Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to see, participate in, and experience our education system on a very deep level; spending much of my time in classrooms, admin offices, with children and their parents and I think the best way we can describe it is this:
Everyone in education – teachers, kids, administrators, staff at every level – have been on a treadmill with no exit for a very long time. In the last several years, the speed of that machine has been slowly increasing via new mandates, tests, tests to support tests, etc. Those who suffer the greatest effects of the never-ending sprint are teachers and kids, because they have no real down time, and they have very little control over any of it. Teachers have no office to escape to for five minutes of peace, no ability to say, “I just need 5 minutes to gather myself” and no real power in the decision-making process which, has resulted in the way this profession is taking shape. The more time I spend really “seeing” things, the more I see so many educators who are doing their very best to keep going, to keep adding, to keep growing, to keep teaching, to keep doing it all…and getting to the end of their rope. So many people think teachers have it easy, that they have short work days, lots of breaks, and long summers. And you know, much to my own embarrassment, I once thought that too. Now that I’ve spent years working in education, I know that it is simply not the case.
Here’s what it really looks like: teachers are on stage all day, with classrooms full of kids who are challenging. Kids who are brilliant, kids who are abused, kids who are struggling with learning disabilities. When they are at recess, they are keeping track of all these kids, and then they go back into the classroom and work to support them all. Then they have a short lunch with their colleagues, use the restroom, take a breath, and keep going. They are running. They rarely get sick during school, because getting subs is a challenge, and when they do get sick, they feel guilty for staying home. When they have a break like the one we had a Christmas time, they get sick. Instead of spending their break refreshing and feeling like they’re on vacation, they deal with having a fever, feeling crummy, and eating soup. Some work during their breaks to learn new things and plan engaging activities that take more time so when they get back to school, they can do amazing things with their kids. The treadmill continues to quicken.
People don’t want to talk about these things because they are not sunshine and rainbows. They are reality, and that reality is reflected in data showing extraordinary rates of attrition in the teaching profession, along with many other measurable factors illustrating that we have a problem. It’s hard to talk about a problem which has no visible solution. As I sit here right now, I wonder how this post will land, and if saying these things will get me in trouble. Fear keeps us from standing in the place we are meant to stand, and it has almost kept me from standing there myself. Fear of losing support, fear of losing a job, fear of being ridiculed.
So, what is the solution? I am equal parts realist and optimist, so when I see a problem that makes me feel sick in my stomach, I can’t ignore it. If I can do something about it, I will doggedly process and circle it in my mind until an idea surfaces to make things better. After nine years in education, doggedly working to understand and positively impact this system, an idea has surfaced. This idea is just as bold as the challenge it seeks to address and it is already beginning to work.
We’re flying this one under the radar at the moment, allowing my team and I to work out any startup bugs and quirks. Like any newborn, it is delicate and vulnerable and needs to be quietly nourished, so it can grow. For those of you who are helping with that work right now, I owe you a sincere debt of gratitude for your support. For those who would like to join us to help this grow into a full-blown solution with the power to create real change, please reach out to me. This is a national effort to support all who work in our public schools toward feeling fulfilled, empowered and encouraged about what the future can hold.
I believe in possibility. I believe that there is nothing we can’t accomplish when we work together. I believe in having crazy ideas and in bringing them to life in support of those around me. So far, the road continues to unfold. Not because of what I do alone, but because of all of you who walk it with me, believing that we truly can make a difference together.