Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I think I have job-related depression

You might not want to read this if you are influenced by negative vibes.

I came to a really disappointing realization over the April break: I need to leave my school or get out of the system entirely. This might seem like a shock (or not) to some of my readers, but I think a lot of people reach a breaking point sometime in their teaching career, especially if you teach in the NYC system. I'm there! In taking inventory of all of the committees I joined, the meetings I attended, the leadership opportunities I went for, the study groups, the collaboration, the planning, etc. that I've done in the last four years, I can honestly say that the fruits of my labor in terms of the betterment of my school as a whole equal to zero, no below zero, it's negative.

Of course, I'm not talking about my students. I never really am when I complain. I love my students and I feel attached to their families and it kills me inside that I feel this urge to leave them. I've seen tons of improvement in my students, and really felt successful as a teacher in the past four years, but it's like working against the tide. I'm tired of fighting. I can't do it alone and everyone seems to be abandoning ship right now (at least mentally) and I think I need to go with them.

I feel hopeless, like nothing will ever change. I was at a baseball game the other day and this group of at-risk adolescents were there taking photographs with the players who sponsored some after school program for them. All I could think was, "I'm so sick of this after school program, charter this, magnet that, SES, NCLB, etc. Why do we need special programs sponsored by philanthropists for only a handful of kids? Why can't we as a society just plain CARE about our children in general? Then we wouldn't need all of this random stuff that puts a band-aid on the real issue."
The one thing that keeps me going is that I really do LOVE teaching. I don't want to stop being a teacher just because the system is corrupt and run like a corporation. I just want to work at a school where children come first and where EVERYONE is on the same page about that. I also think that I need to reduce my commute, maybe work at a school in the neighborhood where I live so that I can stay late and still have a life.
Of course, it would mean leaving my colleagues, which I'm not sure I'm ready to do.


Mamie said...

I hear you... I've been there. After teaching for 7 years in two large urban districts in California, I made the decision to move to another state and teach in a district vastly smaller. It was hard - I LOVED my kids and their families, I believed in what I was doing, but eventually I just couldn't take the CRAP any more. It was hard to decide, hard to go, hard to adjust to a different educational milieu. I missed (and still do) my colleagues who stayed to fight the good fight. But, after four and half years I can say it was the right thing for me to do. I'm not saying that things in my new district are perfect - far from it - but in the end, I made the right decision for ME. Go with your gut, and realize that to be the best TEACHER possible you have to do what's best FOR YOU as a PERSON.

Anonymous said...

I know I have job related depression to such a significant degree that I am now on medication. I have been a California teacher for 18 years; 8 as a teacher of emotionally and behaviorally disordered students. Crazy thing...I loved my job until the last 2 years. Personnel changes in the special education department have created chaos. Instead of being able to do my job and do it well as I have always done, I have "dumb and dumber" coming in and harassing me, telling me how to do my job, setting me up, and just generally behaving as bullies. I have been very successful with my students, so none of this is warranted. I have now been on medication for high blood pressure for two months as well. I did not return following spring break but have instead been eating up my sick leave days. I just can't bear to return to the turmoil. Trouble is, I cannot go elsewhere and expect to get the salary I currently receive because of longevity. I am getting closer to retirement age, so maintaining my current rate of pay is critical to my financial well-being following retirement. Not unlike the two of you, I would not be in this profession if it were not for the students. They have never been the stressor for my negative experiences; it is strictly the personnel I have been forced to work with--those that don't do their job making mine more difficult and those that intimidate,ridicule, and attempt to discredit as well as discriminate.
Interestingly, I have been put in a situation in which state and federal special education regulations have been broken (ie: being placed at a new school site that is not yet open because space is available, but that has no other students). Those of you who know about FAPE and LRE know what I am talking about. Since it is not really a school, sometimes there is not even anyone in the office and the door is locked. I am not sure whose dumb idea this was. I do have assistants, but other than that I am isolated as well as the students! No mainstreaming opportunities. I have confirmed that the acting special education administrator that is at least partially responsible for all of this doesn't even have an administrative credential--I'm not sure what HR person allowed this to happen. And in spite of not having the appropriate credential, she is one of the most arrogant people I have ever had the misfortune of having to deal with; she and the program specialist I am assigned, tie for first place when it comes to arrogance.
I wish I knew of an attorney who would be willing to look into all of this, but the district is large and pays out million a year in attorney retainers and more in fees. I'm mot sure if this is why I'm having trouble or if nobody really cares.

Mamie said...

Anonymous: I hope you see this - PLEASE contact me directly; I'm going to give up my own small measure of anonymity and post my personal email address here. I will give you the name of an AMAZING ACLU attorney who I worked with in the Williams v. California case (you probably know what that is). If you will contact me, I will get in touch with her myself as well as give you her info. PLEASE email me: salyeramy@gmail.com