It has the hashtag #StayPublic on it.
I have spent the last three weeks in a whirlwind of end-of-year activities: last tests, final exams, faculty dinners, department meetings, room cleanup, moving stuff out and home. It's been weird to think that it'll be over here soon.
But that mug, with that hashtag...
I have a confession. When I started teaching, in public schools, 15 years ago, I assumed that I'd do it for a while (maybe 10 years) and then go train teachers - help them get better at their craft. Such arrogance on my part! I learned very quickly that (a) teachers learn best from other practicing teachers, not from ivory-tower academics, and (b) there was NO WAY I was going to know enough about being a teacher after 10 years to be in any position to "train" teachers. Hell, I (now) know that even my choice of the word "train" was wrong, but that's a subject perhaps for another post.
So on I went, learning, growing, hopefully getting incrementally better at dealing with the things that we teachers are supposed to be experts in. Supervision/administration didn't interest me much, and as the required paperwork from our central office, Trenton, and Washington DC continued to grow, any interest I'd ever had in being one lessened. But public schools were where I was teaching, and where I thought I'd teach forever.
When I talk with people about moving on, I'm asked "why leave?" a lot. I'm struggling to understand for myself why, as a kid raised in a good, rural public school system, with parents who went through public schools, and as a parent of a child in a good public school system, I would voluntarily exit it. A few of the reasons I can come up with:
- I miss physics, thinking about it, and talking about it with students on a regular basis, and I have a really cool opportunity now to do so.
- I am frustrated by the regulations, rules, and mandates placed on public schools by people who have no experience with, nor interest in, making schools more humane, engaging, and thoughtful environments.
- I am frustrated by my own inability to help ALL of my students. There are some students, every year, I simply cannot reach, and every year it gets harder and harder to see victories instead of defeats.
- I am saddened to see the teachers in my school being portrayed as the intransigent opposition during very contentious contract negotiations. If public schools - and their teachers - become something that a town views as a cost center rather than an integral part of the community, I fear for the future of public education.
- Relatedly, I am tired of being told "tenure protects bad teachers"/"unions have destroyed public education"/etc. I'm tired of the national discourse (or lack thereof) around public education and teachers. It seems to span the entire range from "get rid of all the teachers and replace them with shiny new TFA recruits and we'll have educational success" to "get rid of unions and tenure and then we'll have educational success".
- Finally, I know that the pendulum of education swings back and forth. CCSS may come or go, PARCC may come or go, anti-teacher sentiment may come or go, but life is short, and I'm not really interested in waiting 10 years to see what happens next.
I'm not Peter Greene; bless him and all who stay. I'm also not any of the thousands of great teachers who soldier on in public education, pushing for changes that we all know need to happen.
What I am, at the end, is a guy in his mid-40s who is blessed with an amazing wife and daughter and who desperately needed a change of scenery. I'm lucky to have found it and can't wait to get started.
I always thought I would #StayPublic. But sometimes, life gives you that tap on the shoulder and says it's time to make a change. So here we go.