“If you haven’t noticed, Metro Nashville teachers have been sick lately. Because I’m leaving at the end of the year for law school (you know, so I can make a living wage), I have a little more freedom to speak than some of my colleagues.
For the most part, we’re not sick of the kids. We’re not sick of teaching. For me, welcoming a kid on their first day of American schools never gets old. Seeing a student ‘get it,’ after struggling a lot with a concept never gets old.
Want to know what is making me sick? Spending a month preparing for TCAP instead of focusing on reading. Knowing that the spring semester in 3rd and 4th grade is basically all test prep and test administration instead of real teaching. I’m sick of administering TCAP to children who have been in this country for less than a year and losing time where I could have taught them early phonics skills or conversational vocabulary.
I’m sick of getting dinged for test scores every year when some of my students don’t have food at home or clothes that fit. I’m sick of all the good things that happen day after day in Metro schools being drowned out in the ‘failing schools’ narrative. I’m sick of higher and higher expectations for teachers without accompanying pay increases. I’m sick of my colleagues’ care for students being manipulated to get more work out of them with less pay. I’m sick of the teacher martyr trope. I’m sick of pretending that our educational policies are about what’s best for kids when they’re usually about money. I’m sick of people who have never worked in education making the rules for all of us.
I’m so sick of it that I’m leaving the field. People have asked me since I announced my resignation why I’m leaving. While there are many factors, it mostly comes down to economics. Teaching was tenable when I was a 22-year-old single renter. It no longer works when I have a family and a mortgage. I’m not looking to have an crazy affluent lifestyle over here. But the fact is I can only afford to live in the neighborhood where I teach because I’m married. And I don’t even live in a particularly wealthy part of Nashville.
You want to know the secret for recruiting and retaining excellent teachers? Pay them what they’re worth. I loved so much of my 5 years teaching. I was privileged to work with some amazing families, students, and staff. I love my school. But I can no longer afford to wait and hope it gets better. I do hope the policies change. I hope Metro’s budget is fully funded and teachers get the 10% raise they deserve. I hope the focus shifts from test scores to student growth. I hope because I have a daughter who will be in Metro schools in a few years. And I don’t want her teachers to be as sick I am. They’re not asking for too much. Surely a city that can find the budget for a soccer stadium and an NFL draft can fully fund their school district. Teachers deserve better. Kids deserve better. Do the right thing, Metro. Thanks for listening.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah Ketring Brown, 27, of Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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