green background, stack of books, apple on books, chalk on chalkboard

It's no secret these days, educators are NOT HAPPY. They're overworked, underpaid and unfortunately, they are leaving the public sector by the truckloads, hoping and praying to find a position in a private institution, or just leaving the profession altogether. There is nothing ok about this, and as a mommy, it breaks my heart.

But I can see why it is happening. I've experienced why it's happening.

All I can say is wow.

Before I get started, let me give you my back story.

For the past 8 years, I taught at a public high school. It was all I ever knew in my teaching career so I never thought anything of the daily routine until last year. My husband and I made the decision last year that I would take a break from teaching because the schedule was very demanding, with me sometimes working 12-14 hour days and weekends. The hammer on the head was that my kiddos (then 2 and 5) were beginning to notice my absence and was simply breaking my heart. So I left.

After about 3 months of not teaching, I started to truly miss it. I truly believed I was called to be an educator and once God puts something in your heart, it is very difficult to just walk away. So, I signed up to sub at my son's school.

Now, here's the WOW factor.

In my previous life, I had to beg my students to stand (or at least sit quietly) during morning announcements and the pledge. I had to beg my students to sit quietly during the state mandated moment of silence we had each morning. I had to beg my students to do something they've been doing since they were in kindergarten. I never forced a child to stand for the pledge or state it, but I was asking for some quiet time during this morning routine. I don't believe that is too much to ask. It was exhausting to have to remind high school students every single day what the phrase "moment of silence" means.

My first opportunity to substitute, I was prepared for this morning routine. I'd been doing it for years. Here is the first time my jaw dropped during the day. When the announcer came on the intercom, every single student stood at attention, crossed their hands and faced the same direction. They remained there, quietly, until it was time to say the pledge of allegiance. Each student then put his/her hand over their heart and recited the pledge. When they were finished, they sat down and turned their attention to me. I didn't say a word to them.

The "worst" students in the classes (the jokers, etc) could easily be compared to the best students in my previous experience. These students listened to instructions, they completed their tasks, and they did it in one class period. I can't tell you how many times I had to extend assignments because a) the students chose not to do the assignment and b) we certainly can't fail a student, now can we? The day went on and on like this and it got me thinking...

Why is it like this? empty classroom with desks lined in rows

The other main reason I left my job was because it was emotionally and physically taxing to teach these students that simply had no respect for my classroom. Witnessing the students at this other school for one day made me realize, it's not like this everywhere.

My daily experiences in my previous life:

  • It was very rare to get true support and backing from administration. You received instructions to "deal" with it (never mind you were taking away from the other 28-29 students. And you certainly could not FAIL a student.
  • Students had no accountability or responsibility for their actions or inactions. If you tried to teach them, you'd have to prepare yourself for a blast from a parent.
  • But, there was also no parental support. You could call numbers provided and they didn't exist. You could email to accounts that didn't exist. You could beg and plead for a parent to come conference, they wouldn't come.

It's a series of issues that keep building and building and unfortunately, it's going to "blow up" before it gets any better. That breaks my heart.

In public systems, "they" (those being people who have never been in a classroom or have forgotten what it's like to be in a classroom) are piling on paperwork, discipline and sometimes parenting to the teachers. The required paperwork grew exponentially in the years I taught. By the time I left, it would already be 15 minutes into the class period before I could get the class started on the day's lesson.

Discipline: I'd have to have 4 infractions (if my memory serves me correctly) and I'd have to have parent contact for each infraction before I could send the student to admin. So, take another 5-10 minutes of class time to deal with one or two disruptive students.

I could go on and on about this. And the question is raised, "why is there a shortage in public schools?"

The pay...

The hours...

Lack of respect...

Then, I look at the teachers at the school I subbed at. Turn over is non-existent. You have to wait for someone to retire to try to land a teaching position there. In my one short day I witnessed:

  • Admin support
  • Structure/Routine
  • Students were accountable and responsible for their actions
  • Students were respectful
  • PARENTAL support was every where

So, something needs to change. The system is broken, people are leaving public schools and they're leaving them for a reason.

There has GOT to be a way to not overwork staff, teach students accountability and respect (while still respecting the students) and make teachers want to be there. I wish I had the answers.

What are your thoughts?


Written by Shay Rafferty
I help families shift to living live a life of wellness and abundance by using natural, plant-based products.