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Update: Since the publication of this post, it has been brought to my attention that I missed some topics, specifically one issue that is creating an incredible amount of stress, fear, and heartbreak for so many teachers: the pushback from parents, community members, and the media on Critical Race Theory, SEL, culturally responsive teaching, and other teaching and curricular approaches that fall under this umbrella. This is a serious topic that will be addressed in a future post. Thank you to those who held me accountable for this omission.


The 2021-22 school year is off and running, and what I’ve been hearing from teachers over and over, from every corner, is that this is the worst school year ever. So much worse than 2020, which should have easily held the title for “worst year ever” in every category, for a long, long time. 

But for so many teachers the worst year is turning out to be this year, and that really grinds my gears, because it shouldn’t be.

Every day I see a new post on social media from a different educator shouting at the top of their lungs on this topic, so what I’m going to say here is nothing new, but I’m hoping that if I add my voice to the very large chorus, maybe it will reach some new ears. 

My thoughts are not well-organized right now, but I want to get them out, so I’m going to break them into eight loosely linked parts. 


Part 1: A Confession

I am not a teacher anymore because I know I couldn’t handle it if I tried.    

At one time, I was able to. Sort of. When I was a lot younger, with no children of my own, I managed to pull off teaching middle school language arts well enough. Granted, I brought home at least two hours of work every afternoon, got about 5 hours of sleep a night, and was accused on the regular of being a workaholic, but I managed. 

Once I had kids, things changed. Gone were the after-school hours to plan lessons and grade papers. Gone was the ability to tolerate a staff meeting that ran over an extra fifteen minutes. Gone was the ability to go into my classroom on a Sunday to catch up. After giving it a try for a semester with a newborn and a lot of support from home, I decided to step away from the classroom for a few years, knowing there was no way I could be a great teacher and a great mother at the same time.

That was 2005, before all the nonsense really got going. No Child Left Behind had started infiltrating schools, but back then we had no idea how bad it was going to get.

I had a few more kids, but I always planned to go back. I was going to stay at home with them until they were in school, then I’d return to the classroom. Ultimately, other opportunities presented themselves, then I launched my own website, so I never ended up following the original blueprint. Still, the question comes up often, from curious friends who ask if I’ve ever thought about going back, to people who actually offer me teaching jobs, to readers who dislike something I’ve written and suggest that my voice has no merit since I’m no longer in the classroom.

My most compelling reason for not taking on a full-time teaching job is that it would require me to stop doing what I do now, researching and sharing good teaching practices through blog posts and podcast episodes. There simply wouldn’t be enough time left. But equally important is the fact that I really don’t want to invite back into my life the stress and horrible imbalance that comes with a teaching job. It stressed me out in 2005; I can’t even imagine what it would do to me in 2021.

And that’s a real shame, because I know I would be an incredible teacher. I wasn’t half bad back in the day, but knowing what I know now? Forget about it. I’d be frickin’ brilliant. And yet I wouldn’t do it, because I know how much non-teaching is required of teachers, how much unnecessary and unmitigated crap is being piled onto teachers’ backs right now, and I feel 100 percent certain that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. 

So if you’re still hanging in there, but you’re about at the end of your rope, hear this: The problem is not you.

It’s not you.


Part 2: The Problem, Briefly

So what’s going on? Why is this the worst school year ever? I put the question out on Twitter and got hundreds of responses. The root of the problem seems to fall into one of three categories: time, trust, and safety.

TIME

Historically, teachers have never had enough time to do their jobs well. This has been a problem for generations, but it’s gotten worse in recent years as standardized testing has become the end-all-be-all for measuring success. Pre-COVID, there was already no margin for error, no extra space or time for most teachers to thoughtfully plan, collaborate, and assess student work. 

I’ll say that again: Before COVID, teachers already didn’t have enough time to do their jobs well

Now that schools are transitioning from fully remote back to in-person classes, the problem of teacher time has reached epic proportions.

This has happened despite all the lessons we should have learned from the pandemic. The worldwide shutdown prompted lots of people to reflect on how busy life used to be. Many of us were determined to never go back to that frantic pace once things started opening up again. Unfortunately, it appears that not everyone felt that way.

Especially those in charge of schools.

Instead of trying to approach things differently, many school leaders have gone full speed ahead, putting their reopening focus on recovering as much “learning loss” as possible, as if everyone could just do the teaching and learning more quickly and get caught up at twice the speed. This is playing out in far too many districts in the form of a renewed focus on data and testing, with more frequent assessments and screenings, more documentation, and more data analysis. The message is that we are behind and we now need to work extra hard to make up for it. 

On top of that, they are adding new stuff: new technology, new curricula, new programs. This stuff might be good, it might be outstanding, but it’s still new, and it comes with a learning curve, which means more time.

Meanwhile, extra work has been added in order to comply with COVID-related requirements, help students make up work missed due to quarantining, and cover classes that have no responsible adult in charge due to an accelerating shortage in teachers and substitutes.

All of this combined has created an absolute dumpster fire of mental distress for teachers. Being short on time puts us in a terrible state as human beings. When I’m running late and I hit a patch of traffic or get stuck behind a slow driver, I am so far from my best self it’s embarrassing: my heart rate goes up, I yell at every single thing that goes wrong, I hate everyone else on the road, and the profanity is off the charts. Literally nothing can go wrong without turning me into a raving lunatic. At some point, if the traffic never eases up and it becomes clear that I’m not going to get to my destination on time, I might eventually settle into a catatonic state, where I’ve accepted my situation and just go numb. It’s a terrible way to feel. It’s something I’m working on, believe me. But at least it’s temporary.

That’s the mental state so many teachers are in every day. It’s turned down to a slightly lower vibration—they may not be running down the halls shouting profanities at everyone who gets in their way—but the chronic lack of time in their lives means there’s zero margin for error. They don’t have the luxury of thinking deeply about their classroom practices or studying student work in order to adjust their instruction. People whose cortisol levels are regularly elevated don’t have the mental capacity to have tough, vulnerable conversations about bias or take in constructive feedback about their disciplinary practices. The clock is ticking and they have a mile-long to-do list so all that good, deep stuff will have to wait. 

And these are smart, thoughtful people. These are people who care about their students, who are passionate about their content, and who have formal training in pedagogy and on-the-ground experience in what works best for kids. But when they are put into a constant state of stress and anxiety, the best of their knowledge, experience, and intuition is wasted. 

TRUST

While the impossible race to make up for lost time is the biggest culprit here, another problem makes things even worse: A lack of trust. Teachers are being required to hand in detailed lesson plans, document interventions on a daily basis, and complete all of their professional development in a setting where their participation can be observed. The message is this: We don’t think you will do your job if we are not constantly checking behind you. 

No doubt, these additional duties still fall under the time problem, but they get an added asterisk because they are also demoralizing. For most teachers, this level of micromanagement is completely unnecessary; whether their work is documented or not, they’ll still do good work. Ironically, the time it takes to document their work is more likely to weaken its quality than improve it. The time lost in writing full, formal lesson plans every day is time that could be used to conference with a student, watch a video about an innovative technique, or restructure an activity that isn’t quite working. 

In every school, there are probably a few teachers who need more accountability for one reason or another. But applying that to all teachers, regardless of their performance, in an environment where lack of time is already creating so much stress, just adds insult to injury.

SAFETY

When a teacher does not feel physically safe, they are incapable of concentrating on anything that will improve their teaching. Prior to 2020, teachers already had enough to worry about when it came to safety. In the U.S., for example, gun violence in schools is a very real concern and has been for a long time.

Now we have a virus to contend with, and we’re still not done with it. So schools that are willfully going against CDC recommendations—or not really enforcing them—are putting teachers at risk. We could go round and round about whether or not our current levels of protection from vaccinations are enough; the fact remains that we are still learning about this virus, everyone’s situation is different, and if a teacher feels that their life is at risk by coming to work every day, that’s going to eventually send them looking for a safer job.


Part 3: Not All School Leaders

I just want to pause briefly to add a disclaimer: I am not talking about all school administrators. Some teachers have reported to me that their admins are doing an incredible job and have set reasonable expectations. I have met many administrators who I know are handling this school year as thoughtfully as they possibly can.

So if you’re hearing all this and thinking, Hey, I’m not doing that stuff, then know that I’m not talking to you.

With that in mind, though…

The truly outstanding school leaders I have known are outstanding because they are reflective. Because they think they always have room for improvement. Because they seek authentic, honest feedback and use it to get better. 

If that sounds like you, then what you’re likely to do is find one or two things I say here that could make things more sustainable for your teachers, apply it, and end up with a faculty that is even more grateful that they work for you.


Part 4: Things That Are Not the Solution

Before we talk about the things that will really make conditions better for teachers, here’s a list of things that won’t:


Part 5: Solutions

Here are some things that will actually make a difference. Again, I’ll break these into the categories of time, trust, and safety.

TIME

Most of these ideas came from replies to a tweet I sent out asking teachers what could be taken off their plates. The specific changes needed to give your teachers more time will be unique to your school, so the best approach would be to talk directly to your teachers about it, but it’s pretty likely that something on this list is a culprit. 

TRUST

Like any workplace, most schools will have a few employees who do less than they’re supposed to, but most teachers work hard and want to do a good job. Treating everyone as if they need constant babysitting chips away at morale until it’s nonexistent. Here are some ways you can make teachers feel like trusted professionals: 

Some of these requirements may be official policy in your district or state. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be changed. Every policy was created by humans and it can be dismantled by humans as well. 

SAFETY

So much has already been said on this topic for the past year and a half; I don’t think I can add anything new. Just know that no job is worth losing your life over. So if you’re currently making teachers choose between personal safety and job security, you’re going to lose. 


Part 6: Something to Ponder About Gender

I want to point something out: The teaching profession is still overwhelmingly female, right? And what we’re talking about is a system in which a whole bunch of people are basically getting exploited for unpaid labor. That exploitation seems to be fueled primarily through gaslighting, examples of which can be found here, here, and here, for starters.

If this profession were made up mostly of men—cisgender, heterosexual, white men, anyway—would this be happening? Many of the men I have taught alongside (who fit the above description) found ways to sidestep these unrealistic expectations and didn’t seem to be working themselves to the bone. And yes, we have loads of women in positions of leadership who perpetuate these norms. And yes, there are certainly women who push back on this. Still, the culture of education was built on a tradition of women doing a lot of work for very little money, and as long as everyone keeps cooperating with it, it’s not going to change.

Just something to think about.


Part 7: An Apology 

A few weeks ago, I had an eye-opening conversation with my sister, who has been a high school science teacher for the better part of two decades. I’m paraphrasing her here, but basically she said this: You put out really good stuff, Jenn. I mean, the ideas are great. It’s stuff I really want to try. But most of the time I’m thinking “That’ll never happen.” Because there’s no time. So I end up feeling like a crap teacher because there’s this ideal out there that I’m clearly falling short of and I know I’ll never get there. You just don’t understand what it’s like.

For the past eight years, I have been putting out content on my platform to help teachers do their jobs better. And I really hope that it has been helpful, that you’ve been able to use it to improve. But I am deeply sorry if I have ever implied that doing it should be a piece of cake, that you should happily ignore all the jacked-up expectations that make it nearly impossible to do this job well, or that being a good teacher means running yourself ragged for the sake of the kids.


Part 8: A Call to Inaction

In most of this post, I’ve been addressing leadership, but now I want to speak directly to the teachers: In the event that your administrators at all levels don’t do what needs to be done to make things better, I want to suggest to you that quitting, as appealing and cathartic as it might seem, is not your only option. 

