Unless you are a teacher or know a teacher personally, you might not know the true tribulations of our profession. I know the summers off sound appealing. You may think most of our days are just play time. I could go on for hours about how those are both not true but that’s not my argument here.
What actually makes teaching so difficult is the scarcity and instability of teaching positions. Of course this is a scary thing for us as teachers but at the end of the day, the one that it hurts the most is the students. And that is what really makes our job so hard. There are so many consequences when we eliminate or “redistribute” teaching positions.
It is more than just our livelihoods as teachers, it’s about the emotional and educational well-being of our most at risk children.
This may sound obvious but when there are less teachers, it does not mean there are less students. So when one grade at an elementary school, or one department of a high school loses a teacher it means that the remaining classes will have more students. When a class of 20-25 becomes a class of 30-35 the effects are harrowing. Students receive less individual attention both academically and emotionally. Teachers are worn thin trying to give each student the same attention but there are some that simply warrant more than others. That is not fair, but that is the reality. There are students that slip through the cracks because there are only so many minutes in a school day. There’s only so much time teachers can use to evaluate and address the needs of all their students.
The academic deficit caused by having fewer teachers is just half of the issue. The other half is the feeling of abandonment the students endure. When you think about the amount of time students spend with their teachers and other adults in the school system, it can sometimes equate to or even surpass the time spent at home. The bonds created between teachers and students are filled with love and compassion. When a student then sees their teachers leaving their school at the end of the year, they are confused and hurt.
They feel like that are losing a part of the sometimes very minimal support system they have.
I have had to leave a school multiple times now because of budgetary deficits. I have always had the hardest time sharing this news with my students. The questions are always the same: “Is it because you don’t like us?” or “Are you going to a better school?” It’s so hard to explain to kids how it’s not them, how I would love nothing more than to stay with them but because someone in a suit at the state capitol took money away from us, that it means I don’t have a job here anymore. The discussion always ends in outbursts of both anger and pain. Students are mad at me, they’re mad at the system. Tears and hugs are inevitable, with many of them telling me how much they will miss me. How I was sometimes the only adult in their life who ever cared about them.
Every time I have tried my best to stay strong, to hold back my tears in front of the students. Because I have to remember that I will find another job at another school. But I know that these students will not be so lucky. They may not find another teacher that they will be able to confide in like they could with me. They may not get the academic attention they deserve.
They are the ones who will be hurt the most. They are the ones who will suffer.
The little solace I have found in this circumstance is the smile on my student’s faces when I see them months or years later. To see that they were still successful despite the lack of attention or guardianship they received. Hearing their stories about beating the odds and being the first in their family to go to and even graduate from a prestigious university. That is why I continue to push through and find another school filled with more students that will someday do the same.