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An Urban Teacher Tells us Why She Must Leave


As I have written, I work to support science teachers in Oakland, seeking to retain them so as to strengthen instruction, and so our students can benefit from their experience. As the year has progressed, it has become clear that this is a difficult challenge, and so I have been trying to delve into the reasons our teachers are leaving. Last week I wrote about the many pressures these teachers face. This week, I want to share a message I received from a young science teacher in an urban Bay Area school district who is preparing to leave. If we are to address this problem, we need to listen.

I am a middle school science teacher.
I have taught at the same school for the last four years. One of my classes has 33 students, 11 of which have an IEP. The rest of the students are low-skilled. Along with low skills comes bad behavior. Yes, I do have a teaching assistant, but that’s not enough. There need to be fewer bodies in the classroom at one time. Math and English classes have reduced class sizes (at the most 20) because our country and state have deemed them more important subjects than history or science. Science uses the same skills as are needed in Math and English. I have complained to my administration about the class size and a reduction is promised in the near future.

The administration tries to help but really they are just the district’s tools.
Administration provides no direction, just directives. Each year there is a new magic bullet that will answer our school’s problems. And each year, the staff is forced to attend some new training. Each training costs the district thousands of dollars. In my four years at this district, I have seen something new introduced each year. If we are in such a budget crisis, why are we spending our money so carelessly?

The district is flailing their arms and grabbing onto anything they heard that worked somewhere else. The district and the administration have no focus. Their focus should be on the learning or the lack of learning taking place in the classroom.

One way the administration could increase learning is by suspending students that are continuously disrupting the classroom and school environment.
At my school, we have a number of students that yell out, say and do inappropriate things and are disrespectful to other students and adults. These students take away class time and causes a sense of chaos. Interventions should be in place for these students, but we have none. For each student, the school gets a certain amount of money and if students are absent or suspended the school loses that money. The district pointed this out to us. They made it clear that the amount of money lost to suspensions in one year was equivalent to an administrator’s salary. Since then, these students continue to wander the halls and sit in the classrooms with this disruptive behavior.

As a teacher, I try to contact students' homes if they are having behavioral or academic problems. Most parents say they are going to help out and talk to their child. Often there is no change and if there is change, it is short-lived. The students who really need a call home often have given me numbers that do not work. Parents and the community have become more of a distraction than anything else. Earlier this month, there were two fights. One fight was between two parents and the second fight was between two adults from the community involving guns. Both incidents occurred in the same week and in front of the students after school.

I often leave school feeling defeated.
I come back day after day because I am motivated by a paycheck and health care (neither of which are that great), and the hope that I will be able to pay off my student loan one day. I did not start off with this bleak outlook. I always wanted to be a teacher. The teachers I had growing up inspired me. I went off to college and majored in Marine Biology. I could work in the field but I would rather teach science. After teaching here for four years, I often wonder if I made the right decision. Many friends and colleagues point out that maybe I just need to teach somewhere else, and I agree with them.

What do you think of the issues this teacher raises? What changes do you think could be made to help teachers like this find more success?


Teaching in an urban district is hard. That is undeniable. Still, there are a couple of things that came out of this that raise red flags for me, I wouldn't want this teacher for my child.

According to resiliency studies, paycheck and healthcare will never keep teachers at urban schools (although both are very important and must be improved). The motivation has to be something deeper--a commitment to social justice, a spiritual or personal calling. Teachers don't have to stay in the classroom forever but defeated teachers should leave.

Blaming parents: dealing with parents many times is just as hard if not harder than dealing with students but we MUST involve parents and community. Gone are the days where teachers came from the same community as students and families. Now we have to develop those relationships intentionally. Otherwise it's so easy to blame THOSE parents over there that look nothing like me, talk nothing like me, live nothing like me. They are the ones with the problem, with the bad attitude, with the messed up culture, wrong skills, if they changed everything would be fixed. Something is not right about that. Those parents want the best for their children just like conceivably this teacher and other want the best for our children.