The alternative is simply saying no. It’s subversion. Conscientious objection. Passive resistance. It’s looking at the massive pile of time-consuming, micromanaging, misguided nonsense you’re being told to do and simply not doing it. You don’t even need to say no. Just don’t do it. You’re at the end of your rope anyway.

Yes, you could lose your job. That’s a definite risk. But haven’t you been thinking about leaving anyway? And if the ten best teachers in your school decided to simply refuse to perform some of the duties being asked of them, do you really think you’d all be fired? 

You might be. It could happen. And yes, a lot of kids might be left without teachers. As a parent, I don’t relish this thought. But I also don’t want my kids’ teachers hating their jobs. At this point, if the people in charge refuse to make the necessary changes, it might be time for the system to completely collapse. 

This might actually be a hill worth dying on.

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159 Comments

  1. Trinity says:

    Thank you for this. Your words were encouraging and helped me to get some ideas for cutting back on some of the tasks I have heaped on myself. As a teacher, I feel like I have to do it all! Your statement about this not being the year to take on more tasks was completely on point! I appreciate the work you are doing. You helped to relieve some of the mental burdens I have been carrying since the school year started.

    • Janel says:

      Love section 4. And agree with your sister, districts inflict too much new stuff that they believe is ‘awesome’ there is no time to learn/implement what the teacher believes is awesome.

      There are unfortunately significant consequences if you are fired, you can lose any accrued retirement. It is a totally trapped hopeless feeling. I got out after 30 years. Loved teaching—but felt I was not teaching anymore because of all the additional CRAP!

      I am partially traumatized from 30 years of that situation. I will never look back and I adamantly tell anyone and everyone NOT to go into education! Such a disrespected profession. The few bad apples (admin, parents,students) do ruin the whole system 😔

    • Gene Nerland says:

      I have great respect for teachers. Very important occupation. I think we should do all we can so teachers can be lifted up and enjoy their job and be less stressed.

  2. Maria says:

    Thank you.

    • Paula says:

      So true!

      • Marc says:

        Two other questions:

        Do teachers ever talk about class size and the affect it has on teaching as well as student learning? It seems class has has increased since the 80s on average (though I am not sure).

        I’ve also seen many school districts promote MTSS (multi tired systems of support) so every student is taught at “their level”, which means a teacher would have to teach multiple grades of a curriculum in a single class. In elementary class, this could have a huge compounding effect. Do teachers feel ‘MTSSS is effective?

        • Gina Green says:

          If you bring up class size with an administrator, they will tell you that, according to John Hattie’s research, class size has no impact on learning. So pack ’em in!

  3. I’m surprised and disappointed in your last section of a call to inaction and encouraging teachers to be somewhat defiant. As an administrator, there is nothing more painful than reading something like this, that absolutely pits teachers against us rather than really believing we’re on the same team, working for the same common goals – kids.

    I have a very close relationship with my staff and teachers and have worked alongside them to build trust, collaborate, and make decisions collectively.

    I’m saddened that your final thought communicates an overall negative perspective on how tough life is right now. And trust me- even as a principal I’m worn out and tired, and would never communicate something like this to my teachers.

    • Linda says:

      @Mia

      Hi, so from your post am I supposed to gather that you have, as an administrator, done all of the supports suggested here. If not, then the call to inaction is lost on you. Nothing will change if it stays the same and especially if it is continually gets added to our plate. Some of the things we are currently being asked to do are unreasonable, ineffective, time hogging and often unattainable.

      Times are different and the status quo is not ok any longer. If decision makers are not listening to words or actions, then inaction might sadly be what gets their attention.

      • Ellie says:

        I wanted to tack on… I hear that Mia has a great idea: that she and her teachers are working towards a common goal–kids. I completely agree. And I know that kids learn best when their teachers are are at their best and excited to be at school–not when teachers feel run down, exhausted, and disrespected. If our common goal is serving the needs of kids, teacher wellbeing is how we get there. Not something to compromise along the way.

    • Samantha says:

      I would love to have an administrator like you at this point. Our administrator is a micromanager, constantly throwing extra work at us, demands ridiculously detailed lesson plans, and then has recently came up with a ‘reward’ system where we have to award every student in our class some type of behavior award at the end of every 9 weeks. Sadly, you are probably in the minority as an administrator right now. Every teacher I have talked to at other schools have the same problems as we do right now. It is a sad time to be in education.

    • Abby Morton says:

      Hi Mia,

      I feel compelled to respond because I am lucky enough to have administrators like you. I feel actively supported and “seen” by them, and the BS is minimal. Even so, there are a few things that could be cut. For example, in my evaluations, I’m always dinged for not giving my students a “Do Now.” Instead, my students (11th and 12th grade) come in and chatter excitedly to each other and to me. Look, I get the point of a Do Now, but I just don’t have it in me to plan one more thing every day, and thinking of a Do Now every day is a mental burden I’m happy to toss in exchange for a dark spot on my evals. That’s the kind of thing Jenn means by “do less.” I give my students a chance to be heard, so I think my method has value and it works in my room. If administrators took that into consideration, instead of needing to mindlessly check that box, that would be great.

      We also have to post the fine-print garbage from Atlas (Enduring Understandings! Essential Questions!) on our walls, and absolutely nobody reads them. One time I left the same one up all year and nobody noticed. My colleagues have several sheets of paper filled with 14-pt type posted on their walls, and nobody will EVER convince me that this makes them better teachers. I’d argue that the bitterness of that pointless exercise makes them worse.

      We also have to fill out these official forms every year detailing our measurable goals. Nobody likes them, nobody reads them, but it’s required. Even if admin hates them, can they not go to bat for us with their higher-ups and refuse? This is the stuff we need less of.

      That said… thanks for supporting your teachers.

      • Cathy B says:

        As much as I love Cult of Pedagogy, and have utilized many a strategy posted here, the writer is not and has not been an administrator.

      • Laura says:

        So much truth about the “measurable goals.” I just did mine last week and I honestly can’t remember what it was, because it’s just not that important to me.

        I would also appreciate the SafeSchools nonsense to be stopped for one year. I’m pretty sure I have most of them memorized at this point.

    • Obviously not all administrators are like you, which is why she had a section called “not all school leaders”. But also note that the “call to inaction” was presented as an alternative to quitting, that’s not something to be taken lightly. Would you prefer that more teachers quit? Teachers are leaving the field in record numbers, so this isn’t a hypothetical question.

      There are more teaching positions in this country than there are people who want to fill those jobs, and that gap is growing fast as more and more teachers are deciding to leave the profession. Most of the structural factors making teaching so hard are also making it hard to be an administrator, so I agree that we’re on the same team. Unfortunately that team is being subjected to increasingly unrealistic expectations, and something’s gotta give.

    • Sherry says:

      @Mia – I didn’t see her stance as pitting teachers against administrators, but as educators taking a stance for reforming a broken educational system. If your school is working well, then great. No need for inaction in your 4 walls… however it appears the majority of schools on our country are dealing with a major problem that needs to be addressed head on. The more teachers allow expectations to rob them of a healthy life balance the less likely it will change. Rosa Parks didn’t make a difference by getting up and moving to the back of the bus. Her sitting there changed the course of history. Teachers who are falling under the pressures of the system may need to refuse action until we are heard.

    • Dawn says:

      Mia- No ma’am… she is SPOT ON. It is not pitting anyone against anyone. It is setting fair boundaries for ourselves if the requirements are unsustainable and changes aren’t happening to address it. Yeah, we all do it for the kids, but that cry for martyrdom misses a key point: stressed teachers create stressed students. The way teachers are functioning most places is not good for the kids. Setting and enforcing boundaries for myself through inaction if necessary benefits me AND my students. Kudos to you if your school is different, but please know that is not the typical experience. And I love my administration. They mean well and listen and I think they get it… but they don’t DO enough about it.

    • Sherri Wilcox says:

      Not every administrator is carefully considering what they are asking teachers to do. This call to inaction is exactly what I started doing last week. It’s OK to say “No, I can’t or won’t do that.” If teachers don’t advocate for themselves, no one else is likely to do it. There is a limit to what we can handle. I am a teacher leader on my campus, and I work from 6:15 am to 4:30-5:00 pm almost every school day. That’s more than enough. If it won’t fit into that schedule, then I ask my principal what she wants me to focus on because it’s not all going to get done. I can say no, and I do.

    • Onema Stewart says:

      Glad to hear you are supportive of your teachers, but not all (and quite frankly, it feels like most) administration is NOT. I was assaulted by a student…I was told my classroom management MUST be the reason even though I have been praised for my classroom management for the last 22 years and I was assaulted the first week of the school year. When the students in my building didn’t even know we had a new principal 7 weeks into the school year, that is an administrative issue. I can tell you, the lack of leadership and personal safety is why I chose to break my contract and leave education.

    • Anna G. says:

      I think you made some valid points. Your Call to inaction – If I understand you correctly, it is not necessarily teacher vs. admin. Excellent administration would advocate for teachers, telling district leaders what teachers need and encouraging fewer new initiatives.

    • Jesse says:

      “Surviving by questioning/ Can you imagine if we all started demanding?” – “Rice and Bread” Against Me!

      Inaction is put way later in this article. And that’s because it is the last resort before leaving the job behind. One of the things I love about Jen’s stuff is that it can be applied not only to education but to other jobs as well. Learning to say no has helped me survive 28 years as a Safety Professional. If the task doesn’t actually keep people from being harmed, then why do we do it? To avoid getting a paperwork finding on a company audit? Meh. Okay. I guess I’ll take a hit on my bonus for that, but I’m not going to sweat losing dollars versus doing something I think adds no value.

      I am unsure why anyone would be surprised at an article that suggests these things, as it has been going on for the last year and a half everywhere else.

    • We, congratulations! Your teachers won’t need to resort to such measures. Unfortunately, it’s a great idea for the vast majority, whose health is on the line.

    • Gloria says:

      Did you read this:
      “So if you’re hearing all this and thinking, Hey, I’m not doing that stuff, then know that I’m not talking to you.”
      During my career, I worked for at least a dozen different principals. The effects on school climate of the administration cannot be denied. An open and engaged school leader encourages teacher input and innovation. When teachers are empowered, students thrive.
      On the other hand, administrators who anxiously and unquestioningly kowtow to every district and state directive they promptly deliver in painful staff meetings, result in stiff atmospheres unconducive to the artistry and skill that make educators effective.

    • Art Teacher says:

      Well, maybe you should step up as an administrator and use your power to help make productive changes and ease teacher’s stress. If you do not want teachers to take the last stand, then make changes in your district NOW. It is a very real thought in most of our minds to just quit or say “NO” because we are on the edge. Survey your staff and LISTEN! Then make real changes. It might be uncomfortable for you and it might be costly and disruptive but it would be more costly and disruptive to not do anything to help. Don’t just sit by and allow the way it is right now continue. We can’t just keep going.

    • That’s great that you feel like you’ve supported your teachers… I am by no means saying you haven’t… but, surely you don’t think that reflects the average…or maybe you didn’t spend very long in the classroom before moving on up?

    • brigitte b says:

      Ok, have you worked to reduce your teachers’ ridiculous workloads? Have you allowed them to meet via zoom? Are they covering other classes 3 or 4 times/week? Have you supported them through mask/discipline disputes, or are you forcing them to consider students’ SEL at the expense of all order in the school? What are your answers to these questions before you brag about your happy little teaching family?

