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On the Brink of Quitting


One bad first year shouldn’t mean the end of a teaching career, writes veteran blogger So You Want to Teach. Joel tells one frustrated teacher, who was recently let go, to try another year in a different setting:

I would commit to another year (or even better two) in a new district. Look for a job, find one (districts get desperate at the end of the year and will hire anyone who has a piece of paper that might even look like almost a teaching certificate), and go into it a smarter, wiser, braver soul than you were before.

First year is always bad. Even when a teacher is experienced the first year is rough in a new system because there is a lot more to the job than teaching the kids. You have to learn about the expectations, the climate, the politics, whether your co-workers are friends or foes and whether or not your principal is a decent human being, a sexually harrassing moron, a politically placed incompetent, or a genuine professional. Then you act accordingly.

The first year is very rough. It is a good reason to stay around for another year if you are not let go of. AFter a couple years you will begin to figure out what you do best, the kinds of kids you like to work with and where you can fit in. Some of us never fit in. We just have to become good at what we do and hope for respect, if not love.

Just because a system has all the bells and whistles does not mean it is a good system for you. I know a highly rated suburban sytem in Louisiana that has very few retirees. They don't last that long because of the unnecessarily high demands placed on them for paperwork. It has great facilities and more computers than students and pays among the best in the state and the average teacher is probably 26. The special education Lead got an ulcer, lost most of her stomach and almost died from it. A mean, hateful (to both staff and students) alternately certified paper pusher who does not teach is the principal's pet and runs off her co-workers. Some schools are like flipped houses. All the beauty is cosmetic.

Look for a system where you are needed. Look for a principal that seems genuinely friendly. Don't compete for the suburban schools if you don't have solid experience. Middle class parents with money, time and high expectations are much harder to deal with than poor parents who just want their kids to learn to read and write. A mentally retarded mother can be your best room mother because she wants to help and all she craves is respect and a little attention. A bunch of little urchins on free lunch who love you like their mama can be a very rewarding class. A ragged building with an approachable, genuine principal who keeps the self centered egotists at bay sends flowers if your grandma dies and is not afraid of helping out when needed is a delight to teach in even if they have to have a fence so the drug addicts can't sleep there at night.

But don't quit. Go inner city if you have heart and can love unconditionally. Give your career 5 years. By the third you will know your job and then you have two to do it well. If you don't like it then, do something else.

Wow, awesome response 26 years! I will add your comment to the original article over at my blog. Thanks again!

I am new at reading and commenting to edblogs but I definitely feel the same way as 26 years in comment #1. I believe nobody should give up after their first try at something new. A person’s first time at a new experience is usually going to be hard and challenging, but giving up only shows a person’s weakness. Teachers should know before hand that their job is one of the most challenging jobs out there. Of course, there are always going to be rough patches along the way but the outcome is worth every tear. Teaching is very rewarding, but is not something to take lightly. If the first year is hard try your best to pull through, atleast, for the students.

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