The answer is to suspend more children: in a previous blog, Anthony shared information from the Children's Defense Fund about pipelines to college and to jail. Suspending children is a pipeline to jail. It is absolutely ridiculous to suspend children for yelling out, even for cursing. It goes back to really knowing children, knowing families, and knowing communities. Keeping children out of school is not a solution. Besides, why do students get a vacation for acting out. As teachers, we're the ones that need some time off after an incident like that in our classroom!

As teachers we need to be professionals that advocate for ourselves. Joining professional organizations, collaborating with colleagues. Administrators are other human beings. We can go to them as professionals and advocate for what we need. We can say to them--this is the pedagogy that I use in my class and where I have seen the most gains from my students. Let's have a conversation and figure out what's best for children. It's not us against them. We are all working for children. All of this passive-aggressive mess needs to stop. Some administrators don't have focus just like some teachers have no focus. There are many capable teachers and administrators in this district though . . . and the difference between direction and directive is unimportant. Most administrators are not actively hindering the teaching process of highly capable/highly functional teachers.

Finally, teaching is the most humbling professional in the world. If we are looking around and everyone else seems to be the problem then you might be surprised to realize that the problem is within. We always have areas for growth and it doesn't matter how much experience or expertise we have, there is always that student (or parent) that challenges us to our very core. We wonder "what does he need? how can I serve her? what can I do better? how can I engage her?"

Don't get me wrong--there are major structural changes that need to happen in our educational system--MAJOR--and there are many of us that are continuing to advocate for those changes. In the end though, if you decide to teach in Oakland expect to teach on your own island and use your survivor skills to make it work for you and your students. It's your own little family and no matter how chaotic the school environment is, your class can still be an oasis and if everyone's class was an oasis then the school would be paradise.

This frustrated young teacher sounds like many I have mentored or worked with over the years. They come bright-eyed, eager to do good, and most of them woefully underprepared for the realities of the modern classroom. This teacher mentions majoring in Marine Biology, but what was the teacher preparation or new teacher mentoring? Or was there any?

Many of the issues this teacher raises are real problems--not being able to contact parents (even in emergency, it's become too common here for parents to either give phony numbers, wrong numbers, or no numbers at all). Administrators randomly jumping from one reform idea to another without strategic thinking or teacher input: been there too. Interventions to help disruptive or troubled students--starting with those used by the teacher--should be in place. Suspensions can only be one tool in a plan, not the only tool. What I hear in this story though is a lot of miscommunication or no communication. Not all the students are disruptive; not all the parents show up to fight in public; surely not every administrator in the district is ineffective--so what's the rest of the story?

While I understand Kafi Payne's survival suggestion of trying to set up one's own classroom as an "oasis in chaos," a more lasting solution might be stronger networking of teachers both within the district and broader. There are teachers, parents, students, and administrators even in the most dysfunctional of schools or districts who have a vision of something much better. Linking those people together to solve the problems is moving in the best direction for all concerned.

I also have been teaching for the same number of years as this teacher and am working hard to make this my last year. I teach in an urban setting and I have the same exact complaints. Unfortunately , in large urban districts, it is hopeless for the students and teachers unless drastic, very drastic, changes are made.

I too have seen many dollars spent on implementing new, useless teaching strategies and materials during professional development time that could have been spent in the classroom doing our job, teaching children. Each year my district wastes the same money trying to implement a change that has not been well thought out. The attitude is "just do it."

We are told by our district superiors that as teachers we are doing all the right things but they still do not understand why the kids are not making AYP. Well... why are they not questioning what we are doing is not right for these kids? If I give you directions to get from A to B and I give you a wrong directive, but you follow the directives exactly, will you end up at B? Of course not. My directives were wrong but you followed them as I said.

I've been told by veteran teachers that they would never recommend teaching as a career for someone coming out of college. I too would not recommend it as well. I changed careers so I am not a naive 22-year old. Teaching is a thankless profession; one in which a person must have thick skin. You are not only a teacher but a mother, babysitter, mentor, counselor, therapist, and nurse amongst other things. Most administrators quickly forget what the classroom experience is like as soon as they get a little bit of power. Teachers are in a hurry to get their principal certifications in order to get out of the classroom. Most principals I've worked with have either less than 5 years teaching experience or have not been in a classroom for at least 25 years.

