Today is one of those perfect days. Lately, I am experiencing more and more of them. This is how they look: Up early, coffee with my husband, we chat about everything and nothing. We tease and laugh. Then it’s outdoors before the heat sets in. We garden and weed, make our little world a prettier place and grow some vegetables. Today I even rode the riding mower. Before the sun climbs too high, I retreat indoors, quick shower, early lunch and then I sit down to write. As I write with the dogs at my feet, I watch the hummingbirds on the flowers outside my window. After hours of writing and some light housework, together we will spend the late afternoon sitting in the cold river water and reading or chatting with friends.
TEXAS TEACHERS FOR A SAFE REOPENING
I am part of a Facebook group called “Texas Teachers for a Safe Reopening.” This group was formed in the middle of COVID lockdown when many of us were concerned that Texas was in too much of a hurry to open back up safely. Turns out, we were right. Not only was it too soon, but in many districts, safety was in name only. Rules were made but not followed, nor were there repercussions for not following them. Granted, this was a matter of degrees depending on the district, but this Facebook group was proof that the problems were not isolated.
STAY OR GO
Many group members posted about leaving the profession, retiring earlier than planned or changing professions. Please understand, we are professional educators. We are dedicated and we love our students and teaching and learning. Also, understand that COVID was not the first or only problem we encountered over the years in public education.
Furthermore, let me make it clear that I do not speak for all teachers or even for this group. These are my thoughts alone based on over twenty years of experience including COVID lockdown and after.
While many states as of this date are still debating the opening of schools, Texas reopened a year ago. In the beginning, I saw the lockdown as an opportunity. It was a chance for all of us to slow down and finally get it right. That did not happen; instead what happened during COVID exposed the public education system for what it is and for what it is not. The very institution that is meant to support educators to do their best job of teaching and is meant to support students as they learn, has become the biggest obstacle of all, promoting only mediocrity and supporting the lowest common denominators. The “system” blocks teachers at every turn from performing at their professional best.
In spite of all of that, I know many, many teachers who do a phenomenal job. Not an easy task and it requires tremendous energy and a strong backbone. It requires so much perseverance. It shouldn’t have to be this way, but after a while even the strongest begin to wear down and just get tired. Understand, not tired from teaching. Tired from fighting the very system that is meant to support us.
That said, a week or so ago a member of this Facebook group, “Texas Teachers for a Safe Reopening” posed the following question to the group:
If you retired earlier than you originally intended or left teaching for a job outside of public schools, do you regret your decision?
As of today, there are 78 responses including my own. The vast majority have no regrets. My own response was short and to the point as a Facebook response should be, but I feel like the question warrants a more in-depth response.
Someone in the group responded that if you left the profession, you would certainly say “no regrets” not because that is true but because you are rationalizing your decision. I can only speak for myself, but no. I have no regrets and I am not trying to make myself feel better.
I retired in December, after the first semester. I did not feel safe. Nor did I feel respected by administration, by some teachers, by some parents or by some students. My well-being and the well-being of others were of very little importance to too many people. I could not do my job at the level of expectation that I set for myself.
TWO THINGS CAN BE TRUE
Two things can be true at the same time. It is true that I loved my job. I was a school librarian and I got to do many amazing things such as talk books with students, teach a love for reading and research, purchase books and maintain them, assist teachers with curriculum and lessons. My job was great.
It is also true that I am over the moon with the life I have found after leaving public education. I work part-time at a job where I am appreciated, and I am writing every day. I no longer experience the anxiety or depression that was bringing me down before. I have the energy and mental space to write. I am a better writer, a better person and I have had the luxury to slow down and appreciate the world around me and the people I love. I also appreciate the fact that I am extremely fortunate and not everyone has the opportunity to live this way. I am grateful every single day.
So, no, I do not regret my decision. It was the absolute best choice I could make for myself and for my family. I will add that it was not an easy decision, and it was pretty scary. But was it worth it? Yes. Without a doubt.
I hope to have many days like today.