    • Bret says:

      I want you to understand that all administrators are not doing these things. I do know of teachers who are asked to do 70 hours of work a week. Those are the ones who need to resist. Less so as the requirements lessen.
      I have been in leadership as a teacher for a while. I tell new teachers that the first year will take lots of hours. By year 4, make it fit in 45 hours a week. Whatever the admin pushes, do it. What they don’t push, do what you know makes you a better teacher.
      When teachers gain experience, they need less management. When they know their job, the paperwork becomes useless (unless legally required). So, yes, resist. Push back.
      As an admin, know this. If you don’t stop pushing, your experienced teachers will stop. Right now we are in a phase nationally known as the great resignation. Many people I know are considering quitting for good reasons. They have other opportunities. If pushed, people will take early retirement. You know of the shortage of graduates seeking employment in education. Admin must change or they won’t have employees to administer.

    • Lori says:

      Even great administrators must understand that front-line workers — like classroom teachers — have very few handles to pull in order to change anything in the power structure. They can quit, they can file a complaint, or they can refuse.

      Systemic problems are not solvable through individual actions. Your good deeds as a caring principal go far to build a culture at your school of support, and I commend that. But you cannot guarantee that every one of your teachers feels empowered to say No to you when they exist in a power relationship underneath you.

      You do not have the right to complain if your teachers resist doing work that’s outside the hours of their job, that’s beyond their contract, that’s unpaid, that’s exploitative. You don’t have the right to tell front-line workers to suck it up until the people in positions of authority find ways to fix the problem.

      I agree that functional, healthy organizations usually will see very little worker resistance. But that doesn’t mean workers don’t have the right to use one of their few tools, if it becomes necessary.

    • It sounds like you are doing great things with your staff and school. Just know that you are the minority and shouldn’t take this article personally. However, from what I am witnessing, she hit the nail right on the head.

    • Henry says:

      Those thoughts won’t even cross your teachers minds if you are truly close with your staff. There are far too many administrators that abuse their power and continue to add to teachers plates and distribute their responsibilities onto teachers. Not even the teaching shortage has stopped this from happening. This is the next logical step before quitting.

      I can be a good teacher and not do all of the extra things being asked of me. So the question then is, why should I do it? I dont think anyone is saying to just actively disregard all work given to you, just to say enough is enough with all the extra garbage being piled on..

      Administrators who have good relationships with their teachers have nothing to worry about, with all the bad ones out there, you are that much more appreciated by your teachers.

    • Jenny Reid says:

      Agreed. I am a principal as well and was very disheartened to read this article. Administration is also doing their best and putting us against each other does not make this situation any better

    • SandiS says:

      I agree completely.
      This is my 19th year as an educator, most of that time as a middle school math teacher. I am completely physically and mentally exhausted!
      I am a having a good year overall because I have support from my principal. If I viewed him as the enemy, I’d no longer have support which has made my year successful so far.

    • Laura says:

      I have to concur with this disappointment. As a principal, I am working 12 hours every day to try to help pick up the slack and not add more to the plates of the teachers at my school. The suggestion to hire more help to do non-instructional tasks is a great idea but the reality is no one is applying for these positions. Employment applications are down across many walks of life and the likelihood of most people applying at a school during COVID with a mass of unvaccinated little people is not appealing to a lot of job seekers.

      Many hands make light work. Your message will most likely resonate with a population of teachers that will stop doing things and just make more work for the other teachers willing to jump in to rally around meeting the needs of children.

      • Renee says:

        “Many hands make light work?” For who? Unfortunately I don’t see anyone (except my team) pitching in to share the workload. As a classroom teacher everything seems to roll down to us. On top of the full day of teaching there is the planning, prep work, prepping for meetings, assessments, report cards, parent meetings, etc… None of those involve “many hands”. That’s all on me. Then there are the multiple things that could be taken off our plate but are all about appearances. Social media pictures, weekly newsletters that very few parents read, forms that have to be filled out by a certain date but literally go in a file that no one ever looks at. Many times we are told this is what the district requires, but when I talk to people at other schools it’s not. And my principal is nice, just OVER. THE. TOP. when it comes to appearances. And while there are at least 5 certified teachers in our school that don’t have a classroom, not a one of them takes over a class when a sub can’t be found. Instead teachers have to double up, an aide takes over, or we get called to come in. I’m thinking an administrator could probably help out a bit there (hint – one of the 5 certified teachers in my building). I don’t think this article pits teachers against administrators. That great divide has been there for a while.

    • Beth says:

      I have been working in the public schools in Texas since 2002 as a speech pathologist.
      This year, a first grade bilingual teacher new at my school who is originally from Spain was showing me her daily schedule for the kids. There are no breaks and it’s writing, reading and sitting all morning. There is a new curriculum with 2 books by the same publisher that are totally misaligned with one saying they should be teaching letters and letter sounds and the other saying they should be writing paragraphs with a beginning, middle, and end about an experience with a pet. She told me “They’re 6 years old. In my country, we still let them play.” 😭💔 I told her when I was a child I got to play also in this country. I told her what kindergarten and first grade looked like in America before No Child Left Behind. Then I went back to my office and cried. 😭💔 When I read “The call to inaction” section I see her suggesting doing the art of what’s possible and putting kids first. That first grade teacher I talked to is taking the kids outside to play even though it’s technically not part of the regimented schedule she’s supposed to follow. Our administrators are pretty great people I feel like who give us a little understanding, but by the letter of the law this is defiant. As an empathetic human being who knows child development and effective teaching, our hands are forced. It might sound like hyperbole but the extent that No Child Left Behind has wrecked our system and infiltrated our methods can’t be understated. At the middle school level, I did one year where I tried to use the STAAR test questions and prep books as stimulus in my language therapy to work with students on strategies, looking at word meaning, context clues etc. It was so disheartening to see how flawed our metric is. We need to decide what we value in education and fight for our kids. Unless you plan to grow up and read legal documents for trick language, the STAAR test is measuring very little in terms of valuable skills to prepare kids to become lifelong learners. In our state, they passed a house bill that any child who did not pass the STAAR test ( or did not take it! In a pandemic! Whaaaat) is owed 30 hours of small group tutoring per subject failed or not taken. These tutoring sessions must be provided by a certified teacher in groups of 3 students or less. Kids in high school could be owed up to 120 hours of interventions if they didn’t pass all 4 subjects (or they were remote learners by choice during covid and didn’t want to come in person just to test). My friend teaches 6th grade and is working overtime at less than base pay to do these tutoring sessions. Many kids are 3 grades behind and she’s having to teach them math which isn’t her area of expertise so the preparation on her end is longer. She’s still responsible for them passing a 6th grade test at the end of this year. Also at one point half of one of her classes was out in quarantine and the state has different rules than the CDC about who can remotely learn so they all missed 6 days of class that she will need to catch them up on also. This is 2021 teaching. Some chips are gonna fall, and ethically if we bend too much by complying with every detail of these things, we’re shortchanging kids. I hope every teacher in charge of young kids who went to school and trained and learned their craft takes their kids to the playground for 30 min when they see it’s needed and the kids cannot focus because their energy is too high. It’s cruel to expect otherwise. Kids first. And teachers are not martyrs either. I really have to disagree with your reaction to that section, particularly after she so clearly detailed the unbelievable load we have put on our educators leading up to that. We’re reaching a breaking point where teachers are leaving the professional for the same reason they entered it- their heart for kids. It often feels like a battle to want to make a difference but feeling complicit with what you see daily that is ruining education and robbing children of authentic learning experiences. I think about all the fun hands on materials, science labs, equipment and technology we could have if we weren’t sinking millions into standardized testing, and evidenced based education computer software tutoring programs to meet the requirements of the house bill tutoring law. I would love to see a radical change in education in America. This isn’t it. We’re in a dire shortage of teachers in my state. At the end of this year, it will be worse. At some point, “compliance” with all the rules and unrealistic expectations feels like a pipe dream and we just have to try our best. I love my students but I’ve never felt like this in October of a school year before. I’m worried for our education system going into the future.

    • I think you might want to go back and reread that section, because you’re reacting to the word “inaction” instead of the actual content of her suggestion. Teachers need to do a little less IN ORDER to make our jobs sustainable. This will only help your job as an administrator because you will have to train (and assess) fewer new teachers.

    • Fred says:

      This is a classic response to the example in the article about blasting out scolding behaviors to a group rather than to an individual. And you jumped right in, head first, as an example of, “I don’t do that.” That helps no-one, including yourself, address the myriad caustic issues in teaching right not.

      I’ve had the pleasure/displeasure to work for 6 different principals in 4 different schools. If I were to list the traits of the “greatest” I’ve had the experience to work with, these would be chart-toppers:

      1. Treats teachers as credentialed, degreed professionals in both word AND deed. Does not waste time with trivial things.
      2. Meetings are always about instruction. How can we get better? What do we need? What’s working? What’s not working? What do you need from admin?
      3. Not throwing teachers under the bus to cover their own lack of planning or last-minute requests.
      4. Actually pushing back on the district when unreasonable demands are made.
      5. NO blast emails with “corrective” actions. “If there are any issues, I’ll speak with you directly, rather than as a group.” If you haven’t heard from me, assume all is well. This is how it SHOULD be.
      6. No condescension. No gaslighting.
      7. Resources. Resources. Resources. Making sure teachers have everything they need from supplies to plans.
      8. Providing time during the school year to actually get work done instead of using every. single. moment. to shove something new in the form of a PD down our throats.
      9. Clear, written policies for students and parents to follow and hold them to it. This includes grading policies, dress codes, student behavior, and so on. Consequences when they don’t that are supported.
      10. Required testing planned, scheduled, administered, and reviewed/organized by staff professionals. Provide the data as resources and help the teacher plan interventions.
      10. NO MICROMANGEMENT

      I had the pleasure of working for a principal that did all of these things exceptionally well. I was stunned when I went to work at her school as it was the polar opposite of the school I left. Unfortunately all admins following her have been a similar mashup of micromanagement, gaslighting, and constant busy-work overwhelming the teacher. Interestingly this is the only school where I received the highest marks possible in every single category during my review. Imagine that. A teacher shining brightly when all the “extras” are stripped away…

    • Natalie says:

      I disagree, I think that teachers have to push back and call out administrators who are making teaching harder. The hierarchy of power in educational institutions should never result in teachers being pushed to the edge to the point of health problems, lack of joy, and a desire to leave the field. If an administrator is losing teachers all of the time, or teachers are protesting and refusing to do what’s asked, that administrator needs to stop and reflect, reassess, communicate and figure. To lead means to empower others with freedom, a voice, and a sense of safety to make tough calls and do what is sustainable and healthy. My teachers are invited to push back on me, give me feedback, ask for things, and set boundaries and I wouldn’t want anything less from them, especially in a time such as this. I literally call them into my office and say, “what am I not seeing, what am I not getting right, what do you need, what’s the hardest part of your day, what do you want to see more of, how can I help you, etc.”

    • Nicky says:

      I agree with this statement. As an administrator, I am drowning in how to “clear the plates” of my teachers to help bring back a sense of normalcy after a traumatic 18 months in education.

      There hasn’t been a day this school year where I have not cried actual tears about the state of education. The mental health of all of my staff is my biggest concern, and determining ways to motivate, uplift and support a school community keeps me awake at night.

    • DClark says:

      If you are communicating, and listening and have strong relationships, then inaction is no risk for you. This is only advice for teachers in impossible, untenable situations, which some of us (but not all of us) are in this year.