Yes, teachers need to have a passion for the profession and not solely be driven by salary and health care packages. However, I doubt that this science teacher signed up for the job with those things in the forefront of their mind. This teacher is like myself, desperately searching for a reason to continue going to work everyday. I'm also hanging on by the thread of a measly salary and health benefits until I find another alternative. This does not mean that we do not give 100%+ while in the classroom. It just means that our time to move on has come and gone and we are trying to make sense of senseless profession. It means that our educational philosophies are not aligned with the archaic and political systems that are currently in place in the US urban educational systems. It means that we still have hope that we can reach these children, but know it will be from outside the current systems in which we too are victims.

I would have this science teacher teach my own children as I can relate to their situation. This teacher is not blaming anyone. This teacher is looking for help and pointing out the inequities they see and experience every single day. This teacher wants to help their students but no longer feels empowered to do so. I hope this teacher finds a way to make change, either within the current system or outside of it. Anyone who becomes a teacher and spends more than just a couple of years teaching is doing it because of something deep within themselves that goes beyond money. I hope this teacher finds their way back to that original drive and calling. I wish this for myself as well.

There are so many things to say. Like this teacher, I emerged from college with hopes of being the one inspiring teacher that would make a difference for my students. I recall that student teaching was difficult, but believed that this was a part of the student teacher role and that things would get better.

I didn't get a chance to find out. At the time and at my geographic location teacher openings were scarce. When I did not get a job teaching I opted for a year as a VISTA volunteer--hoping to build my experience and eventually get to a classroom. It didn't happen that way. I loved the community work that I was doing--which included all of the challenges that are cite here, with regard to students and their backgrounds, but also had a rich and supportive philosophy of community building. I lived for a time with a family in my community, following which I stayed for many years in the community. I was mentored by teenagers who knew how to maintain order within a group of children. I was granted the freedom to try things (within the parameters of our philosophy) that I believed would work, and challenged to report back on progress.

While we were frequently scorned by teachers--who believed that we could "kick kids out" at will, we had clear expectations about the inclusion of anyone who wanted to be a part--as well as a focus on maintaining an inter-racial agency and a formal rejection of the use of punishment (corporal and otherwise). In the summer we moved nearly all of staff to our residential camping program. I recall that our Director frequently responded to camper's insistence that their cabin could stay out of trouble if only so-and-so weren't there by placing the named child in another cabin. When campers found that they only found someone new to argue with, there were held accountable, in a group meeting, for their actions--and the fallacy of their assumptions pointed out. Other times she pointed out the isolation and pain of the so-and-so who was serving as a scapegoat, and campers came up with strategies to befriend the "troublemaker."

These are things that don't necessarily transfer to the classroom--but when I did finally spend time in the classroom I had a very different understanding of problems--and solutions. Suspension really does not solve much of anything. Removing a kid from the classroom is at best a temporary solution until the teacher has time (and it really has to be the teacher) to work out a more lasting solution. Administrators and parents can really only have limited impact on behavior that takes place within classrooms. They can help and support--but in the end it is the teacher's own sense of efficacy (this is what I learned from those mentoring teenagers) that makes the biggest difference. When you know that you are able to handle the things that come up, fewer things come up. This only develops over time and with successive experiences of things that work and do not.

There are, however, things that schools can provide that offer massive support to teachers going through this. One is to develop and act on a sense that everyone is in this together. The hallways, cafeteria and bathrooms, the busses and the grounds, including before and after school, are everyone's concern. I suspect that this is lesson one that is learned when a teacher becomes an administrator--everyone wants to foist these areas off on you and there is no way that you can make a difference alone. There are fifty-eleven ways to respond to and set expectations for student behaviors in these areas, and the only ones that are wrong are those that either ignore them or don't involve all of staff in their development and implementation. At middle school and high school things work best if students are involved as well.

