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.