    • paul says:

      However they may appreciate you being honest about conditions rather than endlessly repeating the party line of nothing to see here, all is well….
      There is increasing division between those in the class room and those in their offices

    • Carla says:

      Please don’t shame the author or teachers who have the chutzpah to say enough is enough. Secondly, if you treat your staff the way you claim to, this article doesn’t even apply to you. Thirdly, you should want the best for your teachers, even if the final answer is to leave the profession. You left the profession to become an administrator. (An administrator who never taught should be blasphemy; I sincerely hope you have considerable teaching experience). No matter how you want to spin it – you left the classroom. Put that into perspective. Moreover, how are you surprised with this article? Your surprise shows a general lack of empathy for those suffering within a system that is continuing to grow progressively worse. For many, the system is at best, a bad relationship, and at worse, slavery. Would you tell a woman in an abusive relationship that you are saddened that she was encouraged to defy her boyfriend or that she was encouraged to leave? No, you wouldn’t. Some teachers are currently in an abusive relationship with their careers and the only options they have are to defy the status quo or make a hasty exit.

    • Claire says:

      @ Mia–

      Toxic Positivity might be what you have fallen into and here is why. I find it demeaning that administrators feel like they can speak for an entire faculty. In no way can you do this. Instead, you likely have placed structures in your school that are somewhat effective for feedback. Great! However, you are not allowed to speak for all, nor do you have the pulse of the every day life of a classroom teacher because you are not one now, nor have you been one during a pandemic. This so called positive environment might be wishful thinking–who knows? To double down on your wishful thinking and ignore the reality of what it is to teach right now is by definition, toxic positivity. Thanks!

    • Becky says:

      It’s great that your school culture is so different from the rest of the country, but to call advice to stand up for ourselves as a “negative perspective” suggests that you might actually be part of the problem described here. I wonder if your teachers agree with you that you’re on their team?

  4. Erica Lingle says:

    Thank you so much for this. It’s like you read my mind (and everyone I work with.) We are all just. so. Tired.

  5. Joe Banfield says:

    Thank you, very, very much. After twenty years, for the first time,
    I am assessing why I do this. The joy has been swallowed by the nonsense.

  6. Thank you for this one. All the great ideas are helpful but I do often feel like your sister was saying. And our system is so so broken and it’s NOT US. But it feels like us. This is the post/voice/support/ candid sincerity we need. Thank you for taking a step back and saying it.

  7. Anne says:

    I stayed up late to read this! Thanks for your thoughts. In addition to everything else, our campus is in the middle a major construction project with incessant noise and cramped conditions. Many teachers are saying this is the hardest year ever.

    Personally, I am thankful that I am really enjoying this year in the classroom. I am just so overjoyed to have my students back in person. And they are happy to be here, too.

    Once thing I am implementing is grading strategies that focus on growth and assessments. Most of what we do is for practice and never makes it into the grade book at all. With student absences being what they are due to quarantining (plus families taking vacations since they haven’t been able to go anywhere for so long), students miss a lot of the practice sometimes but don’t have to worry about making it up. This is huge for reducing stress all the way around.

    Additionally, I am beginning each class period with community building activities and prompts. It feels like family time. It only takes 5 minutes and we feel so connected with each other. It makes the rest of class more focused.

    I also used breathing exercises and community circles frequently.

    Last school year helped me figure out even more what the essentials are that I need to teach. A lot of fluff got axed. This year, I am adding back a few things that support learning but keeping my grading simple and focused on the essentials.

    For me, it’s my best school year ever. My beast is so full because I am purposefully reconnecting with students, families and staff.

    I hope others can slow down a bit and not get caught up in the whirlwind.

    My favorite suggestion you offered was to just not do some of the stuff. I wanted to offered that teachers might not to take the risk of outright not doing things required by admin, but they could do it quickly and poorly ( think C and D level compliance, rather than always going for the A).

    • Shannon says:

      @Anne

      What age group do you teach? What are some examples of the community building 5-min exercises you start class with? I’m intrigued!

  8. Svetlana Nuss says:

    Hi, Jennifer,
    Time — you nailed it…

    Here is data on time: how much teachers work during school closures https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1305301.pdf
    The longitudinal data comes from an online graduate program (teachers getting master’s degrees and certification) as reported by pre-K—12 in-service teachers. Just look at the charts and the Conclusion section.

    • Jessica says:

      I agree with what you are doing, but as an administrator here’s where I’m stuck. There are many things teachers can do to accomplish more with less, but it’s something they have to learn, which requires time. I started the year with one collaboration meeting per week and it has been whittled down to one per month. I feel like if they could learn the tips and tricks early on, the rest of their year would be much easier. Almost every time someone comes to me with a problem my hands are tied in building capacity because I’m honoring their request to not overload them. What gives?

      • Jackie says:

        Nobody is in a place to learn when they are overwhelmed. There has to be time to just function normally and allow for recovery and then be settled into normal for a while before new things are introduced. Trying to teach an overwhelmed teacher more tricks that will “help” them is counterproductive.

  9. Nancy says:

    Thank you. This is exactly what I needed to read this morning. There is so much truth in this.

  10. Thank you for this post. I’m back in elementary, in a grade level that I’ve never taught, at a school where centers are all the rage. My classroom was stripped bare by the previous teacher, and what she left was a wreck. I am spending hours each week making materials for centers. Yes, there’s a lot of elementary stuff “out there,” but it still takes time to print, cut, organize. I’m beginning to figure out some ways to ease the load, but I’m currently on day, oh heck, I don’t know–20, 25 of work with no break. And I had to laugh at your comment about tiny chunks of free time. I once had a job that required a lot of prep (I was in a pullout class for students with reading issues). I told the principal one day that I needed more prep time. Her response? “Well, you have 10 minutes here, and 15 minutes here, and…” I left that job.

  11. Kimberly S Rodriguez says:

    Trust. Biggest issue for me when I started out. I was appalled at how I was treated simply because I was new. You all are professionals. Demand TRUST.

    And you’re right Jennifer, all of these issues may likely not be so prevalent if most of the workforce were male gender. Generally speaking, most would not likely have been exploited in the first place, nor would they have put up with it. Neither should women. Loved the tone of your article. Take a stand. For ourselves and for the kids. I mean if this isn’t the time for pushback, then I don’t know when is.

    And local school boards…please go away. Why are you still even a construct? You’re in the way.

  12. Maggie says:

    I am boots on the ground. I could not agree more. Trying to figure out how to slip this into the mailboxes of the admin in my district.

    And if it makes you feel better…I implemented Modern Classrooms Project this year, which I first heard about from your blog, and it is saving my life this year. So thank you. Sincerely.

    • Laura says:

      I seriously considered making 50 copies of this and putting it in every freaking mailbox in the school office. Admin and teachers alike.

  13. California Teacher says:

    Dearest Jennifer:
    THANK YOU for writing a spot-on, comprehensive, insightful, truth-filled explanation for why I feel like giving up this year. This is my 32nd year in the classroom. I too “quit” teaching–for an MS and for the early years with my children–but I came back. I thought I still had more to give to my students–even after last year’s insanity– but now find daily that I am completely wrung out. This article struck so many nerves. Most importantly, it gives me the clarity to pursue change at my school. THANK YOU!!!

    • Kadia Turner says:

      I think you make a lot of valid points, but I wonder how often you visit classrooms in “failing” schools. As a classroom teacher, I absolutely succumb to the culture of overworking because of the amount that needs to be done. As I talked with peers and my plc, it feels like we are all in the same boat. A few years ago, I transitioned to a coaching position. I have been shocked, appalled, disappointed and digusted at what is passing for instruction by people who love their students. By people who work a lot, who risk a lot, who give constantly. While teachers absolutely need support, less can’t be the answer while students need more. We need federal, state and district support to restructure our systems to support students by investing in more educators. Funding for assistants, reducing class size, and increasing certified staff is often out of local administration’s control. I am for teachers, I am for change, and I am for children. I am not sure the type of protest you are advocating is beneficial for students particularly those who are most undeserved.

  14. Brad E Thies says:

    I’m just happy to hear you’re not teaching on top of putting out this website. I only pop in now and then, so I’m sure this is common knowledge, but I sure felt like an underachiever.
    There is a massive refusal to work at dead end jobs that don’t pay right now. Maybe education is going through the same thing. Maybe we’ll actually have the guts to hold the line until things get better.

  15. Justice Mansour says:

    In 2005, I also had my first child. I came back to the classroom nine years later, but I don’t plan on making it to retirement since my years in another state won’t transfer. Once my own children have graduated, I’ll find a less stressful way to make an impact on the world.
    I wrote this a few weeks ago to vent to my small bubble; thank you for reaching out to your audience.

    Can I ask about your workload? All of my teacher groups are filled right now with exhaustion and talk of quitting over unsustainable expectations. The mass exodus affecting so many jobs due to a heightened awareness of what we value as a people was brewing in the field of education long before COVID. Teachers, bus drivers, office staff, and administration are struggling to keep up because our students are in school for far too many hours each day.
    Teacher unions and legislators keep arguing about teacher pay when we really need to address the hours in a school day. My students heard from their Finnish pen pals this week and were surprised they only had school for 5 to 7 hours each day. While my students are stressed with their after-school sports and co-curricular activities, those activities are completely separate from schools in Finland. Their teacher is actively teaching students 15 hours per week compared to my 23 hours. That’s an extra entire day of just instruction – no wonder American teachers are exhausted. The teacher in Finland is financially compensated if she chooses to cover absent teacher’s classes or take on a co-curricular club. No wonder teaching in Finland is a competitive career that attracts and retains the best teachers. Of course, much of Finland’s success in education is tied to programs that families so students and teachers are free to focus on learning while at school, but those are issues American legislators may never figure out. They can, however, shorten the school day.
    I spend eight hours a day in the school building teaching students and monitoring lunch and hallways. During my dedicated planning time, I set up lessons, make copies, and upload assignments to online platforms to keep students engaged for our full 90 minutes together. Also during that time, I meet with my colleagues to collaborate and share ideas or cover an absent teacher’s classroom. That means all of my real planning and grading has to happen outside of the 40 hours in the building.
    I hesitated to answer a phone call from a loved one the other night because I still had 5 more papers to grade and wanted to make it to bed before 10 PM. I was up late on Friday night checking revised work and scheduling emails to go out in the morning so parents and guardians can make one final push for their children to finish missing assignments before grades are submitted. I skipped my only real exercise of Saturday morning Zumba again because I needed to finish plans for my advisory period and set up an agenda for the Key Club meeting after school this week. I missed my son’s frisbee game Tuesday because I had a faculty meeting after school and gate duty immediately after. I text regularly with the new teacher I am mentoring because the questions and advice need more than the weekly after-school meeting we manage in person. Since my nights are often used to catch up on emails or plan lessons, weekends are when I can provide feedback on student writing. I need to start writing college letters of recommendation so I can meet the first round of deadlines, but this Sunday I am reviewing revisions my sophomores made to their research papers and making sure my freshmen know I care about them by commenting on the writing they did about their personal lives. During my planning periods this week, I already know I have to cover a class, make a couple parent phone calls, write up my 504 accommodations, and meet with a parent, my department, and the counselor,
    I miss the time I had to read, hike, watch tv, play games, travel, and rejuvenate this summer. We enjoyed so many great trips last year in our travel-trailer, but we sold it because I knew it would sit on the gravel when I was too busy returning to a “normal” school year. I read advice about “leaving work at school” and finding a “work-life balance,” but I don’t know how I can do that and be the teacher my students deserve. I know my perfectionism is partially to blame, but I’m not alone. Many of my colleagues somehow coach sports several hours a day. I can’t imagine how administrators are handling county-level meetings, parents, IEP meetings, building maintenance, safety drills, home games, substitute shortages, and the overwhelming transportation debacles.
    I love teaching, I love my students, I love my school, and I love my district. I don’t deal with many of the behavior problems, budget restrictions, scripted teaching, and other inequities that many educators face. Still, I don’t know how long I can manage 70-hour work weeks. There are systemic problems in education in the United States that must be addressed. Yes, state and federal legislators need to solve funding that attracts and retains teachers, bus drivers, and other school staff, but we must not ignore the impact of an unrealistic school schedule. Ironically, we’re kept too busy to have time to organize or complain. I wonder though if unsustainable expectations are a symptom of American culture that begins in school and continues in other careers. How many hours is your average work week?

