NC Teachers: We are Tired


>>stressed-teacherBy NaShonda Cooke

You’ve heard what I’m about to tell you before. Teachers are overworked. Teachers are leaving the state. Teachers are underpaid. There aren’t enough resources. So why am I telling you again? I’m hoping – praying – something you’ll hear this time will resonate. I bet you all care about these things. You want our kids to have the best, but what will it take to fire you up enough to do something about it?

It’s Tuesday evening at 9:35 and I just walked in the house. Gotta bring the garbage can around, feed the turtle (it’s been 2 days), put another load of laundry in, and something else I know I’m forgetting.

Oh, you thought I had a second shift job? Nope. I’ve been up since 5 am. What’s my occupation? I’m your child’s teacher. I also have two children of my own who are with their father this week. That’s why I’m able to work late nights.

Why so many hours? There’s so much that has to be done and 90% of the day is instruction. I’m teaching reading, writing, social studies, and math to 52 students. I don’t have an assistant (The General Assembly made sure of that about 10 years ago). So, when else am I supposed to check student work, prepare for the next day, respond to parents emails and phone calls, have conferences, research and evaluate resources (no textbooks, yeah the general assembly did away with that too), and last but not least eat and go to the bathroom?

On average, educators have 10 hour days. It’s not the bell schedule most are knowledgeable about. And this also doesn’t include those of us who run after school programs or coach.  Who in their right mind would put themselves through such a hellacious schedule?

Educators, that’s who.

>>“After concerns of stress on the job were reported, a survey on well-being, working conditions and stressors for educators was designed by a group of teachers who are members of the American Federation of Teachers or BATs, and it was reviewed by a workplace stress expert and a professional pollster. Circulated via email and social media, the survey was posted online on April 21 and closed on May 1. The  first of its kind, the 80-question survey was  lled out by more than 30,000 educators.

I’m sorry to tell you, it’s starting to take a toll on the professional field. We aren’t compensated nearly enough so you’d think we’d at least be given an environment with the least amount of stress as possible. Nope. It’s getting to the point where educators are deciding to walk away. We stay as long as we can, but eventually most of us have to leave it behind. What makes us stay for so long? As always, I talked to some colleagues. I don’t want anyone to think “Well, this is just her version…just her perspective.” Nope my friend, it’s collective. New and veteran teachers….we are all tired. See for yourself.

Marsha says, “It’s never enough. No matter what we do or how well.  The non educator decision makers just give us more with less.  And know that we will take it and do it because we have to for our students. I go back because I freaking love love my school and my kids. My babies.  High school ones that is. Lol. Every single day is different. I feed off of them. What they are feeling and want to talk about.  I teach science but if it’s happening in their world we take time to have an open discussion.”

Andrea says “Meetings. I am so meeting’d out. Between IEP’s, staff meetings, early release days, PLT’s, professional development etc., I just can’t anymore! We are meeting’d out and most of these could just be emails! Most of them are in the mornings and I need time, to get myself/ my room ready and zoned in for the day. What brings me back? My kids. I love them. My students make it all worth it. The student who told me yesterday that she is not graduating early because she wants to take level 3 of my class next year, and it is a year long class, so she is staying in school. That’s why I do what I do!”

Jean, who is now retired, put it like this: “I suppose I was spoiled by teaching in the state of NY first, but benefits I counted on having weren’t there. I realized if I want to support myself and my daughter’s overall health teaching in NC is not the way to make sure of it. So I’m back in school. Frankly, I feel totally disrespected as a teacher with a Master’s degree. I put massive amounts of time, money, and effort into my career as a teacher.   Pay must be a real living wage with good health benefits. I’m still shocked that teachers eat lunch with the kids. Isn’t that technically not getting a break (and against labor laws)? Now, I may have the option to return as a speech teacher on a different pay scale. I lean towards going North  on I-85 but I know I will at least see what is out there for me here in NC.”

Di: “For me it is many things- but mostly it’s the added meetings, PLC’s, assessments and BS I have to do. It is all the red tape and hoops I have to jump through to get a child services when they are so clearly needed. Teaching is challenging enough- why does the state have to make it so much harder?! I wish I could just come to work and actually teach- wouldn’t that be nice?  I go back because I love my Kindergarten babies and I know I can still make a difference.

Steven says it beautifully,:
So, I am going to do the un-Superhero thing. I am not Captain America.

I am going to take care of myself for the first time in a long time. I am leaving a toxic environment, without a plan for what happens after.  I am going to start a family.  I am going to get healthy for the first time in a decade, maybe, by having enough time to eat more than once every nine hours and to sleep more than four or five hours.  I’m going to go to a doctor regularly instead of once a year when we get a school holiday.

I am Steve Rodgers, and I am NOT Captain America.  I am Steve Rodgers, and I’m going to have more time to see you face to face and make you look me in the eye and explain yourself.  I am Steve Rodgers, and I’m going to drag every pestilent agenda and policy you concoct in the dark out into the light and bring the wrath of every momma bear down upon thee.  I am Steve Rodgers, and I am going to speak up for kids and parents with my marching band voice and I will drown you out.
I am Steven F*#@*& Rodgers and I am pissed.”

Yes!!!! I am not Wonder Woman! She is my childhood hero. But I am not her! I wish I could live of off my love and compassion for my students. I wish I could pay my bills with my compassion. I wish I could feed my daughters with my desire to create lifelong learners. But like Princess Diana and her invisible jet, that is a fantasy. As awesome as it sounds, it’s not reality.

So what else is there to do now but prepare. Prepare to someday leave the profession that’s in my blood. I can’t see myself doing anything else but hug my students every morning and tell them how wonderful the day is going to be! Being an educator is in my blood! It’s a part of me just like the mole on my right foot. It’s been there my entire life. I have committed 19 years to this profession. I have proven over and over again that I am a ‘highly qualified’ teacher. I have invested anywhere from $250 to $500 a year in classroom expenses and necessities. I have given up so much. I have given up weekends with girls that included Girl Scouts trips and family adventures. And for what? It’s never enough but it’s costing me everything.


I can’t keep these 16 hour days. It’s literally killing me.


There are no comments

Add yours