As many districts in Oklahoma are in their second week of teacher walkouts I thought I’d share a post I originally shared on my Facebook:
In 2003 it was estimated in a study that 40% of teachers quit before their sixth year. Another comprehensive study that began in 2007 and finished in 2012 calculated that percentage to be closer to 17%. While that is a less frightening number, it is still a very large percentage. A percentage I am a part of.
From my new desk job in a different city in a different state, I watch and support the efforts of my friends, old coworkers, past students and their families to change the reality that is a failing school system in Oklahoma.
In the same study as above it was discovered that 97% of first year teachers earning at least 40k returned compared to only 87% of those earning less than 40k. As things stand in one of the largest districts in Oklahoma a teacher is not scheduled to earn over $40,000 until her 17th year of teaching.
The raise matters, it does. As a single parent earning that little, I felt I could not provide for my child. In less than a year I have doubled my salary. The raise matters, BUT it is NOT about the raise.
I wasn’t called to teach, I loved parts of it it will always be a part of who I am and I’m grateful for the lessons my students taught me and for the love we shared.
If I felt I was called to teach, I might still be there. My last principal was amazing, supportive, and understanding. My coworkers optimistic, determined, and positive. Yet everyday I walked out of the classroom feeling like a failure. I could not provide what I felt my active and playful five year old students deserved in a mobile building, a shoebox sized classroom without any storage, and classroom supplies and enrichment materials coming out of my own meager earnings.
I saw a sign from the coverage of the Oklahoma teacher walkouts that said: Teacher working conditions ARE student learning conditions.
Yes it was easy to be frustrated that to use a bathroom I had to cross a parking lot. Yes it was easy to complain about not having time to clean and set up my room while my students had art or music because those teachers had to use the room since we didn’t have enough rooms for them. Yes I could talk about how much easier recess would be to monitor with a playground. It’s easy to talk about these things and say “but I love it” or “it’s worth it”. It’s much harder to say, “this is the best we can do for our students, and IT. IS. NOT. ENOUGH.”
Yes, I am no longer teaching because I wanted to send my kid to summer camp at the museum, because I wanted to be financially able to travel, because I wanted to be financially independent from my own parents. I wanted to be respected for the service I was providing, the hours and investment I put in. BUT I am one of the 17% because I couldn’t handle the emotional stress of our students’ circumstances for another day.
I support the teachers in Oklahoma demanding better for themselves, their families, their schools, and their students. You got this!