    • Holly says:

      I have been teaching middle school ELA for 10 years. Today, after struggling just to get through directions I had a mental breakdown explaining to my class how much they are wasting my time after all the effort I put into making their lessons great, and they can’t respect me enough to listen to the directions..

      I sat down, told the secretary I was sick and needed a sub. I was shaking and on the verge of just walking out. I have never broke down like that before in my 10 years of teaching.

      Once a sub got to my room, I went home, took a shower, and took a nap.

      I also have 3 kids of my own, one being a 6 month old baby who has yet to sleep through a night.

      Tomorrow I am supposed to meet with my instructional coach (required to meet with her once a week during our plan time) to go over/analyze data from the state assessment last spring.

      I wish my admin would read this article. We don’t even get a lunch “break.” Kids eat in our classrooms to cut down on the capacity in the cafeteria.

      Kids eat breakfast in our rooms (also to cut down on capacity). The pick-ups also wait in our rooms after school to be picked up so they aren’t congregating out front. I’m so sick of this “due to Covid” cop out.

      Our admin are stretching us so thin with supervision duties. At our last PD meeting, they railed us on our state assessment scores (low) and challenged us to find ways to get kids to do more critical thinking. They don’t have the attention span to even listen to me talk through directions.

      I’m hanging by a thread to not quit this profession.
      -Missouri teacher

  16. Nicol says:

    “thank you,” I whisper as tears stream down my face.

  17. Patsy Lewis says:

    Jennifer,

    I have followed you since 2010, and I have valued your insight into myriad topics related to education. From the beginning, I recognized that you no longer taught, but I knew that your suggestions were solid. I have used many of the techniques teaching high school English in grades 9-12 (chat stations is one of my favorites) and continue to use them in my current position as an assistant professor of education.

    I retired with 31 years in public education in June 2019 and immediately began teaching at the univesity level preparing preservice teachers. I love my current position, but I acknowledge that the teaching experience I had is not the one my interns will experience.

    The topic of the October 19, 2021 post is absolutely some of your best work! As I read this post, my mind raced to the students I teach now. Many of them are interning and preparing to graduate in May 2022. A teaching career will look completely different for them. These students are not where I was as a preservice teacher in the 1980s. They will balance school requirements with life better than I did because they will refuse to allow the two to cross paths. They will draw the line at ridiculous demands from their administrators because they do see better ways to handle those initiatives, and they will suggest alternatives. They will leave school at school, which is something I could never do. This group of preservice teachers is so resilient that they will not view teaching as the end-all-be-all. They will approach teaching through a healthier framework. Unlike me, their identity will not be based solely in their choice to become an educator. They are equipped to be an educator and have a life in ways that I am only now embracing.

    I see hope in the future of teaching. I see a new approach to teaching that is forming in the mist of this horrific pandemic. I see changes on the horizon, and I anticipate we are teetering on the brink of a new way to realize how we teach and how students experience education. This new generation of teachers is equipped to offer solutions to issues that continue to plague education, if those who with an agenda will loosen the reins and be willing to listen to suggestions for a new journey.

    Thank you for having the heart of a teacher and sharing your insights with us. I can’t wait to share this post with my interns! I see lots of discussion in my near future.

  18. Annika says:

    Thank you, Jennifer! I came across your site in 2020 looking for research-based practices, and LOVE your teacher heart and skillful researcher/philosopher/podcaster/networker role in communicating the best information to those of us who want to do the research but don’t have time…because we’re teaching.

    In this case, I appreciate your tracking of what has caused so much teacher stress and burnout even pre-pandemic, as well as the need for real systemic change in a system made of people and our holistic selves. Do keep up the good work equipping people to make positive change–you are making the proverbial difference for many.

    • Jenny Nold says:

      I would love to see this article refer to “educators” and not just teachers. While your thoughts are very accurate to the current situation in schools, the word teachers seems to identify only those with teaching certificates. Our school systems rely heavily on all “educators” to meet the needs of our students and run effectively. “Educators” encompasses all staff tasked with teaching, supporting, encouraging, guiding and loving our students… not just the ones with teaching certificates.

  19. I’m sitting in my office in angry tears right now. After 7 years in the classroom, where I felt the same things this article stated every single day, I left in 2016. Now, I get to spend my time researching and teaching teachers how to save time with tech.

    Thank you for writing this. Thank you for saying what I felt during my classroom years (the reason I started my new work). Thank you for reminding me of every one of those feelings I had. This is a hill worth dying on. This is why I started my own business to support teachers first, before students. This system has to change or die.

  20. Albert B. Franklin says:

    In Redwood City, California, there was a community college math and science teacher who worked just 8 hours during the summer months. In addition, he had a contract, to work during the school year those dreaded nine months, but he had stopped working, during the summer, at the community college.

    On his return to school, in the fall of that year, his department asked him to attend an evening meeting to which he tried to convey that due to his hectic schedule of proofreading all of his student’s daily assignments, he did not have the time to do it.

    That lack of effective action caused his department, to start the process to proverbially kick that teacher to the curb. However, just about that time, his part-time job called him at work to ask him to do about thirty minutes of work.

    It was at this juncture, that his employer asked that teacher’s other gig what was his hourly rate of pay. When they calculated his doctor’s degree, into that equation, they knew that the full day’s work in the summer meant the he made far more than each of them did those contracted months along with the summer.

    They finely concluded, that though he love his job the tears would have soon stopped once he ran into his bank to cash his first full paycheck.

    I don’t know what the pay is like anywhere else, but here in California, where rent is around $3,000 per month there can be not doubt about what teachers and substitutes must make in order to survive in the New Economy.

  21. Marta Cendra says:

    Thank you for this Jen. Even if my situation here in Barcelona is not as bad as what you describe, lack of time has always been an issue. And this is my 27th year in the classroom!
    Your podcasts inspire me and make me a better teacher. And this podcast has made me feel understood.
    I have sometimes felt the same way your sister told you, after listening. Apologies accepted.

  22. carolyn olson says:

    I really love to hear your voice and advice. It is excellent. I didn’n’t have time to read the whole thing but enjoy reading what you write and it is spot on. Thanks turned 62 almost done. any day. Ciao

  23. Renee says:

    Thank you for this.

  24. Abby Morton says:

    Hi everyone… I am the sister Jenn referred to. I love my sister so much, she is my best friend, and I am *insanely* proud of her success. Her work has informed my practice immensely and I share it everywhere I can. But I will admit, it’s been a challenge to hear some of her advice over the years as I struggle with overwhelming exhaustion, frustration, weight gain, disrespect in the media, and never having enough money– all from being in the trenches of education. Jenn, I don’t think you owe teachers an apology, because your heart has always been in the right place. But my colleagues will appreciate that the example I used in our conversation was the one about alternatives to showing movies at the end of the year, or other time-killing spots like the day before vacation weeks. That one got chuckles and profanity from more than a few teacher friends. (I’m sorry Jenn, I love you.)

    Thank you so much for listening and acknowledging the realities, and I’m glad I could help give you the hard truths. You are always welcome to come and see what I’m dealing with, and I’m sure a million other teachers would extend the open invitations to their classrooms as well.

  25. Fantastic article as always. But what about parents? Why aren’t parents being held accountable for our exhaustion? I’m sick of being terrified of doing my job bc a parent may get upset.

  26. Laura says:

    My district does every single item in Part 4. Personally I’m most insulted by jeans days and donuts/food.

    I’m in my second year in my current district. When I started teaching here, a colleague warned me that jeans passes are rare and I should snatch up one at every opportunity I get.

    And we have to pay for them.

    That’s right, jeans passes for staff are school fundraisers. Fundraisers for our union’s scholarship program. Fundraisers for various athletic and academic extracurriculars. Fundraisers for the flower fund that sends flowers to bereaved staff members.

    For Christmas last year, the superintendent sent out an email thanking us for our hard work and promising us a gift. Turns out it was a cheap red Christmas stocking with ten little pieces of candy in it.

    And we had to return the stockings for reuse next year.

  27. Kris says:

    Thank you. I’m sobbing because you put into words what I haven’t had time to process.

  28. Alison says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. It is everything I have been ranting about to anyone who will listen, and reading someone else accurately identify all of these issues makes me think maybe I’m not crazy after all. I am only sad because the people who really need to read this won’t.

  29. Sue Long says:

    I had the privilege of being an administrator for 12 years before retirement. Upon receiving my position, a friend gave me a book entitled, “If You Don’t Feed Your Teachers, They’ll Eat the Students!” Best book ever. We were an alt ed school (6th-12th grade expelled/suspended). Talk about stressful. Yes, there were plenty of doughnuts, bagels, and treating to lunch, but there was much more. First, they were informed that a “sick day” did not specify physical or mental. If they needed a day off due to exhaustion or to refocus, they were encouraged to take it. Second, if they ran into a subject area they were uncomfortable with, they could simply ask if I could step in to help. (I think I helped a 6th grade teacher, who was actually a PE teacher, truly understand a big section of English grammar one year when I stepped in for him.) Third, we had a 15-20 minute meeting each morning to bellyache (the better word would be to b***h) and work through concerns as well as to share WONDERFUL things that had happened in class. Fourth, each quarter during a teacher day, we listed everything great that we were doing as well as areas needing work. As a team, we decided what needed worked on first and how we would go about accomplishing those goals. Fifth, every morning, the staff (secretaries, aides, AND counselor included) as well as students had a half hour morning meeting. The meeting included stretches and other exercises, good new notes, future events, as well as the final 5 minutes spent in “meditation.” Sixth, if the day seemed to have been trying, I pulled out the dart board after the kids were gone (we were “required” to spent 1/2 hour after school) and we used our imagination as to just exactly whose head was on the board!!! Seventh, on many of our in-service days, I would involve them in an out of school activity. Once we went to the local community college and “threw” pots — got rid of some tension. We went bowling, again getting rid of some of our tension using our imaginations. And many times I brought in lunch for them. Eighth, the teachers always had the option of allowing a student to work in my office for a while. I had cards printed up for the teachers: “Give Me a Break,” “Take 5,” “See ya.” A student would be given the first with something to take to another teacher or a short job to be done out of the classroom so the teacher could take a breath; the second would be something that to whomever he was sent had to take just a little longer; the third essentially meant “Keep him until he is 21!” Ninth, when hiring a new staff member, everyone sat in on the interview with each and everyone having something to ask or discuss with a candidate. Their voices were listened to about which candidate would make the best addition to our school. Surprisingly, the candidate who would probably be tossed aside in other schools was exactly who we wanted in ours. All of these with other things that we did added up to a happy staff. Many admins asked how I managed to hang on to my staff for so long since it is often difficult to keep teachers in an alt ed school. I simply replied, “I feed them!!!”

    • Sheryl D Moore says:

      SUE LONG

      You are the rare and greatly needed exception these days!!

