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Why I Left Teaching

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I am a licensed high school English teacher in the state of North Carolina. I taught English for five years. I left teaching in 2019, and at the time I did not know that it was forever. 

This is why I left teaching.

BACKSTORY

In August 2008, I began a Master of Arts in Teaching for Secondary English degree at UNCCharlotte. Most of my classes were online, but each semester I had one class on campus.

In January 2010, I began my student teaching. I was placed at a local high school. The school was completing the first semester, and I did not get to do anything until almost the end of January. 

Then, when the semester began, we had 3-4 snow days, and that threw my schedule even further behind. 

Finally, I started teaching, but it was the beginning of February. I had to teach short lessons for a week, take over one class for a week, and then take on the other two classes at one week intervals. 

I had finally taken over all three classes, an English I class (freshmen), an Inclusion English I class (with a co-teacher), and an English III class (juniors). 

As a student teacher, I was supposed to be placed with a teacher who only had one prep, but I had three. I was supposed to have support through writing the lesson plans. I had none. This was not a great start. 

March 2010 arrived. I found out that my grandmother was not going to live much longer. She was given about a week. I found out on Thursday evening. On Friday morning, my University Supervisor decided to show up for an unannounced visit and observation. 

I was sick from hearing the news the previous night. I had been crying all morning, but I was there to teach. 

I did. I taught my lesson plans, exactly as they were written. 

Then, I had planning and a meeting with my cooperating teacher and University Supervisor. The two of them sat at the teacher’s desk on the opposite side from me. They were staring at me and pounding me with questions. 

I answered each to the best of my ability, all while fighting back tears from the situation and my personal struggles. 

One of the final questions from my University Supervisor was “why do you want to teach?” That was easy: “I feel like I’m called to teach. I love being able to see the students do things they thought were impossible only a few days ago. I enjoy watching students have ‘aha moments’ when something clicks for them.” 

Her response was harsh. “Do you really think that teaching is for you? I don’t.” 

She went on to say that she and my cooperating teacher had been communicating about me (not WITH me), and they agreed that I needed to find another career. 

I was told to take the rest of the day off because they could see that they had upset me. 

I smiled as I said, “Yes, your opinions and comments do sting, but please know that the tears that are on the ridges of my eyes are not because of this class or this meeting. I found out last night that my grandmother only has about a week to live, and I have been fighting through that in my head the whole time I was teaching and meeting with you. I appreciate that you are letting me leave. I am going to spend time with my family now.”

As I packed my things and started out of the classroom, each of them told me that if I was a real teacher, I would have decided to stay for the rest of the day no matter what. 

My University Supervisor told me that I would never graduate and get a teaching license. 

I walked out, and as I drove home, I called Tony, my husband, and asked if he thought it would be alright if I quit and did not go back.

He told me that he would support whatever decision I made, but I needed to call UNCC and see what they said about the situation.

I did. I called UNCC when I got home. I was told that I could take an INCOMPLETE for the semester and redo my student teaching in the fall semester. 

On Monday morning, I went to school and told my cooperating teacher that I was leaving. I gave her back the key to the room. She had given me her key because I always arrived at school before her. 

On Friday morning, I drove to UNCC and withdrew from the class officially. 

Friday afternoon, I went to visit my grandmother and sit with her for a little while. 

Friday evening, Grandmother went to her Heavenly home. 

Every day that week, I was able to spend time with my grandmother. I sat with her and talked to her. I listened when she felt like talking, which was not often. 

I was able to spend time with my grandmother and my family that I would not have had if I had not walked away from my student teaching.

This could have been the end of my story. This could have been why I left teaching.

In August 2010, I walked into a different placement for student teaching. My cooperating teacher and I still communicate. She taught English overseas for a few years and is just recently back for good. 

TEACHING EXPERIENCE

First Year Teaching

My first teaching job began in September 2011. I started at the school just after Labor Day. There were a few challenges to this job. 

My commute was an hour-and-a-half.

I taught English I (freshmen) and Introduction to English (a class to prepare freshmen to take English I). The English I classes (2) had 36 students each. The Intro to English class had 23. 

I had a cart. I did not have a classroom. I went to the students and moved every block. Sometimes I was late to class because I had to take my cart down the elevator to the first floor to get to the media center (especially for research). 

My administrators were relatively supportive, now that I look back on it. I thought they were amazing at the time, but I have seen better and worse since then. 

Second to Fourth Years Teaching

My second teaching job lasted three years. In August 2012, I began teaching at a school about 30 minutes from my house. I was teaching a strategic tutoring class called High School Success. I had no more than 15 students in a class and most had fewer than 10. 

It was amazing. I worked on skills the students could use in all subjects, but I also worked on the specific things they were working on in English class. I partnered with the English I teachers and was able to work specifically on readings and papers and notes for English. It was great. 

At the end of my second year at this school, the federal grant for the High School Success program ran out. I was told I would be able to keep my job if one of the other teachers left. I knew that one of them was planning to resign to stay at home with her kids, so I knew I would have a job. 

During my third year at this school, fourth year teaching, I was called into the principal’s office just before Thanksgiving. She and one of the assistant principals told me that parents and students were complaining that I was cursing at students in class.  

I am a Christian, and I do not curse. I never have. 

After pleading my case, I thought that the situation was resolved. 

Until… 

On the Friday afternoon before the second semester was to start on Monday morning, I was informed that I would be getting a mentor from the county offices. 

