Quitting your job? Hard, for sure.
But leaving your entire profession behind is a bold, gutsy move indeed, which is why so many people are reacting to Jessica Gentry’s tale of leaving her position at Stone Spring Elementary School.
People initially figured Gentry quit because of poor pay, so she took to Facebook to share the real reasons she left teaching. Here’s what she said:
The filter comes off now.
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.
Gentry starts by saying that, nope, the reason she chose to leave was not these “easy” reasons. Then she breaks it down for us.
Let me tell you why those who ooze passion for teaching are leaving the occupation like their hair is on fire…
It’s NOT the “kids are different” nonsense. Kids are kids! The world around them is definitely different.
1. The old excuse “the kids have changed”. No. No friggin way. Kids are kids. 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/coparenting 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. Cue “the kids have changed”
She’s also frustrated with not being able to cut the tech and focus on real, tangible learning.
2. In the midst of all of this… our response is we need to be “21st Century” schools. 1 to 1 student to technology. Oh. Okay. 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. During an interview, one division asked me “how are you with technology? That’s important to us”. Uhhh… I hear Bobo the chimpanzee is pretty tech savvy… I consider myself pretty great with kids
So in order to get teachers to use technology “effectively” they need more training. Which means fewer planning periods …for useless training.
3. And since our technology approach doesn’t seem to be working, teachers must need more training. So take away two planning periods a week. And render that time utterly worthless when it comes to ADDING to the quality of the instruction. 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. All of the info I could have told you about them without taking away from precious instructional time.
And here is, IMO, the big one: parents aren’t PARENTS, they’re customers. And y’all, NO. Absolutely not. I think this gripe is beyond an acceptable reason to leave teaching; the parents are out of control.
4. Instead of holding parents accountable… and making them true partners, we’ve adopted a customer service mindset. I’ve seen the Facebook rants about attendance and getting “the letter”. Well, here’s the thing… I can’t teach your child if he’s not in school
I was cussed out by parents who wanted to attend field trips but missed the THREE notes that went home–and when they did attend a trip, sat on their phone the entire time. 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’…
Her mental and physical health was in trouble.
5. My mental and physical health was in jeopardy every.single.day. Knowing that your kids need and deserve more than they’re getting. 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, multple languages spoken, several different disabilities… it breaks you. We become emotional eaters. We become couch potatoes to zone out. We become so short fused that our families suffer.
So… that’s why.
Gentry goes on to say that she realized she can’t save them all. She can’t help her students if she herself isn’t healthy.
I finally realized… you can’t save them all. You can’t even help 21 if you aren’t healthy yourself. If your mental and physical health aren’t a focus, you aren’t even good for the 21.
I left my retirement fund… my paid sick leave (46 days left on the table, unpaid). I didn’t leave for better pay.
She didn’t leave for pay — she left for her sanity.
I decided to start with my 1 at home… and work to help other mommas be able to show up for their ones at home. Because… I really do believe it starts there
I found something that allows me to impact the environments that those 21 go home to. I found something that I can make an impact with… that doesn’t leave my tank empty, rendering me useless for others.
I may have left the classroom… but I am still advocating for those kiddos. It just looks different now
She told Good Morning America: “There were a few major events that spurred my departure. I hold teaching in such high regard that watching my most recent administration laugh about students with disabilities, state that we ‘shouldn’t lose sleep over’ struggling students, say that she [a school administrator] ‘washed her hands of this year’ in April was disheartening to say the least.”
Meanwhile, Michael Richards, Superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools, told WHSV:
“I would take issue with the notion that teachers are leaving the profession “like their hair’s on fire.” Ms. Gentry may have her own reasons for making that assertion. Teaching is the noblest profession in the world, and the vast majority of teachers are dedicated to the vital work of empowering the next generation.
Teaching is definitely a very challenging profession, and it is not for everyone. It requires longer hours than most people believe it does, and it presents multifaceted challenges that blend social and intellectual skills. Some of Ms Gentry’s concerns are entirely valid.
For instance, it is imperative that we provide teachers with adequate planning and collaboration time and that we do not pull them away from instructional time. It is imperative that we help students develop strong social skills, especially as society turns increasingly toward device-driven communication. At the same time, we need to empower students to use technology to enrich their learning and develop real-world skills.
It is important that we support teachers in developing productive partnerships with parents. Many of Ms. Gentry’s concerns have been squarely on my radar for some time. I have plans to address these and other concerns here in Harrisonburg, where I started as superintendent only a month ago. Too often teachers feel that no one really understands their concerns and that solutions are imposed on them. I plan to partner with teachers so that I am aware of their concerns and they have a voice in the solutions.”
Gentry’s post has well over 263,000 reactions to it. People found her concerns relatable.
Hang in there, teachers! It’s been such a tough few years.
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