      • Klaire Lamb says:

        This dire situation has been a blessing for some districts because teachers who needed to leave the profession a long time ago are finally making space for effective educators. They have been a drain for years and now they’re longstanding defiance is making the current circumstances harder for their effective colleagues. I truly hate to see what education has become, but anyone who has been following history knew that these dreadful days were inevitable. My colleagues and I predicted the current state of affairs all the way down to race riots and a worldwide infection since 1996. So anyone unprepared for these days wasn’t paying attention, missed the breadcrumbs, or was in denial.

  30. Tina Whitehead says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Yes!!!!! If only they would listen. It IS the worst year of my 23-year career.

  31. You nailed it. I do like the way you mentioned the appreciation of teachers, less meetings more time on “sharpening the saw”. https://login.abqse.org/SharpenIT.pdf

  32. Annick Tokar says:

    Well said! Now for the nation to listen to you. Can you now take this to Congress please. Thank you!

  33. Anna G says:

    I definitely teared up reading the Apology part. I have subscribed to the newsletter for years and I always feel like I’m not doing enough because I just don’t have that much time to incorporate all this great stuff. I think we’re all just realizing that we need to give ourselves more time, now more than ever.

  34. Alex Brown says:

    Thank you for writing this. However a an educator myself, I am disgusted into what our profession has morphed into. Trust is our own problem. We have moved on from basic curriculum to social crusades. There was literally a teacher who had Antifa stuff all over his room and no one was brave enough to stop it (at all levels). Teachers openly posting on TicToc how they are blatantly attempting to indoctrinate their kids behind administrators backs. Most of the above I can work with. The teachers that are ruining the “trust” don’t care.

    • You seriously expect us, a bunch of teachers, to believe that teachers got away with posting antifa stuff in their room and talking about “indoctrination” on TikTok? Please. No admin would let that go. And if they did, as soon as a kid told a parent it would be all over the news. If you’re some kind of anti-teacher troll, you’re trying to infiltrate the wrong blog. Go tell your stories to people who already believe this ridiculous narrative.

  35. Natasha says:

    How did you get inside my head?
    I am literally crying, realizing I am not the only one…
    Tonight I was at my (;) point. You have no idea how this saved my life.
    Thank you.

    • I just read your reply and wanted to check on you. I hope that today went better for you. Hang in there. You are doing a wonderful job!

  36. Jess says:

    I feel so validated right now. I thought these were just things that dominated lunch break discussion at my school!

  37. Science teach says:

    I appreciate much of what was written, but I do take exception with the broad strokes with which you paint male teachers. As a male teacher, I don’t actually think we have “plenty” of male teachers. I think there are far too few – especially men of color and other under-represented identities. While, “most of the men [you] taught with wouldn’t put up with this nonsense,” – I do – and I work, often seven days a week, in my building (perhaps unhealthily) doing so, because I love my job, but above all, care for my students. I also know plenty of my female colleagues who would likely be considered to be not “putting up with this nonsense,” and have either left the profession or “checked out.” I am not going to comment on my non-binary colleagues who may feel even less seen by this post than I do.

    I appreciate and agree that teaching is a profession drenched in paternalism, white supremacy, ableism, sexism and the general binary lens in which the world is so commonly viewed (this is an incomplete list for sure…). Perhaps I am being reductive in my analysis of your ideas, letting my ego cloud my thoughts, or I’m just letting my emotion/hurt get the best of me after a tough day (which I feel is part of living I this profession), but I write this because I respect the resource of this blog and podcast, but today, at least for a moment, I did not feel respected by it.

    • Hi there ~ Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I took another stab at that section to see if I could elevate it to a more thoughtful place. I’m not sure if I got there, but I hope it’s better. I’m sorry you felt disrespected.

  38. Laura says:

    I literally broke down crying when you said that I am not the problem.

    I am at the end of my rope. Everything you said was true.

  39. Jessica says:

    I am an administrator in a public school. I can’t say I’ve done all the things you’ve suggested but I’ve certainly tried to do quite a few and have heard positive feedback on my leadership from my staff. I do my best to block and tackle on new initiatives, give time back where I can (though it is often a half hour here and there instead of longer time), and find genuine ways to appreciate staff. I cover classes at the expense of my own work time and take stuff home into the evenings as well.

    With that said, I think this article misses the bigger structural challenges in education, and more solutions need to come from superintendents and state departments of education. One of the things taking everyone’s time? Coverage. I work in a school district where the salary structure is terrible, and I don’t control that – at every principal meeting we have, we sit there and say we don’t pay people enough to want to work in our schools, and ask what is being done with the federal funding we have gotten, and get silence on that from district leadership. As for requirements like safety videos? Those come from states. Being out of compliance with stuff like that can sometimes impact things like licensing – no one wants that.

    I love my staff. I want them to stay. I want to find ways to give them more time. But I’m tapped out myself, and this needs to become a bigger societal and structural conversation about how we fund and treat education before we’ll see real change.

    • You are so right about this. Many of these issues are out of the hands of school administrators. And others have commented that it is the structure and the culture of education in our country that is the problem. That is where the problems begin. You are absolutely right that district and state superintendents need to begin the overhaul. And if it doesn’t happen, the problems are just going to get worse. Can we afford “the great resignation” as one here called it to continue?
      You seem to be tuned in and trying to make things better for your teachers. If you love your staff, I am sure that shows every single day. Bless you!

  40. Sheryl D Moore says:

    Like one said above, how in the world did you get inside my head??? I’ve been thinking this, feeling this and even venting this to a few colleagues and even my principal – yet, I personally believe – that until admin gets their hands dirty again (back in the classrooms, in the hallways of schools, etc.) this already broken system is only going really in one direction. Collapsing! THANK YOU for sharing what I believe so, so many of us have already said and definitely feel.

  41. Candace B Romano says:

    I read this article with tears in my eyes. Never has anyone “nailed it” like Jennifer has. I have been a teacher for 24 years and I am at the end of my rope. My district is slowly unraveling-it has become a place I don’t even recognize anymore. Every single word of this article is spot-on. I am willing to die on that hill but everyone has to stand together to make change happen. Many of my colleagues can’t/won’t do that so it feels very hopeless. I am married to a school administrator and he agreed with EVERY word in this article.

  42. stacy says:

    Thank you. I would also like to add: #9 The very public vitriol of some parents and community members at open forums and online who called us “heroes” when we were told to show up for in-person learning but lazy, selfish, do-nothing, I-pay-your-salary-with-my-tax-money freeloaders when we were told to work our asses off, remotely. Then top that off with others who refuse to comply (and model that refusal) with mask mandates (that we didn’t write) and suddenly believe we are “indoctrinating” students, and it’s almost too much to bear.

    • Adam says:

      I could not agree more. Teachers have frequently been Public Enemy No. 1, save for a few fleeting moments when we finally ascended to Hero status during the early stages of the pandemic.

      But I’ll be darned if, as soon as many Americans had to return to their own jobs — many with the option to work virtually — we were back to being vilified for not being gung-ho about returning to ours.

      One minor digression while I’m thinking of it: I’ve never understood why teachers don’t get the same respect as police, fire fighters, or the military. We may not risk our lives every day (although the constant threat of a school shooting looms as an all-too-real danger) but we are public servants who educated those who the public places on a pedestal.

  43. Katie says:

    The one thing I think you missed, and is very important right now, is probably going to sound really bad, but here it is:

    Lower your standards.

    I teach Kindergarten in a low income, low performing school district. My kids don’t know how to hold a pencil. They don’t know how to spell their names. They didn’t know what their name looked like a few months ago. They don’t know letters. Yet the curriculum adds 4 sight words a week.

    These kids AREN’T READY. They need time to learn to interact with other kids. They need time to play and enjoy school. My district has a 3 hour literacy block with them sitting and doing worksheets. They’re not ready. We’re not ready to catch them up to where someone behind a desk somewhere says they should be. They need time to mature.

    We need to back up our academic expectations and learn that what we were doing wasn’t working, and is working less now.

  44. Tracey says:

    Thank you. I am sharing this widely. Teachers have a lot of leverage right now to say NO more often and more loudly. Definitely agree with Part 8. Something big needs to happen for “them” to hear us.

  45. Teacher says:

    I have been thinking about writing or starting my own podcast on the absurdities I fave every day because I don’t think people actually realize how bad it is. I for one am so fed up. I’m exhausted, I’ve gained a lot of weight, and have zero bandwidth to deal with any minor frustration and yet I got flagged on my eval for not seeming positive enough last year. Yeah sorry the fact that my mother died, I had to move, and my own teenager had to go on antidepressants takes away my cheery outlook.

    If you need contributors, please let me know.

  46. anonymous teacher says:

    I read this and then scrolled up to see if it was written by one of my colleagues. This is (sadly) spot on. Part of me is relieved that I’m not the only one and part of me is sad that this problem is so widespread. I wish I could anonymously forward this to my administration

    • Tired teacher says:

      You can. Print it and put it in a mailbox. Heck, mail it to them from a blue post office drop box.

  47. Stephanie says:

    My fervent wish during the pandemic shut-down was that there would be a collective rush to dismantle the whole education system– all the crap that has been institutionalized since the beginning and build a system for the students and teachers of today. The biggest betrayal was the lip-service to “things will be different.” Things aren’t different, unless different means “worse.”

  48. Erin says:

    This was a very interesting and insightful read, thank you. As a district administrator, I’m proud to say that a lot of what is shared here is actively happening in our district – the slowing down, the pause, the focus on relationships, the reduction in assessment.

    That said, I do want to address the bullet that essentially suggests schools “just hire people.” The Great Resignation is the #1 challenge for school districts today. It is a global issue, and we are in competition for part time workers with private industry able to offer significantly more than we are, and they STILL can’t hire. Our school and district administrators are working lunch duty, crossing guard duty, classroom coverage, etc. It is not a bullet I disagree with, but it is worth mentioning that it may be a bullet that is truly impossible right now, despite 24/7 efforts by districts.

    • Adam says:

      Completely agree with your sentiment, as my district is having an impossible time finding subs.

      That said…what does it say about the amount we pay our subs that they believe they’re better off doing something else?

  49. Debbie Sachs says:

    Hi Everybody!

    On behalf of Jenn and the Cult of Pedagogy team, we want you to know that we’re really glad the post resonated with so many of you. We are reading all the comments and appreciate the value they add to the discussion.

    Unfortunately, with all the responses we’re receiving here, on social media, and from emails, it’s just going to be impossible for our small team to personally respond to them all. Jenn is just really happy that the post hit the right notes and is hoping it will reach the right people.

  50. Jen M. ~Ohio Admin says:

    Wow. This is spot-on. I’ve listened to it twice and I feel it so deeply. I shared it with my admin team and my staff. I love the way you pulled all of the crap burdening our teachers into one podcast. I was begging for someone to let us push the pause button once school started this year. We can’t keep going like this. I’m ready for solutions. There are no subs- got it, now let’s find out what to do about it. We have been short 16 subs since Oct. 1st (with only 15 school days).

    Would anyone be willing to hop on a Zoom call and start problem solving? I would like to start offering solutions to remedy our broken educational system.

    Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to put this together. I feel heard and am so relieved that you aren’t allowing excuses and superficial “solutions.” I’ll keep sharing this post!

  51. Karen says:

    I agree with everything except more PD days. PD, typically, is a waste of my time.

    As a high school English teacher, give me the day to grade essays, so I can provide timely feedback that all the meta-data says is a best practice.

    Give me time to contact parents about their children.

    Give me time to tweak lesson plans based on the grading I just did, so more students improve their communication skills.