I met her that afternoon. I was told that I had to begin submitting my lesson plans (in writing) to her for all of my classes for an entire week at a time. She told me that we would discuss them and improve them. Then I could teach them.

Great. Whatever.

I would play the game and do whatever I had to so I could survive the semester. I had two preps–English I and Mythology. I completed lesson plans for each class because the two English I classes were not always on the exact same thing because of pacing or missing classes for activities or 100 other reasons. 

I thought everything was going well. After a couple of weeks, I realized I was wrong. When I met with her after teaching lessons, she would tell me how I did things incorrectly. I kept asking for the things I was doing well, but she told me I was already doing those and she did not need to mention them. 

On Tuesday before spring break was to begin on Friday, I was called back into the principal’s office. She told me that the complaints about me cursing at students had not stopped. I asked how I was supposed to be doing that when there was another adult in my room watching me almost every class during the day. 

She had no response. She moved on to “So, you have two choices. You can either resign and still be able to get a job in the county for next year. I will give you a good reference. Or, you can refuse to resign and we will do what is called a ‘Failure to Renew’ for your contract. You just have to tell me what you want to do.”

I took a deep breath and told her I would have to let her know. 

“You don’t know what you’re going to do? It should be simple.” 

I responded, “No, I don’t know what I want to do. It’s not a simple answer. I need to talk to my husband. I need to think about it and pray about it.”

“You need to pray about it? Why?”

I informed her that I pray about all major decisions. I am not sure she appreciated that because her response was, “So, when do you think you can get an answer from God?” I did not appreciate the sarcasm in her voice.

I straightened myself in my chair and squared my shoulders. “I believe He and I can come to an answer for you before Thursday at the end of the day. So, you will know before we leave for spring break.”

I could tell she did not like my answer (or my attitude), but I had nothing else for her. She told me I could leave for the day; I did. 

I called my dad as I walked out of the school crying. He said, “You know what you’re going to do.” I agreed and told him that I just needed the principal to know that she did not control me. 

I called Tony. He agreed that I would resign. 

On Thursday afternoon, just before the bell to release students and teachers for spring break, I walked to the principal’s office, unannounced. Her eyes got really big as I began talking. 

“I wanted to let you know I have an answer for you. Here is my resignation. I will be applying to transfer to other schools in the district this year, and I expect that you will keep your word and give a good recommendation.” 

“Sure.” She snatched my letter of resignation from my hand and tossed it in my folder that she was apparently keeping on her desk since I was such a “problem” this year.

On June 10, 2015, I walked out of my completely empty classroom for the last time. I called out to the other teachers down the hall, “Jackson is leaving for the last time.” They all came out to hug me and wish me well. 

I walked out completely expecting to have a job a few weeks later, but that did not happen because my former principal did not hold up her end of the deal. She never gave me the good recommendation that was promised, and I did not get a couple of jobs because of it. 

Three Year Break

After walking out of the classroom on June 10, 2015, I had an unintentional three year break. On June 11, 2015, I had weight loss surgery (a different post for a different day). 

I spent time with my family. I began volunteering at my daughter’s school. I also had three long-term substitute teaching jobs.  

Fifth Year Teaching 

I began my 5th year teaching on September 11, 2018. I received a phone call asking me to come in for an interview. I had applied to the school a couple of years earlier, but I did not know they still had my application. I was offered the job a couple of hours after the interview. 

I thought it was a great situation. I would have all English I classes, and the commute was only 10 minutes. 

I had English I, English I Honors, and Communication Skills first semester. Communication Skills was like Intro to English at my first job. It prepared students for English I.

Second semester, I taught English I, English I Honors, and Inclusion English I. The inclusion class with mostly children who needed extra help, whom I love working with, was the smallest class at 32. The honors class had 38. The classroom was set up to accommodate 30 students maximum. 

My classrooms were overcrowded and the students were under-disciplined. No matter how hard I tried to work with the administration for behaviors students were exhibiting in my classroom, the students would be returned with few to no consequences. 

WHY I LEFT TEACHING 

If you have stuck around to this point, thank you. However, I am sure that you can figure out some of the reasons that I left teaching. 

I could have quit when I took an INCOMPLETE in my first student teaching. That would have been the easiest thing to do. 

However, I decided to keep pressing on and completed my degree. I taught for 5 years, 4 of them consecutively. 

The only reason I left my job in 2019 was because I found out in April that my contract was a 1-year contract. It was not a continual contract. 

I learned that I would have to go through the application and interview process again to be able to work in my same job the next year. I thought that was ridiculous, but I did it. I applied. Over the summer, I interviewed for my position. I knew there was an opening, my job was available.

I did not get rehired.  The job was given to someone who had previously taught at the school for about 10 years. 

WHAT I AM DOING NOW

Now, I am blogging

I completed a second masters degree in May 2022–Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. When I wrote my thesis, I drafted over 100 pages of my nonfiction book about the miracles in my family. 

I am working on a set of children’s Bible story books. 

I created a 12 Month Planner with Habit Tracker.

Another adventure I am taking is creating Christian t-shirt designs. I will be launching my Etsy shop soon. (I promise to let you know when I do!) 

I am also planning to launch some classes. I just have to get myself ready to do the editing and recording. I am not great with that stuff, yet, but I am working on it. 

Not being in the classroom is different. I thought I would always be there. The only thing I know is that I love teaching, and I will still find a way to do it.

This is why I left teaching, and this is the short version of it.

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