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“I’m done teaching.” My wife looked at me like I was crazy and told me to think about it over the summer. My best friend asked, “What are the kids going to do?” My sorority sister told me to go to another school and tried to convince me I wasn’t ready to leave teaching. But I am. I am done. The career that just two years ago I was so hopeful and enthusiastic about; is now killing me.

My school is a Title I school and for those who do not know what that means, think of Joe Clark in Lean on Me. My school is a made up of students who come from difficult backgrounds and a good amount of teachers who don’t really want to teach black or brown kids. I have had kids come out to me, talk to me about suicide attempts and pregnancy, just to name a few. My kids know I care deeply about them but they also know not to play with me. This has given me favor with the students and administration.

My school is known for WWE style fights, many of which I had to break up because our school is so short-staffed. In my hall alone, there have been suicide attempts, brutal fights, pulled fire alarms, and significant destruction to property. There are students having sex in the bathroom and rampant drug use on campus. As a reminder, I teach at a middle school. My school has little to no support from the administration to the district. Many people who make the decisions about my school have never stepped foot on our campus or been with our students for a day. Those who are on the campus, it seems to me, are counting down until the last bell. Teachers are literally pulling out the parking lot before all the school buses are boarded. When a small group of teachers, myself included, joined our voices together the district pacified our concerns by sending new administrative staff to try to correct the core issues at our school. This happened with less than 45 days of the school year remaining. This change has come a little too late.

Even with all of this, I have been rated highly effective for the two years I have been teaching (which is rare) and I have been given leadership opportunities within the district. My kids call me “mom” or their “favorite teacher”. Yet, this is not enough to keep me teaching. Not only am I mentally and physically tired, but I have also become scared to go to work. Last week a student threw a wrench through the classroom window next to mine. This week we were on a modified lockdown, which caused me to message my wife, scared out of my mind, because I had no idea what was occurring. This was the moment that solidified my decision to give up teaching. The risk to my life and mental health outweighs the reward of teaching kids. These issues are not unique to my school but are rampant throughout the Achievement Schools (Title I) within the district. Our government is more concerned with arming teachers and protecting their right to bear arms than protecting students and dealing with the foundational issues that are contributing to why I and so many other gifted teachers are leaving the profession.

I’ve had to become someone I don’t like just to survive teaching at my school. I have become more short-tempered, authoritative, controlling, and hardened and it is been spilling over into my personal life. I don’t like the person I am becoming and it is impacting my mental and physical health. The other day a colleague and I were talking about how we are so drained that our respective partners only get scraps of us and it is not fair. When I step back and take all of this in, the decision is crystal clear. Leaving the classroom is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. It is one, quite frankly, I wrestle with because of the kids but I know it is the right decision. I am still committed to children but that commitment will be expressed outside the classroom.

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Bianca Goolsby, MBA
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