  52. Kathryn Treybal says:

    THIS. It feels like you opened my mind and put my thoughts on paper. EVERYTHING hits the proverbial nail on the head. There is no normal anymore or going back to before 2020. Schools must change or no teachers will be left. Our mental health needs are just as important as student’s.
    Thank you.

  53. Laura says:

    Thank you for expressing our dire situation with such articulation. I’ve been teaching for 29 years and this year is definitely one of the most difficult. THANK YOU❤️

  54. Bret says:

    This resonates with me.
    I am 2 years from retirement. My life is dedicated to this job. I feel like retiring when I qualify.
    This post brought me to tears. There is so much truth here. This profession slowly erodes your physical and mental health. It doesn’t need to be so.
    I worry about the profession as few graduates pick the field, but I must take care of myself and my family. That may mean quitting. I do worry that, by the time states and administration realize the problem, they won’t have experienced teachers anymore.

  55. Toya says:

    Yes, this year is worst than previous years. Teachers are doing 75% paperwork more so than teaching. The evidence is seen in virtual teaching where teachers had to submit weekly Record of Attendance (ROA) for all students; this entails their grades, homework, % of work achieved just for documentation of their attendance.
    Teachers are being evaluated in spite of learning new teaching apps platforms and technology. The school district is in violation of its own contractual language with the union and the union is doing nothing about it.

  56. Debbie says:

    Thank you! I love your podcasts and I now love your sister as much as you! This is timely and needed. With the sub shortage, we are getting paid to cover classes during planning but that isn’t even worth it. Who can afford to give up planning?!?! Even that needs to be a “no” in my opinion. It is indeed the worst year ever.

  57. Dan Sitter says:

    I have a colleague who made a really good point to me yesterday – we had/have a chance to blow up the outdated model of education that we’re all laboring under, but what we’ve done is hit the replay/repeat button AGAIN. Box kids up by age and assume it’s all going to work better. WE can do better, but we need to change the game.

  58. Jessica C. Graham says:

    “But equally important is the fact that I really don’t want to invite back into my life the stress and horrible imbalance that comes with a teaching job.”
    Do teachers need to read several paragraphs detailing why you’re not in the trenches with us?
    Nope.
    Please go sub once or twice a week and experience our struggles firsthand.

    • Sarah says:

      I feel like you and I had a conversation.. Your points and others are spot on and emotionally honest. I respect that you have been out of the classroom and are still able to see the issues and point them out. Thank you.

      This is all over the place organizationally and there are likely errors because I am multi-tasking.

      I read an article recently about feminized professions. People that work in a profession like teaching or nursing that are not women are working in feminized professions. These people are also likely receiving more benefits than the women with whom they work. Feminized professions were often worked by people prior to marriage or were seen as an assistant or helper. It was also assumed that a husband was in the picture which meant that the women were working for “pocket money”. This is no longer the case.

      *******
      The media was congratulating and complimenting teachers for around two months. We finally had some accolades. The backlash was swift and angry. We also falsely believed that people would continue to support us and that our additional work would be compensated. We are all reeling from this.

      Communities, districts, administrators, and parents all have power over teachers. They can literally take your job from you. The power differential is real. Many of these power situations also take place behind closed doors which is undue influence. It is very easy to say no when in a group. It is very difficult when you are one-on-one. It is even more difficult when you see pers targeted or you are targeted. Teachers are moved, given difficult classes, and other “punishments”. It is cruel. We are also given fake compensation or rewards.

      We are working in a difficult profession. Our product, student, is not created in a factory with a conveyor belt with a system in place. Our students are not Lego brick, they are living, social, emotional beings that come from different backgrounds, have different levels of education, and have different upbringings. They also have different levels of self-regulation. We also have students with 504s, IEPs, and second language learners that need extra attention. Each and every class has a different mood and student power group. We have to manage each and every one while also teaching.

      We are trapped because we want to help the children. We want to keep the children safe. This is used against us.

      Some teachers are also working under under tyrannical, emotionly abusive administrators.

      Some manipulative, passive-aggressive administrators cause teachers to misunderstand or be on an emotional rollercoaster that they may not even know they are riding. This has created a system of avoidance or lies. Teachers say things are okay because they don’t want to rock the boat. Teachers lie from omission because they don’t want to be a target.

      Teachers hands are also tied because they can’t talk about things due to privacy. They can’t reveal the truth because they would be violating some policy or even a law. Or, they are protecting a child, so they keep quiet.

      The amount of information, data, and emails are overwhelming and never ending. We are chastised for not keeping up. Or, we have some other ridiculous expectations.

      Can we talk about the data, the false data?

      Our covid data didn’t match up between town, district, and the state. Not accurate.

      Different data is used at different times. When data is used by the district, they may use one data set this time and another the next. The data is randomly chosen to fit the newest initiative. The bar is also continually moved.

      We were all told that last year’s standardized test scores wouldn’t count, but now we are being told to change everything because of these same scores. Data that isn’t real is driving our instruction.

      I will talk about my own child. She repeatedly received great scores. One year, she dipped 30 points. Her enrollment in an honors class was in jeopardy. Her scored were so low. Okay, why? My mother was in the last year of her life and we were constantly leaving her with different people. In addition, my father-in-law was ill and in the hospital for a year. She was in school a week after my Mother’s death and a day after the funeral and took the test. Hmm. This one data point almost changed her academic career and her future. Data can lie.

      Supplies and materials. There are either none, they are poor quality, or they are locked away from us because we might use too much.

      It is all too much. I have seen more teachers breaking or crying this year.

      The worst part: Teachers that don’t have empathy for other teachers. Teachers that are going above and beyond that point out the horrible people that don’t go above and beyond..

      I think it would be valuable for someone to take all of the comments, remove repeats,, compile them, and share them. Leave off any identifying information because people are posting here because they feel safe.

      • Andrea Castellano says:

        Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Sarah. I’ll be sure to pass this along to Jenn.

  59. Heather koons says:

    Oh gosh…i have two daughters that are teachers…my heart breaks listening, watching😓 as they keep trying to hold it together, 💔 while raising their own kids.. not getting enough sleep, wishing they could quit, trying so hard with more and more thrown at them 😭. This article is says it all..
    Part 8 ..bang on !!

  60. Robert Macfadden says:

    I was driving and screaming at truckers for going too slow and then dissociated and went numb because I was relegating myself to being late this morning at the point in the podcast when you were talking about how when people are about crack and feel like they don’t have enough time they start lashing out and then just go numb when they give up and realize they can’t do anything about it. It was very meta.

  61. I’m a college professor who listens bc most of the principles port well to higher ed. Just wanted to say thank you for this episode bc I’m also a parent, and next week we have parent/teacher conferences. I so appreciate being able to walk into conferences with this insight. About your last point (great info, no time to implement): Two weeks ago I had the chance to use your suicide prevention episode with a student. not the first time I’ve had a student in crisis, but having a fresh, recent take on how to triage was invaluable. Even if we can’t magically make there be enough time to do all these things, we never know when we might use the info.

  62. Homerun

  63. Timiny Bergstrom says:

    Hi. Thanks for this post. It’s fantastic. And spot on. But one big piece is missing. Some of the parents/guardians of our students are relentlessly demanding, critical, and entitled. They have absolutely no empathy for what life as a teacher is like. I was a classroom teacher for 15 years and am in my first year as an interventionist. I am 1000 times happier than I was last year or the other years prior. The two main reasons I am happier is because I work with a much smaller number of students at a time AND because I don’t have to communicate with parents anymore. There are plenty of lovely, supportive, and appreciative parents out there, but the difficult ones overshadow the wonderful ones. Can you add anything about this to your post? Thank you!

  64. Beth says:

    This means so much. Your words are my feelings. Thank you. The call to inaction is truly my action plan. I’m about to start saying “Nope” to anything that doesn’t let me meet my learners where they are and that doesn’t leave me in charge of my time.

  65. Caitlin says:

    This is wonderful. I will say, though, that there is one “worst year ever” aspect that you left out, which is student behavior. I’m not blaming the students, at all— they are worn out and traumatized by this pandemic, and they are not used to being in a physical classroom. They’ve been distance learning for so long—I teach K-8 and my most challenging classes this year are 5th and 6th grade. A couple weeks ago I realized— these kids were in 3rd and 4th grades last time they had a normal in person school day. Of course they are struggling!

    Add to that the need to play mask police with the kids, which just gives one more point of contention with the students and a potential area for a power struggle. I feel sometimes like I’m acting like the teachers I had in middle school who were constantly on my case for having a bare midriff (I do NOT miss early 2000s fashion…). I try not to police students’ clothing because I think it’s pointless and does more harm than good… but masks? I am super strict about those for the safety of my other students, colleagues, myself, and my family. And that strictness about masks just causes more struggles with students who think it’s pointless to wear one. I’m glad I live in a state with mask mandates rather than one where I wouldn’t even be allowed to tell students to wear masks, though.

    Even with my intense empathy going out to the students, classroom management and student behavior have been a bigger than usual struggle this year, and my usual strategies haven’t been working— and I’ve heard the same thing from tons of other teachers on social media, too. That aspect is much trickier for admin to help with than the other things you highlighted, but it is definitely something we teachers are struggling with.

    (I’m lucky that my admin doesn’t do too many of the things highlighted in your post, although the monthly “teacher self-care” PD meetings are getting on my nerves. At least they’re on Zoom so I can turn my camera off and work on grading during “mindfulness” time. But even with a very supportive admin, this year is still the worst.)

  66. Midnight Teacher says:

    A few years back, we were told that we had to bring all of our intervention documentation & weekly progress monitoring to someone’s office & file it in the appropriate folder. Why? Apparently, some teachers weren’t doing their interventions and/or progress monitoring so those of us who were doing our jobs were now being asked to do more because of those who weren’t! I was younger, in shock, & outraged. I was so livid over this nonsense, I refused to do all kinds of duties & tasks that were required. I didn’t do at least 10 different tasks, completed weekly or monthly, for an entire year. I’ll admit, I got carried away… so carried away that I may have only attended 10% of our faculty meetings. And you know what happened?? Nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Not a single word, verbally or by email, was ever said to me about any of it, not even in a general message. This just further fueled my anger because you have all these amazing teachers stressing & overworking to do all of these tasks (most being unnecessary for effective teachers) while the teachers that are ineffective, lazy, or probably the reason we’ve been given the task just keep chugging along creating more work for the ones that do their jobs! If those teachers knew nothing would happen for not doing all that extra work, they would have just died… & then they also would’ve stopped doing the stuff. I was in disbelief & my perspective was forever changed.

  67. Amy Belota says:

    You’ve hit everything that my coworkers have been angry over since the beginning of the school year and it’s not one district it’s across the board. To me the most tone deaf aspect is requiring self care as a part of my professional development – I handle my own self care through fitness meditation and faith – I know I am blessed with the support group in my life. Self care is not sitting in a cafeteria with 100 co workers listening to a life work balance guru after your contact time. Reserve the funds for those who need and cannot afford one on one counseling. I started teaching as a second career after children grown and I am able to devote 60-80 hours a week. Working in corporate- I know that the things would not fly in a business managed by a Human Resources department following state and federal guidelines. My heart goes out to my peers that have small children as I don’t even know how they manage.

  68. Kelley Young says:

    Why do you think that many administrators believe: “We don’t think you will do your job if we are not constantly checking behind you.” This idea is completely contrary to all management teaching. What do they teach about motivational management in Superintendent school?

  69. airmoseayo says:

    “Find your marigolds and stick close to them. Grow big and strong. Kick that mountain’s ass. ♦” We did not think CoVID would have been the mountain when this quote ended a very motivating blog in August 2013.

