I’ve been meaning to write this post this for years. I just never could. Part of the reason was because I never knew the right time to publish it. But the other part of it was because, no matter how many times I mulled it over in my head, I could never find the right words.
But, as I sat at my desk the other day, thinking about all that was involved in renewing my teaching license again, it finally hit me. The right time to write it was now.
I realized neither the timing nor the words mattered much. I could just write what had been weighing on my heart for the last several years. Truth is always better than anything I fabricate on my own anyway.
You see, I had already crumpled up my renewal application. I had long since deleted the emails I was saving in reference to it, too. The frame holding my teaching certificate was already face-down on top of the book case. And I had stopped accumulating professional credits to apply toward my renewal a couple of years ago.
Though I had not set foot in a classroom for years, I guess I had been too scared to close that door. Well, that, plus I was still earning (a little) and receiving occasional offers based on that particular “credential”.
I guess I thought it would be stupid to just let it go. Covering myself. The economy. Just in case. All that.
But I wasn’t living my truth.
So, I have decided to quit.
Officially, as of now, I am letting my teacher certification expire.
What that means is, within a few months, I will no longer be able to teach in my state’s classrooms.
Honestly, it sounds so ridiculous now that I’m writing it down. I mean, I don’t want to teach in my state’s classrooms! It’s actually the opposite. I never, ever want to teach in my state’s classrooms. Ever again.
Nevertheless, that option will no longer be open to me. So in effect, I’m closing the door on the past, and on any future assignments and earnings I might have been offered in K-12, too.
And there’s more to this announcement, too. I don’t care. In fact, I’m really happy about it. I don’t know why I waited this long. Cause I could have been happier a lot sooner.
See, the truth is, I’m not going to miss being certified one bit. Yea, there are some perks I’ll miss. School teacher discounts for one thing, including those oh-so-fun Disney days and the free museum passes. Free software, lesson plans, DVDs and posters, too. And a certain aspect of helping homeschoolers in my state will no longer be possible, since one way I support families requires a “teacher signature” — and I’m a little bummed about that.
But, aside from that, I really don’t care. Because now I’m free. Free of the label. Free of the pressure. Free from appearing as though I care. Free from being associated with a system I haven’t believed in since I was in school — so very long, long, long ago.
What a relief.
I feel like I just got off a carousel that I couldn’t wait to get off.
Here’s my thinking. I’m am a teacher, and I have been one my whole life. I have the degrees, and I have taught at the schools, the business centers, the colleges, the universities. I taught the staff, the students, the student teachers, the parents and the community groups. I basically started playing school as a child, and I guess I just continued playing school my whole life.
I teach my kids at home, too.
It’s what I love to do.
I don’t need a certificate to know I’m a teacher. I don’t need a certificate to tell me I do it well. And I don’t need a certificate to help me do it any better in the future, either. Geez, I’m not 29 any more. If I don’t know it by now, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to learn it in a classroom full of co-eds. At this stage of my game, I can learn anything I need to know, on my own, if I need it, when I need it.
I’m fine, thank you.
You see that photo ^^^ up there? That was one of the last teacher pictures ever taken of me. That photo actually represents one of most frustrating and upsetting periods of my life. I’m reprinting it here to remember. One last time. Then, I’ll probably never look at it again.
The woman in that photo had already had it. As in, up to here (hand held high). She spent quite a few years dabbling in the system, studying the system, working to help the system, trying to change the system, wanting to help the kids in the system, and dying to rescue families out of the system.
But nothing ever stuck. I mean, she made a little impact. Some successes. Probably even quite a few. Here and there. For sure. But, overall, the woman in that photo was helpless. There was literally nothing she could do that would amount to a hill of beans. She was essentially helpless in a system that was slowly imploding, one day, one test, and one student at a time.
That teacher was helpless when it came to curriculum. It was already set in stone, with no room for movement, curiosity, creativity or personality. Whereas at home with her children and the other kids who would join them, their classes were wildly creative and fun, and children learned in leaps and bounds; in the public classroom, lessons were taught from a page. Whereas her homeschool curriculum took many twists and turns along a general path; in the public classroom, curriculum was neatly numbered, bulleted, highlighted and displayed at the front of the room each day. And whereas her homeschool lessons could branch off and come back again (or not) any time she and her students wanted them to; in the public school classroom, she would be criticized if not all of the bullets (or when different bullets) were checked off by the end of the day.
That teacher was helpless when it came to fostering real relationships with her students. Despite what the families thought was going on, that stuff wasn’t really allowed. Though she tried to slip in quick conversations with students, an encouraging note, a kind word, and even an occasional hug or pat on the back, those things were entirely against the rules. Unsupervised conversations with parents weren’t allowed either, and she broke all rules when chatting with information-starved parents without witnesses or chaperones, and when she did so in hallways, car rider lines and on the phone over the weekends — instead of in “the office”.