The other piece of my experience that seems missing from too many schools is the acknowledgement that parents care about their children and their education. While a student who is in trouble may have a motive to provide an inaccurate phone number, the assumption that parents routinely and deliberately provide wrong, or no means of contact is a terribly jaded observation, and one that my experience denies. While I have had the same home phone number for decades, the same work number for years at a time, and now even a cell phone number that I have kept for years, I know that this stability is not present in everyone's life. The lower and less stable one's income is, the more frequently they are likely to move, have basic utilities shut off, have things (like cell phones) lost or stolen, spend time "doubled up" in someone else's household, change jobs, have jobs that are imperiled by frequent personal phone calls, etc.

I have had school experiences in which the "call to mom" was abused. I still steel myself when I see a district phone number come up on the caller ID. I have had teachers who ernestly believe that their students parents were cut from a different mold from they or their peers and thought nothing of providing non-explanations to questions and then hanging up the phone (or handing it without explanation to someone else). It's easy to believe that rudeness is called for when you also believe that you are talking to someone who is coaching their child in bad behavior and deliberately avoiding phone calls.

I would be hesitant to have my child in this teacher's classroom. I would be more willing if I knew that the school overall was a supportive place in which problems have solutions and blaming others was not the ongoing order of the day.

I am very uncomfortable with the question that keeps cropping up in these comments: would you want your child in this teacher's classroom? We have no clear parameters for judging this young teacher's performance--and it's wrong for us to be declaring whether we would or would not choose this teacher for our child. In fact, this kind of snap judgment reflects our larger national belief in the false dichotomy of good teacher/bad teacher, or the wishful thinking behind silver bullet policy solutions to complex systemic problems.

In fact, we owe the teacher a thank-you for her blunt honesty in sharing her frustrations and for proposing some remediations. She notes that churn in district initiatives doesn't help, cuts through some rhetoric, and tells her story. She deserves our thoughtful attention, not our evaluation--and certainly not pushback.

If we don't support promising young teachers, preferring to churn them in and out of schools in the same way we adopt then abandon reform programs, we will never build continuity of instruction, shared knowledge of students, collective efficacy as a staff. In second-guessing this teacher's performance, we are going down a path of de-skilling the extremely difficult and multi-layered profession of teaching.

Where are the great teachers going to come from--the ones who will replace this thoughtful teacher? Diane Ravitch has some good things to say on this subject:


I really appreciate all the comments so far.

I shared the message from this teacher not because she is a role model -- she is not claiming to be one. She is honestly describing her real frustrations. She could teach in any one of dozens of urban districts across this country, as is evidenced by the clear echo from Philly Teacher in the third comment.

Very few teachers arrive with the skills to communicate well enough with parents and students to overcome the problems that often arise. I think we have to have better systemic support for classroom teachers for discipline issues. I agree that suspension is a blunt instrument, and contributes to the pipeline to prison. However, in many schools, there is no alternative response, so students who are disrupting class are simply returned to the teacher. If this happens often enough, it can become overwhelming, as has happened with the teacher above.

I envision our schools as nurturing places. In order for our teachers to function as compassionate human beings, in order for them to summon the deep understanding that our students need, they must be nurtured as well. Our administrators, mentors and veteran teachers must have the systemic wherewithal to nurture our new teachers. That is our job.

But the system as it is set up now is not allowing us to do that job, and we get the result we are seeing -- burnt out, frustrated teachers quitting, warning others not to make the mistake they made in thinking they could make a difference. We have GOT to do better.

File this comment right next to Nancy's. I was suprised to see this turn into an evaluation of the teacher, or the trigger for coaching or comparisons. And I didn't get the sense that she was blaming parents or community - just saying that she's tried to do something worth trying, and that's not working for her.

To that anonymous colleague, I offer my sympathy and my appreciation for her efforts, for the work she's done for students, and for sharing her struggles through Anthony's blog.

As I wrote to a friend of mine recently, not only do we need to attract good candidates to teaching jobs, but we also need to fix the system that breaks potentially good teachers, and keeps good teachers from becoming great, from becoming models for their peers, from becoming leaders while still teaching, from becoming the cornerstones of effective school reforms and improvements.


