This will be the final post of the Teacher Voice blog and podcast project that I began in the middle of 2017. I started speaking at school board meetings in Hillsborough County and elsewhere around the state the year before in an effort to educate the public about the looming crisis in public education. I have no doubt in my mind that my education advocacy also led to me walking away from the profession, because all of the research only made me sad and angry.
Plus, if we’re being completely candid with one another–regardless of lack of investment in our students and their educators–the entire system is backwards and broken, pointing toward a past we left behind long ago…
You are all that ever mattered to me. Many, many times over the years of my teaching tenure, people told me to quit. Said I was too smart. Wasting my time. Could be making more money. None of that mattered to me because I loved being around the kids. I never meant to be a teacher. I don’t have a degree in education. I’m just a lifelong learner / nerdy guy who loves to share what he’s learned. And what did I learn the most that I passed along to all of you, my students? Probably what I wrote here, one of my favorite posts over the years. In essence: everyone wants to be seen, heard, recognized, encouraged and loved. I did my best to make sure you felt those things during our time together. If I failed you in this capacity, I am genuinely sorry…but know that I tried my best every day to instill and nurture a similar constant curiosity and love of learning in each of you.
No matter how long we worked together, I appreciate you and your impact on my own progression in the profession. When I started back in 2004 I had many wonderful mentors and years later many have become lifelong friends. By the time I was walking away I felt as if I had become the mentor to many in turn, and so at least I feel as if I paid it forward in the 17 years I was with HCPS. It is unfortunate that I had to leave you behind, but for my own sanity it had to be done. Know that I think of you and all educators every day, and I salute those of you who carry on in the face of great adversity.
Having said that, though, I am dead serious when I encourage any educator who saw that video or reads these words to QUIT. It was bad enough when the state continued to undermine public education by not investing any money into it, but then COVID happened and the money printer went into high gear, touching off record inflation that remains sticky and unlikely to ever revert to the mean. At the same time, veteran teachers who have toiled away for a decade or more barely make $50K and new teachers walking through the door have a guarantee of $45K.
Between the lack of meaningful raises and rampant inflation, pitiful teacher salaries have been decimated.
Nothing shows how little the state/your district cares about the veteran teachers who have knowledge and experience than this cockamamie scheme that has been the killer blow to our profession. This is exactly what the state wants: a burn-and-churn workforce that comes in all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to change the world out of some noble yet naive passion. These young teachers quickly realize the work is endless, they have no support or resources, and eventually leave for something that is far easier, more lucrative, and carries zero emotional baggage–all before they are vested in FRS.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but many kids are absolutely out of control in the classrooms, even at the best schools. There are not enough adults to properly supervise kids, and the explosion of smartphone usage and how it has become normalized by our society means most kids are already tuned out by the time they get to school. We have parents worried about a single book in a library that is probably collecting dust, meanwhile kids are all trying to do the latest TikTok dance with their friends or exchanging highly explicit content with them via random airdrops, text messages and/or DMs on social media apps. And even if kids are caught in the act of doing something wrong or bad, it’s often brushed under the rug or if there is any consequence it is minimal at best. Students routinely cuss out each other and teachers openly, and there is never any repercussion. Due to the influence of social media (again, not books), many students are shockingly sexually active at a very young age (talking 6th grade here…and in affluent neighborhoods where moms would be clutching pearls if they knew). Unless you are absolutely sure this is not one of your own children, it would be worth sitting him / her / them down to have a long, honest discussion about their friends, social media use, and what it is like in their classrooms at school.
I cannot convey with words how difficult this job is, nor how much more difficult it has become in the last 5 years or so. Unless you have lived it yourself, it is hard to understand how badly our profession is treated. In short, we have an education system that is administered by politicians with an agenda, not educators who know what’s best for children. For instance, we have a governor who is walking contradiction. He wants freedom in all things provided it’s his version of freedom. You can go down an entire list of absurdities, from him telling people they should be free to not wear masks, only to blast high school students when they exercised their freedom of choice to wear a mask. Or how about how he’s constantly attacking higher education for indoctrination and being run by so-called “elites” yet this is coming from the mouth of a guy who graduated from Yale and Harvard Law. Or when he’s carrying on about how parents’ rights are fundamental when it comes to the decisions they make for their children/students but gets riled up when parents don’t do what he thinks is the right thing. The craziest thing to me is this crusade against books. If DeSantis knew anything about child psychology, he’d be taking a list of all the books he wants them to not read and explicitly endorse reading them, because then no tween or teen would want anything to do with them. Again, what happened to “freedom”? How can any educator feel safe to discuss ideas or have an exchange of views via dialogue in a classroom? Can parents not monitor the child if he or she is reading one of these banned books? Most of us read them or discussed the ideas contained therein and we all turned out fine.
Then you also have all the corporate welfare and crony capitalism like I reference above in the video. When the Commissioner of Education is getting a six figure salary from the largest for-profit charter operator in the state, is anyone really surprised by all these voucher laws that just divert funds to pad the bottom line of these charter schools which offer the same exact crap as the public schools anyhow? Corcoran and Diaz alone have been scamming the public for a decade…
The entire education system is irreparably broken if we’re all being honest. It is a commodified, monetized race to the bottom in which the biggest losers will be the poorest students. They will continue to attend the last remaining public schools because all we’re really doing is warehousing children so that parents can go to work. And then they will simply be lost because of how impossible it will be for them to climb out of the socio-economic downward spiral.
And this doesn’t even address the fact that virtually all of what we are doing in education is not helping students get ready for the 21st century. Something that I first wrote about over four years ago here, and discussed openly in front of the school board several times.
My Final Plea
So why should you quit if you are a Florida teacher? It’s simple. You have virtually unlimited upside. The state has divested so heavily from education and made it so miserable to teach that the shortage has become extreme. Why is this important? It gives you the freedom to take risks, especially economically, because you know you can always come back to teaching as a last resort. There are tons of opportunities out there, many of which will rely on the same suite of soft skills that you have developed during your time in the classroom. Whether it’s project management, technical writing, corporate training, or virtually any number of options you could pursue, there are jobs out there that will pay you much better, treat you with respect as a professional hired to do a job (not micromanaged into oblivion by stressed out administration), and allow you to work only when you are scheduled to do so.
And all without the tremendous emotional baggage that comes with teaching.
Will you miss it? Yes. Probably every day. I know I do. I will forever cherish the moments I spent creating magic between the bells. The kids carried me through nearly 20 years. But I couldn’t put up with the utter lack of respect from people who have no clue what it’s like to be a teacher in general, let alone stay a teacher in this forsaken wasteland of public ed that is the Sunshine State.
So I said it several times in my final speech, and I may as well say it one final time…
I will be leaving the blog and its contents (as well as the Facebook page) up until late May when I will no longer renew the lease on the site. Like all things, it will fall into the sands of time and I will be completely done with using my time and energy on education. I hope that our paths cross in other avenues of life, but this chapter will forever close soon enough.
Much love to you and yours,