The Met Life Survey of the American Teacher was recently released with the graph to the left included in the report. The report is full of interesting information but this graph spoke volumes to me personally. 2008 was probably the peak for me as far as job satisfaction, as well. It has plummeted since then for a variety of reasons.
My biggest source of personal frustration with my own situation comes from budget cuts which have eliminated our middle school progam. For years, our middle school was top notch, with top notch teachers who did wonderful things for kids. Then, due to budget cuts, we started getting whacked apart. We lost our principal. Now there is a K-6 principal and and 7-12 principal, who both run back and forth between buildings, but neither of whom spend the majority of their day with middle schoolers. This impacts behavior, discipline, instruction, curriculum, and most of all, morale. We lost programs that made middle school students feel safe, secure and valued. We went from a community setting where we were a family, where we supported each other, where kids felt a sense of belonging, where test scores were the highest in the district (That IS what school is all about after all, isn't it??).
Now our test scores are in the toilet, kids are out of control, content is sketchy at best, teachers are tired and frustrated, feeling unsupported in their efforts, and no longer does middle school seem like "It's Great to be in the Middle" which was our old motto and way of life.
We are take some of the blame for sure. When our last principal left, the last middle school principal... he left us with a story about each person holding onto their stick, reluctant to put it on the fire, and as a result, everyone froze to death because the first went out. I honestly think we all DID give up our sticks, tossing them onto the fire, trying to keep us all warm, trying to maintain what we all valued. But eventually, we all ran out of wood, and the fire died, and so have our spirits.
I spend more time running, chasing, trying to deal with ridiculous issues than I do teaching. I spend time trying to make kids care - kids that don't care - kids that have missed 30+ days of school, kids that are suspended for poor choices, kids that know they will always fail, kids who spend a large portion of their day in the hall or office kicked out of classes. I am not educating them. I am herding them. I deal with threats, accusations, bullying, insubordination, lying, etc... much more than I do with actual academics.
Do I still make a difference in the lives of students? Sometimes, I think I do. Other times, I am not so sure. I feel like I am so out of touch with their realities, I am forging my own new reality instead, for me and for them.
Another teacher commented that we've all become just a check off on their sheet that says all the boxes are filled in. It isn't even just special ed bean counting anymore that feels that way, it's across the board. We're just names to fill spots, no big picture in mind of how it should all fit together to best meet the needs of students.
Does it all come down to budget issues? I'm not sold on that excuse. I think we just make decisions that make it easy for adults, not really concerned with how those decisions impact our students. We put teachers in spots to fill the schedule, instead of looking at our kids and where their needs truly are. Schedules are complicated, no doubt, but creating a good schedule that works IS possible.
Will teacher satisfaction continue to decline? I think so, unless things change. It is easy to focus on our own school, our own situation, but I find it sad and telling that the issues exist across the board. We need to reclaim our schools, reclaim education, reclaim our students' futures. The question is, who is leading the revolution??