As there were two of us who used the indicator "would you want your child in this teacher's class?" and I was one, let me respond to your concerns. First, I thought that I was being clear about my hesitation and also about school conditions that would ease my mind if my child were placed with a teacher who was facing struggles severe enough to make her question her place in teaching. In fact, my children have experienced teachers who were struggling, no one has ever asked me for an endorsement and I have faced some very helpless years on the sidelines watching conditions go from bad to worse as my child suffered.

However, most of my response considered changes that are needed in the overall culture of school that would not only support children, but also support teachers who are trying to find their sea legs on the tossing ship of middle school. While this teacher's responses (the problem is the administration, the problem is the parents, the kids' "skill levels" are too low, too many are on IEPs, we need to suspend more kids) are not atypical--what I would seek first to change are not her responses--but the support that those responses receive from teaching peers, over and over again. The problem lies outside the profession (and principals and other administrators, the minute they move from the classroom are "outside the profession").

Yes--there is a lack of strategic planning behind many changes. However--this exists at the building level as well as the district level. Both are required by NCLB to create improvement plans, with measures of improvement and to include parents in plans and reports of progress. This is not happening in my district (oh, there are papers that contain the words "continuous improvement plan," but nobody pays any attention to them--they are whipped out annually without any thought and any progress or lack thereof never noted or examined). Anthony, in an earlier conversation believes that this is part of NCLB that was dropped along the way. It is not. It is still there. It could serve as an important tool to build the kind of strategic thoughtfulness that prevents flavor of the year improvement planning. But, as I noted, I don't see this being carried out any more thoughtfully by teachers at the building level than by administrators at the district level.

So--the reality is, teachers like this Marine Biologist are pretty much left to sink or swim on their own. Would I prefer that my kids be a part of her particular hell? No, I would not. Could most schools do a better job of supporting her--and the children in her class? Yes, they could. Would this solve every problem in education? No it would not. Is that a meaningful excuse for not doing the things that can be done? I don't think so.

Why not ask "should my child be in this classroom"? Let's remember that 85% of intern teachers are assigned to high minority schools while only 3% of interns are assigned to low minority schools. As a "minority" parent, many times we are incredibly patient with these new teachers as they learn not to judge our children, our parenting, our communities and then if and when they "get" it--they move to another school district that's easier. I have heard teachers say "I wouldn't want to teach in a white school because parents are always in your face." Let some poor black parents consistently question the teacher and her practices . . . we're labeled angry and volatile.

I'm tired of being patient with new teachers.

I WILL be patient with a new teacher though if she really and truly loves my child and sees him as a wonderful human being with infinite potential and sees his little quirks and goofiness as inherently good.

Why would you let a new dentist work on your teeth? Why would you let a new realtor sell your house? Why would you let a new beautician color your hair? You would if they were your sister, brother, or best friend.

As a new teacher, I have to humble myself to serve these children and families that are patiently allowing me to make my sometimes big and sometimes small mistakes. We cannot forget this. Relationship building is key because when you know a child really well you won't want him kicked out of your class even if he tests your nerves every day. Love will make you see students as individuals and not as the 11 special ed students in the corner.

And we don't need to teach forever--but let us love these children in the time that we do teach whether that is 4 years or 40.

The following came to me from a teacher who taught in Oakland for two years and left.

There is a very simple reason why Oakland does not retain teachers: there is a severe input to reward ratio imbalance. For most teachers, the energy input of building and preparing great lessons/labs and managing their students outweighs the rewards.

Here are few ways to fix it:

1. MAKE TEACHERS ACCOUNTABLE. Everything is predicated on this one. If we want to demand more from our students, we need to demand more from our teachers. Stop spending money on training fads and starting spending it on people who will hold teachers accountable- in their department, school and district. Most teachers know how to teach well- but what's the motivation for being good? What's the motivation for spending your nights designing labs/lessons when you can use stock worksheets and nobody will even notice? It is harder to create and prepare a great activity than to manage bored students. This is why most of the truly successful teachers in Oakland are the ones who genuinely LOVE seeing their students learn- otherwise it's more rational to not care.