  70. Suzanne says:

    My district is now requiting data testing every 2 weeks on Kindergarten students…Kindergarten! These are 1 on 1 tests, with 4 tests per child. I have 22 students. It takes an entire week to get all these tests done, meanwhile the students are self learning in order to give these tests. An entire week is wasted on testing and this happens every other week! So when the data shows no growth, my answer will be I never got to teach.

  71. Michelle S says:

    Great article. My main thought as an involved parent is- how can parents help!? Teachers are so valuable, thank you teachers for all that you do.

    • Abby Morton says:

      I have two daughters (middle & high school age). One thing I did this year: I started getting a bunch of emails from their teachers talking about parent conferences, click here to set up a Zoom conference, etc. I wrote each of them back and said that we wouldn’t be setting up conferences this year. My husband and I are both teachers, so we’re going to trust their expertise and assume no news is good news. We won’t ask for grade changes, second chances, deadline extensions, etc. We’re here if they need us, and we’re doing our part to feed/love/provide structure for our kids, but we’re going to leave them alone to do their jobs.

      I also sent a link to this blog post. 😉

  72. Shelley says:

    I have not read all the replies. I wanted to say that you “hit the nail on the head“ with your comments. Every teacher right now is suffering. I have 2 1/2 years left and I have to keep my job. Hanging on by a thread right now. The only other thing that I would add to all this as we are also being asked to be therapists and counselors to the students and the parents. There is a lot of drama, a lot of issues with parents and students. The students have not been social due to Covid. The parents are stressed out and worried about their kids. And we are asked to fulfill a role that we have not been trained in. They are trying to give us classes on how to help these kids and parents socially and emotionally. However, I do not want this degree! I signed up to teach. I did not sign up to be a therapist. We are trying to be all things and do all things for our students and it is too much.

  73. Sunday Morning Teacher says:

    I tried inaction when I was told to use an outdated and error-prone method of data collection, and instead use my own method that produced more accurate and detailed data about student achievement, but was accused of not being a team player and having part of my paycheck withheld. (This teacher, “who’s not a team player,” is at school at 8:30 on a Sunday lugging water bottles and reams of paper from one end of the school to the other so that they’ll be there on Monday.) So, I started using their system, and immediately saw the problems with it: several layers of technology are needed, any of which can and do fail. If I were to start a GoFundMe for my lost wages, I would return to my way of doing things, which provides students with immediate and meaningful feedback, instead of requiring them to participate in the charade of producing helpful data. Does anybody think people would donate for this cause?

  74. Kathleen says:

    I agree with so much of this article, until I get to the very end. To you, it may be a “hill worth dying on,” but you realize what you’re suggesting as the hill is the collapse of public education in this country. Does the system need to change, absolutely. Are there sharks circling in the water to watch the collapse of public education, you bet there are. So, it might have been a clever ending to your article, but I think it comes with a giant caution because the idea of a public education system in collapse is one where a private sector based on the principles of capitalism is ready to come in and cannibalize.

  75. Chae says:

    As a 2nd year teacher who recently quit a wildly unrealistic school (system) and have been conflicted about the idea of returning to the classroom, thank you. It’s good to know I’m not alone, encouraging that people are actually talking about these things, and priceless to have vocabulary/sources to express my needs. Maybe I can try again, if some of this changes.

  76. Amy O'Hara says:

    I couldn’t agree with this more.
    Teaching (especially this year) is like a toxic and abusive relationship: We stay for the kids, spend our own money, take classes, self evaluate, work weekends…. hoping it will get better. Maybe it does for a little while…..
    It’s taken 12 years but teaching has finally broken my heart.

  77. MrMH says:

    I am in my 7th year in my current position, and my 10th year of teaching. I refuse to get stressed out. I am a special education teacher. Almost every school in my district, including mine, has a SPED vacancy right now. I always do whatever my principal asks me to do and I do the best I can each day by the SPED students on my roster. My view is “if anyone can do my job better, they are welcome to take my place”. No one wanted my job before Covid; they certainly don’t now. I don’t do much schoolwork at home, unless I’m up against a hard deadline. That’s not to say that I am negligent of my job responsibilities; I just don’t sweat the inconsequential stuff. I know I am an asset to my school, and I don’t want to burnout.

  78. Dear Jennifer,

    Thank you for offering a space for this dialogue to exist. I also wanted to thank you for reading and sharing my Medium article about gaslighting teachers and toxic positivity and the changes that we’ve got to start demanding in education. While I’m saddened that so many of us are facing these conditions and troubles, I’m comforted by our solidarity, and I hope that we can start getting some traction.

    Also, I would love to contribute to your publication in any way you might need me. Feel free to contact me via the provided email, if so.

    Thanks to everyone for fighting the fight! Love and light to you all.
    ~ Jennifer

    • Andrea Castellano says:

      We were glad to be able to share the article with our audience! If you’d like to share content via Cult of Pedagogy, you can find the links to the appropriate forms here: FAQs Hope this helps!

  79. Tina Regn says:

    Teachers don’t quit jobs. They quit bosses.

  80. One word sticks out more than any other. “Time.”

    I spoke about this last year for the NAEA: “Lingering at the Point of Wonder:Design for an Inefficient Education.”

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-A5E5-IPPrUFcDpjGYsouMx5OPEk5nVh/view?usp=sharing

  81. Mr. F says:

    I know this sounds crazy…..but I believe every class needs two teachers to meet all the needs of our students and all the extra responsibilities. Whether it is two credentialed teachers, 1 teacher and 1 student teacher (from a college/university) or 1 teacher and 1 para-educator….this should be a requirement for all classes (regular and special ed classes). I believe this would help alleviate so much because this has become a two person job with all the extra things we’re asked to do.

    • Phyllis says:

      Mr. F – This does not sound crazy at all. This solution solve a lot of problems. And what is needed right now IS out-of-the-box thinking because it seems like the profession is at a standstill. No one’s coming up with anything except MORE work and MORE time spent on the job, not less. The challenge with this idea is that teachers are leaving the profession so we simply wouldn’t have enough I don’t think. There would have to be a big push/campaign and higher pay offered for a Special designation of paraprofessionals, one in every single classroom. This is a great idea.

  82. Nicky says:

    This year in one of my husband’s government classes 17 of his 30 students have IEP’s. He had no help for the first month. By the way all 17 have behavior issues. Administration knew his situation and did nothing. The Special Ed supervisor in the building (who does not assign student to classes) happen to come to his class and saw all the sped students. She took it upon herself to help him at least 2 days a week. Needless to say he is stressed.

  83. G.R.B. says:

    Our administrator sent us this article to look over and reflect on, and in the process told us that “he heard us” but his hands were tied by district, cancelled the faculty meeting at the last minute, acknowledged that it was in direct opposition to what this article said was a good idea, and explicitly told us to not act in any subversive ways or practice inaction. I agree with this point whole-heartedly, I just can’t see the system changing before it breaks.

  84. Brenda Schlomach says:

    Oh my gosh! This is exactly what I’ve been hearing around the school from teachers. All of it! And there is a lot of civil disobedience going on at my school. One thing not addressed here is the stepped up anger of parents this year. Kids are still in depression/trauma mode to a large degree and parents expect us to just deal perfectly with every kid all the time without any grace. And they expect us to catch them up, but not expect anything much of them because they are overwhelmed and sad. So how do I teach skills, but not hold anyone accountable, and provide the data the district requires, but make sure everyone passes and nobody is upset? (takes another anxiety pill and moves on to the next thing on the list).

  85. Gabriella Gonzalez (Mama G) says:

    Thank you.
    After 27 years on campus on 9/23/21 I finally cracked like a chip! I walked away from my classroom for what should have been 2 weeks (Dr. orders) I went back on 10/13/21 to get released to return to work. However, in speaking with my Doctor she noticed my anxiety rise and my emotions run away from me. She was unaware that teaching may be the only profession where even when your “out” there is an expectation to provide lesson plans, return emails, grade papers and turn in grades. She could not believe it and warned me to “find a way to walk away or you will be found cold at your desk” So I did I came home created 10 lesson plans. uploaded everything and sent a copy to my union rep (CYA), I turned off my work email, send all Stakeholder a letter explain that “I am not a lame teacher…” but in order to make my last 9 years I had to walk away and heal.
    Never would I have thought it would be me but the final straw was my 17th student sharing they were COVID +!!!
    I’m, feeling stronger again and ready to fight the good fight BUT not at the cost of my health….I have well over 300 sick hours now, I wll use them as needed.
    BTW not covered by Workers Comp.

    Mama G

  86. I am a school board member who received a link to this episode from a teacher. I enjoyed the listen. One thought about pre-pandemic vs pandemic vs return to in-person pandemic… for many many teachers, students, and schools, systemic inequities maintained by adult decisions created COVID-19 “pandemic like” environments prior to the health pandemic that you speak. I would welcome to hear your thoughts and recommendations from the perspectives of those serving in those spaces. Their pandemic existed long before 2020.

  87. LAURA ELLI KUIVENHOVEN says:

    Thank you, thank You! You have hit the bullseye regarding the problems the problems we are facing in teaching! You are the first person to clearly state what’s wrong and what we should do to fix it. I’m glad I’m not alone and appreciate your laying it out so well. That said, I think this will be my last year in the classroom. Best wishes to those who are entering this profession!

    • Andrea Castellano says:

      I’m glad this post resonated with you, Laura. I’ll be sure to pass this message along to Jenn! Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.

  88. Sarah says:

    Goodness, thank you for this post. I feel like you are truly “seeing” what is going on right now. I’ve thought of quitting so many times this year, then I feel guilty for having such a notion. The truth is I’m there for the kids, but I have to swim through so much detritus before I can get to them. And please, for the love of all that is good, please respect a teacher’s prep/planning time. It is not time to chat. Send an email; we’ll get back to you.

    • Andrea Castellano says:

      Hi Sarah, thanks for commenting. I’ll be sure to pass this along to Jenn. Hang in there!

  89. Jason Salhaney says:

    Most times the contents of your podcasts are fantastic. I was heated and angered by this one. I think you are making a lot of assumptions about administrators and lumping them all in together. Every job within the educational system comes with its pros and cons. The pressure to do all these things along with you all the things upper management wants us to do is great and often times misunderstood by teachers. I was very disheartened.

  90. Aaron says:

    Thank you for raising some of these issues. I am an experienced teacher at the college level now in a secondary-ed program and planning to move next year into the classroom. This post is both eye-opening and reassuring.

    It is, of course, natural to feel a little daunted when experienced educators are increasingly left with the sense, as the title suggests, “that they are barely hanging on” in the early days of a school year that has turned out to be worse than last year’s pandemic altered one: a true “dumpster fire.”

    I appreciate your honesty.

    On the flip side, it’s also reassuring that others are experiencing this as a tough time amid a long-term setting of tough times. On the one hand, we can recognize that this pandemic-affected year is not normal. As student teachers, I and my colleagues are immersed in an intensive preparation program that would even under normal circumstances potentially overwhelm us. Perhaps it is helpful to remember that this is a school year filled the new and the unknown for us, but also for our our mentor-teachers and students.

    Most powerful, however, is the call to do something about the undue burdens placed on classroom teachers, who struggle not only with the circumstances, but also the requirements of this or that administrator.

    In this regard, the post reaches a point I found quite powerful: what if teachers engaged in slow-downs and work-to-rule strikes against the tasks they are assigned that at best waste their time and at worst are actively harmful to themselves and their students? As someone with a bit of a background in labor history, I was struck by the encouragement offered by this. We don’t have to do it all because it’s not possible to do it all, and we can fight back.

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