I didn't want to write this post. I've been putting it off, too embarrassed. Everyone has been so nice, leaving comments, sending e-mails. Then another comment, then another e-mail, "just checking in." Hoping I'm feeling better, that things are getting better, if only a little bit. I suppose, in a way, things are a little bit better, since I quit my job. However, in another and much more real way, things are also much, much worse, since...I quit my job. And there it is. I quit my job. What I have been to embarrassed, too ashamed to post about, to tell even my close friends about, to tell my parents about. They still don't know. But now you do. On Thursday I talked to my principal, in tears, and on Tuesday, after a long weekend, I didn't go back. I didn't go back.
Everyone has been so nice, the steady stream of social workers and instructional coaches the principal sent into my classroom on Friday to "check up" on me, perhaps hoping they would sway me, but no one even tried to. They hugged me, these complete strangers, and told me it would be ok, that it wasn't my fault, that they understood and that I had to do what was right for me. But I don't deserve their kindness. I don't deserve the e-mails of support and offers to share contacts at other schools, in other districts. I don't deserve it because I am the worst kind of person, because who abandons her students only two weeks into the school year? Who gives up and throws in the towel without even giving it a proper go? What kind of person devotes an entire year of her life to a Masters program and goes into debt all in the name of teaching, and then gives up when the going gets hard? Three weeks ago I would never have thought that would be me. But I guess we can all surprise ourselves, sometimes.
I am finding it hard to explain myself, because really, there is no excuse for what I have done. But here are the facts. I wasn't sleeping. I couldn't eat. I felt nauseous 24 hours a day, my entire body a twisted knot of nerves, and every day it got worse, and not better. I started out on an adrenaline high that lasted most of the first week (a day out for an earthquake mid-week helped), but by week two, things had changed. Week two, it was real. My attempts at re-gaining control in my classroom all failed. I couldn't teach my students; I couldn't even get them to sit down. Nothing I did seemed to help. I assigned detention; no one came. I called parents and sent e-mails and spoke to administrators and logged all of my actions, staying at school until late, way past the point of drained, and then went home to prepare lesson plans. I came in early to prepare and I went to morning all-staff meetings, and then I steeled myself for the rest of the day, but the fact was, I couldn't teach my students. Years of experience and training, and suddenly, I knew nothing at all, anymore. The truth is, I only had one really bad class (one out of three, with demon-from-hell block scheduling and classes lasting an hour and twenty minutes each, so help me god). But even in the good classes, the "good" classes, I didn't know how to reach them. I didn't know how to get them to learn, there was such resistance. And the bad ones I couldn't even get to acknowledge my existence. I would speak and they would ignore me as if I wasn't even there. If I assigned detention, they laughed at me. When word got out that I was calling homes, that egged them on. "I look forward to your call tonight," they would say laughing, defiant. "You gonna call my house? Go ahead."
And eighteen-year-old Rico, on his fifth year of high school, who had begged them to let him back in so he could graduate, not even a kid but a man. With a head full of braids, a booming, resonant voice and a swagger, he said, "Man, you ain't got no control of this class. Look at you, they aren't even listening to you." I wanted to say, No, because they're listening to you. But I didn't. The first time I tried to be light, make a joke out of it. "You want to get up here and do this?" I said, faking a smile. "I'd probably do a lot better at it than you," he said, scowling, and my smile faded; it was true. The second time he said it, the next day, I snapped. "Can I get a pass to see my counselor?" he complained. "I gotta get out of this class. You don't know what you're doing, you ain't got no control." His voice oozed contempt.
"Get out," I snapped, losing any pretense of dignity or calm.
"I'm already goin'," he said. "I don't want to be in this class anyway, you don't know how to teach." And it was true. I didn't.
They said, they said, all you need is to have your procedures in place, and you would have nothing to worry about. All about structure and routines. They said all you need are engaging lesson plans and you'll have them eating from your hand. I never saw the footnote that said, *This is what will work for white, suburban kids. Your results may vary. Teach at your own risk.
If I could have kept on, I would have. If I could have finished out the year, finished out the semester, if it had been even a possibility, I would have. Somehow, some way. But as it was, if I managed to go to sleep at all, I would wake up at 2:00 in the morning, without fail, violently sweating, and then lie awake the rest of the night, and start the day at 6:00. I could barely choke down half a piece of peanut butter toast in the morning without wanting to vomit, picked at my lunch, would throw together completely unappetizing leftovers for dinner, making meals of things like steamed broccoli and two-week old mashed potatoes, no time and no energy for more. Losing weight without having weight to lose. But instead of feeling light I felt heavy, dragging myself to the bus stop and down hallways like I had weights attached. I felt sick when I was there, and sick when I was at home, anticipating being there. I couldn't relax, couldn't turn off, couldn't not think about it. My hands would shake, and I had no idea how to fix it, how to fix any of it. It all seemed insurmountable, like more than I could do. And so, instead of fighting, I gave up. I gave up.
My kids deserved better than me. They deserve better than me. They deserve someone who can teach them. Leaving after two weeks, I thought, or justified, would be less traumatic than leaving them after a month, or two months. They would still have a chance at a normal semester if they could just get someone else in there right away, someone who could teach them, but it wasn't me. It isn't me.
I didn't say a word to them when I left. I am still thinking about them. I hope they aren't thinking about me. I hope they don't think I left because of them. I hope they have forgotten me.
I know it seems like the easy way out, but if you think there's a weight off my shoulders now, there's not. Instead now I am burdened by guilt, by regret, by shame, by impending financial disaster. It wasn't the right decision but it was the only one. I didn't want to leave, but I couldn't stay. I wish it could have been different. I don't know why I feel the need to explain myself to strangers but I do. I want to scream from the rooftops, I am sorry, please don't hate me, there is already enough of that to go around.
So, now you know. But how will I tell my parents?