2. REWARD SUCCESSFUL TEACHERS. If we are going to demand more from our teachers, we need to reward them when they succeed. Significantly! Monetarily and with public recognition. I'm as skeptical of test scores as anyone, but there needs to be some sort of way to reward teachers for raising performance besides a pat on the back. Again, this works in a synergistic alliance with #1; if you are able to successfully demand more from your teachers, you can pay them more and get more bang for your buck.

3. TEACHERS MUST BE CONSISTENT WITH DISCIPLINE. Whenever I heard teachers complaining about their student's behavior in their classrooms, I knew they were either lazy or completely exhausted. If you're a teacher and you're students are not behaving properly, it is 95% your fault. Building a discipline system is easy, but a behavioral system is only as good as the consistency with which it is reinforced. The energy it takes to consistently and fairly discipline Oakland students is overwhelming. The solution...

4. COMPELLING LESSONS ARE THE BEST BEHAVIORAL POLICY. Every Oakland teacher knows those days where discipline is a breeze. Those are the same days your lessons are interesting and fun. Building a functional network- nationwide!- of GOOD science lesson plans and labs would greatly help the learning curve and total energy expenditure by teachers on both planning and discipline. The only way a network like this will emerge is by putting money into it by paying for GOOD contributions (as judged by the teachers who are using the lessons).

5. MAKE IT WORTHWHILE FOR THE STUDENTS. In the same way we need to set up schools to make it worth it for teachers, we need to make it worth it for students as well. Personally, I think there needs to be a total rethinking of what 'school' should be. Our schools are antiquated systems. Their purpose have been long forgotten about and we are left with a subsidized babysitting service that has ambiguous, pointless and invalid goals. There needs to be a national rethinking of the ultimate PURPOSE of schools and the efficacy of classroom learning for that purpose.

I wish I had found this forum when I was still in the classroom. I too got to a point where I said enough is enough. Unlike the teacher in this article though, I left because the administrators and enitre administration did not respect or value teachers; moreover, they did not show any concern for students with disabilities (which is the area I taught) and did not show any genuine interest in learning or enforcing the rules. Before anyone says anything about professional organizations, they are a joke in this state because teachers and administrators can belong to the same one. When issues arise, they typically take the side of the administrator. The title of Kotlowitz's next book should be: There are no unions here. And how that allows administrators to pretty much do whatever they want, when they want. I wnjoyed working with the students, even though there were days when they were 'off the chain' as the kids would say, I still hung in there for them. Besides, they could be a beast one day and come in the next day as if nothing happened! That was just hilarious to me and also taught me a little something about forgiveness and not holding a grudge (against children..adults or 'porfessionals' are a different story).

When the school district began saying and doing inappropriate things towards my son, that is where I draw the line! I left at the end of the first semester and have been unemployed ever since..they refuse to give a teaching reference so I am basically stuck now...bu that;s o.k. because the district is now catching hell for some of the other illegal and unethical things it has condoned.

To all the young teachers who feel the same way as the teacher in th article: If you really love teaching but the environment or lackadaisacal attitude of others has gotten you down, just take some time to think about how YOU can improve what goes on in YOUR classroom. At this stage, you cannot worry about the entire school, instead focus on your room and then when things start to fall into place, you can share your best practices with other teachers in the same boat. Your feelings are NOT an indication of your abilities as a teacher, but instead as a human being. I encourage you to re-evaluate some things and find a way to stay in th field and in a aplce where you are needed. You might not believe this, but I am sure there are some kids in your class who appreciate you-they probably just don't know how to tell you (it sounds crazy, but it is true) so instead they come to class everyday (that's one way) and act-up.

I wish you the best and I hope you find the answers you are searching for.

Your recent posts have me thinking a lot. Feeling a lot. More than anything - feeling.

I also work in Oakland. I taught for many years and now am a coach in a struggling middle school. More than anything, I've lately been feeling such sadness in our schools.

I felt that sadness reading this post about the teacher who will leave and the subsequently posted comments. I was once a young teacher who struggled for 3 years in an overcrowded, dysfunctional East Oakland elementary school. I felt so frustrated and useless and more part of the problem than the solution and so I quit and went to graduate school. But after two years in the Ivory Tower, I quit my PhD program. I wanted to be back in the real world, to make a difference.