That teacher was helpless when it came to discipline, a word she hated, but was forced to adopt. Though she had high standards and tried to teach elements of character, etiquette and appropriate behavior, she made room for individual differences, learning styles and personality types. Yet, if she really needed support with “traditional” classroom discipline, schools were often unable or unwilling to provide it, making learning tougher on the other students. Instead, classroom experiences were diluted by students who should not have been there in the first place. Students who had been expelled from other schools or were kicked out of other classrooms. Students she loved dearly, but had problems so severe, they belonged somewhere else. Students so needy, they consumed more time than any one teacher could ever provide, even on her best day. Sometimes, classes would be stacked with these students while the others suffered. She watched young women verbally tear each other apart. She watched young men physically tear each other apart. Same thing, assignment after more difficult and depressing assignment.
That teacher was helpless when it came to innovation, as her ideas seemed to rock the status quo. And though she might initially be met with enthusiasm for bringing unique skills and ideas into the classroom, this would be quickly squelched when people began to take notice. Her efforts would be thwarted, until she eventually learned that teachers who dared think for themselves were a thing of the past.
Her resemblance to old-fashioned teachers, and everyone’s beloved teacher from the past, would threaten the pat model that was already established.
Somebody has already decided how learning is supposed to happen.
Dare to ask questions, and it becomes a classic ‘take it or leave it’ situation.
She became disillusioned after her final assignment — one aimed at helping classroom students plus area homeschoolers at the same time. Because, despite her efforts, hard work and good faith, she finally saw through the facade, realizing that program would never really get off the ground, no matter how much she wanted it to.
Her classroom was “too noisy” anyway (students were frequently heard singing, competing, shouting and having fun).
Classroom observations (i.e., evaluations performed by unskilled office staff) suggested she pay greater attention to the many nuances and details of being an effective teacher anyway. You know — proper poster placement, changeable bulletin boards, snazzier (less comfortable) footwear, a well-stocked first aid kit, plus plenty of bug sprays and chemical disinfectants. Praises had nothing to do with actually doing her job…you know…teaching.
She was forced to attend meeting after meeting. Attend training upon training. And complete form after mind-numbing form. Those weren’t productive anyway.
She didn’t play the game right.
So, she gave up, because she became helpless. Beyond exhausted. Had sacrificed an irreplaceable part of her life. Her family’s time. Her wallet. Her health. She was ready to give up. And so, she did.
Funny thing is, after the initial uproar, after the phone calls and letters from grateful families, and the groups of families who sought her out for private assistance, she was quickly replaced. Which was sad, really. Not the replacing part so much as the thought that there are thousands and thousands of new recruits to choose from on any given day. New teachers ready to take a stab at what she and others like her had started. Some eager to follow the rules, and retire as teachers some day. And some eager to take a stand, make a change, try something new, and who would eventually quit. Like she just did.
Know that, despite this particular decision, I’m still a teacher. This all doesn’t really matter. Because, I’m still here. Actually, I’m helping the same kids who are still in those classrooms, only from the outside (because most of them don’t get what they need on the inside). I’m also helping the millions of families who have grown tired of that system and decided to take education into their own hands, too.
Cause that’s really where my heart lives anyway.
I’m still a teacher, because I am homeschooling my own kids, who understand that system all too well due to their involvement with me. And by living in a world full of people who go there. And by accompanying me on various jobs over the last 20 years or so. And by overhearing my conversations with the refugees (as HECOA says) of that system for so long.
I’m still a teacher, and will always be. I’m just not doing it with my state’s permission any more. I’m teaching from my heart, from my experience, and from the trust I am grateful to have earned from those who I have worked with before.
I’m still a teacher. In a way, I’m a better teacher even. Truer. More sincere. Authentic. Because now I am powerless to judge. I can no longer assess, grade, promote or dismiss any other kids but my own. I was always uncomfortable wielding that sword of power anyway. (I never felt anyone should have that kind of authority over the learning of another, least of all young developing minds.) By removing that power, I am now free to work alongside students and their families, offering only what comes directly from my experience and from my heart — not what I might be forced to write in a grade book.
I’m still a teacher. A damned good one. And though I probably still don’t know all of the things that do work, at least now I can tell you what doesn’t:
To those with whom I have worked, I hope you understand. And I do apologize if this may offend or unpleasantly impact any one in any way. But, friends, that system is officially broken, and it’s time you knew. I just don’t want to be connected to it any more. And I certainly don’t want to waste another minute of my time contributing to it, perpetuating it, or in any way funding it by taking courses, submitting applications, or even by asking one more person to add my name to a database, a class roster or an I.D. card.
So, that’s it. I’m out.
But, before I go, let me share with you what I know for sure:
It has to do with good parents and a good home education program. Period.
If I can help you with home education, let’s talk. I’ve got lots to share with you. And, it’s really, really good stuff. Promise.
But if you’re looking for someone to cover Friday’s class, fill in on so-and-so’s maternity leave, sit with your kids during assembly, or cover after-school activities in somebody else’s absence, I’m no longer available.
Thanks for the memories.
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. The founder of homeschool groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame and with no teaching background whatsoever. A liaison for regional school-to-home organizations and a homeschool leader in Florida, Marie-Claire also mentors homeschool families nationwide. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on CONNECT, Homefires, Molly Green, Holistic Parenting, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of other blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.