was in jeopardy.”
Going to work every day and knowing her students needed more from her than she could give was too much. Stress is the final reason Gentry gave for leaving teaching:
Sitting in one meeting after another, begging for more support, only to be told, “don’t lose sleep over them” … when you LOVE your kids and are PASSIONATE about your mission … these messages tear you apart. Watching them come in … dirty clothes … chaos at home … and knowing they need more than you can give them in a classroom of 21, with less and less support, multiple languages spoken, several different disabilities … it breaks you.
The stress took a toll at home as well. The teacher wrote that many in her profession become “emotional eaters,” or, “zone out,” as couch potatoes. They also “become so short fused that our families suffer.”
It took some time for Gentry to learn that “you can’t save them all,” and that she couldn’t help her students if she wasn’t healthy herself. That’s why she left teaching, her retirement fund, and sick leave behind:
“I didn’t leave for better pay.”
Now, Gentry plans to focus on the one child she has at home “because I really do believe it starts there.” She hopes to be able to make change through a new role and help other moms be there for their children.
As the former teacher wrote, she still wants to make an impact on children, she just wants to do so in a way that doesn’t “leave my tank empty”:
“I may have left the classroom … but I am still advocating for those kiddos. It just looks different now.”