I've been back in this real world now for 10 years. It's so hard. So painful. I work with a large group of angry teachers (mostly teachers of color) who have given up hope, blame students and their families, advocate suspension and expulsion. They are so angry and disempowered and cynical. They never got the training they needed, they don't get the on-going support they need, and the pressures and demands of their daily jobs are overwhelming.

I also work with and try to support administrators who never got the training or support they needed and who are overwhelmed by the incredible pressures of NCLB. They also feel defeated and their best efforts are often undermined left and right.

And then the kids - middle school kids - also angry, disenfranchised, disempowered, so distant from the people they want to be. Of course, we all know, they're really the ones getting screwed (excuse my language).

In my position I'm supposed to nurture the new and veteran teachers, the admin also to some extent. But I'm finding that I'm soooo drained and exhausted by the dysfunction at every level - from the teachers to the the system which is totally dysfunctional and oppressive.

I also wear another hat, one that is becoming increasingly hard to wear--I am the mother of a 5 year old African American boy who needs to go to kindergarten next year. We live in Oakland. I can't imagine sending him to a public school in this district. And so, Kafi's comments also resonate. When I don my mama-cap I can't see clearly. I feel such intense anger at the system, administrators, teachers who I see shaming and humiliating black boys every day. I see lives destroyed every day. I wonder if my son will end up there.

I often feel that I should quit also. Perhaps I'm also getting too damaged (traumatized even) by what I see -- too much pain and suffering on every level.

Anthony, you say it's our job to nurture. I don't know if I have the wherewithal left in me. Who nurtures us, the veteran teachers, the coaches? I often just feel broken-hearted. There are so many good people in this district, so many brilliant people with tremendous vision and energy, and yet we can't seem to get it together.

I stay because I am one of those who is deeply committed to social justice. Because there aren't many people waiting to take my job. Because I love and have loved too many of Oakland's young people. But I am soooooo tired.

Recently, in another forum, Anthony you mentioned something about a retreat center for teachers in need of renewal. I have often dreamed of such a place. I think that starts to address the needs that are not met anywhere for teachers.

I don't have the right words yet, but I often wonder if what we need, we who toil year after year in urban schools, is some deep soul nurturing. And perhaps even a place and space in which to grieve. Individually and/or with others. I feel tremendous sadness by what I see every day. I don't know what to do with it. There is no place to talk about or process this grief.

And so, back to that novice teacher who is going to quit, and to your recent posts - I am so tired of seeing our teachers quit after a year or two or three, but I also know that I need to put on the oxygen mask first. And I don't have one.

Thank you for such powerful words. We do not often give ourselves permission to give voice to our feelings, but that grief and passion is behind my work as well.

There is so much blame at work here, and many of our teachers and students are suffering from very real trauma as a result of the conditions in our schools. And all we can seem to do is try to find somebody to blame.

All our teachers need that nurturing, and those of us doing this work need support as well. Hang in there, Elena. At least we can support one another.

AC, this is a powerful piece; thanks for getting the discussion started.

I agree with your 5 ways to fix it. There are other factors, but at some point the maxim's truth becomes evident:

"You get what you pay for."

If you told urban teachers that we will pay you a wage which will allow you to purchase a home in the county you teach, for example, a lot of the challenges teachers now face would be miraculously go unreported - they wouldn't matter.

New teachers need to have a paid internship in the district... where they study and learn under a team of vets. In what other profession are the most inexperienced charges given the keys to the emergency room? They should be given intense practical training, and their presence could alleviate some of the logistical concerns of the supervising teachers as well. Two years.....

The teacher above who is leaving is to be commended for knowing when to get out. It's not for everyone. There are other schools that better suit her needs and style.

This teacher should leave. If you are motivated to teach because of a pay check and health insurance, which as you wrote is not great, then those things will not keep you going when teaching gets tough--which is most of the time.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Urban Teacher Enhancement Program is designed to give budding educators the training and skills needed to thrive in an urban school setting. Here is the link for more information:

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