Jordan Kohanim is a former Fulton County high school teacher and one of my favorite posters on the blog because of her eloquence, her candor and her willingness to put her name behind her comments.
She quit teaching. Here, she tells us why:
By Jordan Kohanim
I have decided to quit teaching. Maybe not forever, but definitely for a year or two. This is not a decision I came to lightly, and I did not feel triumphant in it at all. To be frank, I had never felt more defeated in my life.
It’s true that I am statistic. More than 50 percent of teachers leave teaching in the first seven years. Most of those are in the first five years. This was year seven for me.
I told a colleague that I planned on leaving the profession and he told me something that really hurt at first. He said, “Your leaving won’t change anything.” Emphasis on the anything. It felt like an arrow through my heart.
In the long run, he’s right, though. That is part of the reason I am quitting. I know —ego drives us all — but I really thought I made a difference. And I did — for about a dozen or so kids, but there is no way I can make difference enough for long enough, all while keeping my sanity.
I have lost my faith in public education. That means it is time to walk away.
It started last year when I was chair of the student support team, which addresses the needs of struggling students. I watched the neediest of students get declined services, while the most deceptive of parents used their lawyers to manipulate the system into giving their children unfair advantage. I saw so many students and teachers hurt in this process, so many adults whose sole concern was not education or the well-being of children, so many lawyers and politicians who cared nothing about learning, that I broke.
I broke. No one can fix education when everyone just wants to sue. No one can fix a system where every success is countered with a failure. Where blame-shifting is status-quo. Where the responsibility for success and failure relies on everyone but the child. I became disgusted. I stopped doing the student support team and went back to just teaching full time.
I thought this last school year I would regain my love for teaching. Maybe it was too late.
My classes were too big. If I work six-hour days with no breaks, it takes 28 days to grade essays for my 159 students. That is for one semester. I am an English teacher. My kids must write. I must grade it. I actually enjoy grading, but 159 is too much, 28 days is too much.
Merit pay is coming, whether I like it or not. It is already in effect in other places. My dad says they have been threatening it for years and it hasn’t happened. Well, now it is tied to federal dollars for Georgia. So, like it or not — our kids are data points. They are numbers on someone’s spreadsheet.
Their purpose in school is not learning — it is education. And there is a difference between learning and education. I didn’t realize it before. I guess that makes me very naive.
When I coached debate my kids learned. They learned about rhetoric, philosophy, policy, government, language and discipline. I spent so many hours making sure they truly understood just how powerful those concepts are. Even that, though, was so much time. I did it alone. I neglected my family, myself.
That’s what this boils down to. My family comes first. I have given so much to other peoples’ families. I have fought so hard to always do the right thing — and to be honest, I’m tired. I can’t do this job half-way. I just can’t. It’s too important. It means too much.
My husband stood up to his boss and moved to a better company. I guess I am doing the same thing. Funny, I don’t feel as victorious. I just feel sad and a little angry, but not satisfied.
This isn’t a decision I am proud of. I will ultimately be happier for leaving teaching. I will make more money, I will have more time and I will no longer neglect myself for the sake of others’ children. I would like to go back some day when the system finally figures out how lucky it is that people are willing to teach.
Maybe I could have found a different school. Maybe I should have gone to private school. Maybe I should just move on and not look back. That will be difficult, though.
On the bright side, I have a new job. It’s actually a lot like teaching — I just educate my clients on their health and Medicare supplement insurance options. I still get to serve a group of people. They are just a different group of people. That being said, I cannot ignore that I am leaving a profession I love dearly. Everyone in my family has been part of public education. I viewed it as a calling. I guess now the call has changed its tune.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog