Now that I've moved into the last grading period of the school year, the magnitude of the year has started to sink in. In August, I felt scared – the national trends in education seemed daunting and overwhelming (to say the least). Throughout the entire first semester, new initiatives layered like unnecessary winter wardrobes in the desert, grants came and went to comply with the new laws that steamrolled their way through the Arizona legislature, and we dashed for cash to back-fill our budgets. Then, new value-added systems for teacher accountability crept into our school districts from September to December.
And in January – the humans started to fall apart.
Yes, there are humans attached to the backsides of all of these new programs and standards. Take it from an educator on the front lines: the resulting stress is killing the humans! At the very least, it's driving talented educators away from the profession. As of Friday of last week, here's a rundown of casualties in my department:
- 2 teachers did not return after Winter Break for medical reasons (Who knew that stress caused medical problems?)
- 1 teacher might transfer to another campus
- 1 teacher is leaving the district
- 2 teachers have decided to leave the profession altogether
- 1 is retiring
This leaves 7 (possible) vacancies in my department alone! I've been reassured that I'm a valued and loved department chair. I've been told that the students are wonderful and that our staff and campus are "the best." Teachers, however, are still leaving in record numbers . . . and it's breaking my heart.
As May approaches and the year draws to a close, so will the careers of some of the most talented teachers I've ever known. In times when the national powers-that-be are talking out of both sides of their mouths, I think I'll light candles and send up prayers for those who've fallen during this Hindenburg-of-a year in education.
Maybe those that jump from the burning zeppelin will survive?