A Letter to My Colleagues

Dear colleagues,

I’m writing to you because I’m hoping you will help me.  Things are getting a little out of control.  Some of you are leaving and many of you are frustrated.  And I think I know why.

Our job is hard.  Teachers can talk about how rewarding their job is, but it’s also REALLY tough.  Especially right now when we have four days left of school and the kids just can’t hold it together for one more minute.  The big tests are done and everyone is simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief while holding their breath until the school year is over.

It’s hard because parents do not support us the way they once did.  Sure, we have some parents that volunteer a lot or send sweet emails thanking us for taking care of their kids, but it definitely feels like parental support of education has decreased since I started teaching nearly ten years ago.  Case in point: this year for teacher appreciation week, I received 3 cards or gifts from students (out of approximately 350 students).  In previous years, I had to haul multiple Target bags full of stuff out to my car at the end of the week.  As you already know, it’s not about the stuff, but the attitude and gratitude behind it.

It’s hard because we don’t get the support we need.  Our class sizes are too big, our kids needs are constantly increasing, and we are always expected to add “just one more thing” without taking anything off our plates.  Pressure comes from all sides: parents, community, administration, state and federal government, and on and on.  Do better with less.  Work harder because what you’ve been doing isn’t good enough.

It’s hard because we all have lives outside of this place.  In this year alone, we’ve seen new babies born, sent kids off to college, supported spouses through job loss and change, bought and sold homes, suffered through illnesses of ourselves and our families, and lost numerous loved ones.  There are a million other things that constantly need our attention, but we give it all to the kids when we walk in the door.

The combination has taken its toll on all of us.  Teachers are frustrated with no help in sight.  So we keep on keeping on, but all the while, we’re counting down the days until summer, until retirement, until…

But here’s the thing.  I hope that most of you still love what you do.  Most of you came to teaching knowing there was nothing else you’d rather do in this world.  We spend a ridiculous amount of time at work, so I hope you enjoy it.  But if not, you have a few options.

#1. Leave.  I don’t mean that to be harsh, but it’s true.  If you really dislike where you are and what you’re doing, get out now.  Life is too short to be miserable, and you’ll only drag down the rest of your world with you.

#2. Stay and be miserable.  This is what some of you have been doing for years and it makes me sad.  We all have bad days, but it becomes an entirely different thing when you can’t remember the last good day you’ve had.  One of my biggest pet peeves is people who are unhappy yet they are unwilling to make a change, so I’d actually recommend…

#3. Stay and be better!  This includes me, too.  There’s not much time left for us this year, but I hope all of you can rest and relax over the summer and come back for the 2015-2016 school year with excitement and passion.

What does “better” look like, you ask?  To me, it means: coming in ready to be a team player, checking your own baggage at the door, being patient with each other when times are stressful, participating in events at school (and yes, that means the stuff after hours too!  We’re all busy, get over it!), offering solutions to problems instead of complaining about them, trying new things yourself or being willing to jump on board with others who already are, talking with people instead of about them, and just generally doing anything else that makes our school a better place.

If you’re with me, that’s awesome!  We will make our school a better place to work, which will make it a better place for our kids to learn.  If you’re not with me, prepare to be annoyed with the rest of us having fun!  It’s not someone else’s responsibility to fix our problems – it’s all on us!  If we choose to make it a great year, it may just be the best one yet!

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