I taught school for ten years before I became the Ugly Dad you know today, and getting out of the field was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. You know why so many teachers are shitty and angry? Based on my experience, it’s because teaching school is one of the worst things a person can devote their life to.
I don’t mean to say that it isn’t a noble goal, to devote yourself to education, to working with kids, but in practice it’s a fucking nightmare.
Note: Some of the following is general, some is specific to my experience in education and won’t be applicable to all schools/teachers. As for my credentials I’ve taught high school, middle school, and college courses. I am considered a “highly qualified” teacher in the state of Arizona.
So here we go. Ugly dad’s top x reasons I quit teaching…
#1 I hate your kids and I hate you
Parents/Guardians: I debated having a second section just for you, but in the end, your ideologies, neurosis, prejudices, and attitudes are so intertwined with those of your kids that it only makes sense to lump you together.
Allow me to be candid: your kids are terrible human beings. Okay, not all of them, but most of them. Yes, there are certainly a number of great kids who are great students, as well as some great kids who aren’t so great students. I loved working with kids of all ages when I started teaching, but now the pitch of their voice can make me cringe. They cheat, they lie to your face, they can’t/don’t/won’t follow the simplest of instructions. Some are just rude; I listened to one student as she talked about how bad the teachers were because they taught for a garbage school and made shitty money. She laughed as she said this because of course, it’s fun to insult people. You think I wanted to see her succeed? And then there are the smelly kids, some of them smell so bad I probably should have called CPS for neglect, because holy shit, don’t tell me you can’t smell it when you drop off and pick up. We see your kid for an hour a day, and we don’t offer a hygiene class. We get a lot of grief for what we’re unable to accomplish in the limited amount of time we see your kids so sorry, but this one is on you.
Speaking of YOU (not all of you, like the kids, some of you are wonderful people). Get with the times. And not just regarding pop culture and what you find is and isn’t “acceptable” reading material (yeah, I’m a little bitter), but with technology and the world at large. I’m sorry you “don’t like the internet” (which a parent said as she sobbed uncontrollably and then threw a stack of papers in the air and screamed “what’s wrong with paper?!”), but the world is going paperless and if you think you’re doing your kids a favor by keeping them away from tech, you’re not. You’re setting them up for disaster.
So parents, here’s a list of how NOT to help your kid’s teacher:
- Don’t take your kids on multiple and/or extended vacations that will make them miss school.
- Don’t be an enabler and allow your kids to stay home for days at a time and expect the teachers to pick up the slack for the work your kid missed, or act like it’s some kind of fucking mystery when the kid fails.
- Don’t ignore teacher attempts to reach you via email and telephone, and then say no one ever contacted you.
- Don’t drop your kids in after-school tutoring because you need a babysitter. If your kid is passing the class, it’s a waste of everyone’s time, and unfair to kids who are their for real help.
- Don’t expect teachers to do all the “educating.” Individually, we see your kid an hour a day. You have a lot more time with them than we do to make sure they’re getting shit done.
But it’s not just the parents and students who make the job more difficult than it needs to be. That honorary distinction goes to the higher-ups, from the governing bureaucracy to the school administrators.
#2 Standardized Testing Means Next to Nothing
Let’s talk about standardized testing. This is some stupid bullshit right here. And it’s not about the whole “it makes the teachers teach to the test and not to the child blah blah blah.” These tests assess the minimum skills needed to be a coherent member of society. Seriously, it’s basic math, which they do in math class every day, and language arts, which consists of reading comprehension and a well-organized, fairly logical essay. Again, pretty much what you SHOULD be doing in those classes everyday. There has been a push in recent years to move to a more cross curricular model with an emphasis of these skills being stressed in other classes, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, to show a kid how these abstract ideas pop up in a variety of disciplines. My problem is not the content of the tests, but the way the results are used, or more accurately stated: misused.
FACT: This kind of test is better than a standardized test.
How are the results misused? They determine funding, specifically by tying money dispersal to student/school performance. The government solution to lower performing schools is to REDUCE the school’s resources by way of funding cuts for not meeting performance mandates. The powers that be are saying “You couldn’t get the job done to our specifications with the resources you had so now you have to do it with less.” Fucked up, right? It’s a scare tactic, a negative consequences type of mentality that paper pushers (digital file pushers I suppose these days) absolutely love. It’s an easy metric that will take the blame off them and their fucked policies, and put it squarely on the school teacher. Can a teacher be ineffective? Yes! But a yearly battery of tests shouldn’t be the sole indicator of effectiveness.
From the inside, I can tell you the whole exercise is a farce. These tests are loaded with the same typos students are docked points for, I’ve seen questions with multiple correct answers to choose from. I’ve seen other questions WITHOUT a correct answer. The tests are garbage, but this doesn’t even matter as some states continue to develop, redevelop, and even change the test completely, taking multiple years to establish a test before deciding to begin the process all over. Because of this, the results are unreliable as they can’t be effectively compared over multiple years of testing, but they’re used to make important decisions anyway. However, if your experience was like Ugly Dad’s it won’t matter because your direct administrative supervisor won’t be able to interpret the results anyway (which the party said to me in so many words).
Schools and teachers need to be held accountable for effectiveness, absolutely, but this one size fits all model to assess efficacy is wack, yo. Not all kids have the ability to achieve even the minimum of standards (it’s the truth. Intelligence is a bell curve and some kids just CANNOT handle the material.) Add the fact that there are a plethora of factors — school and non — that are key to any student achieving their best, and you realize that a single test is a horrible method to determine whether teachers are effective. Blaming the teachers based on a single number is an easy way out. You want a kid to understand the meaning of “Kafkaesque?” Don’t have them read Kafka, have them work in public education.
#3 Administration: Next to Worthless
FACT: This bike is more useful than most school administrators
Okay, let’s talk administration. Keep in mind I’m not talking about support staff such as reception or other campus drones. I mean the people in charge. They are about useless. They get paid significantly more than the teachers and they do less work. I don’t care if you argue that they work just as hard but differently; I’ve seen the reality with my own eyes, at multiple schools. I’ve seen shady use of funds, lack of acknowledgement for their fuck-ups, zero transparency when it came to things that should have been shared with staff, and an overall lack of decency.
I’m no prude, and I actually think school should be a more progressive institution overall, but even I draw the line when I can’t teach the literature I want (yep, still bitter) because of “community morality” but the director of the school is allowed to have sex with one of the parent volunteers during school hours on campus. An incident that resulted in the volunteer’s visibly drunk and angry spouse showing up during the school day demanding to speak to the boss.
This is a pretty accurate representation of the parties involved
There was a particular administrator who was not only chronically late, but brought their child late nearly every day as well, at least fifteen minutes. This happened nearly 100 times which is the equivalent of missing over four days of school. Do I particularly care about this? No. The kid was extremely bright and suffered no ill consequences. But the behavior set a bad example for the rest of the kids, and created resentment among the rest of the staff who were expected to show up on time. Additionally, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that if this had been any other parent of any other student, there’d have been a call to the police for truancy (really a thing. They really do it.) But nothing was done in this case.
And do we need to mention the asinine stream of consciousness meetings that accomplish nothing? I think the last one I went to involved the director going through an outline of a school shooting lecture he’d attended, teaching us why we shouldn’t drive in the left lane other than to pass, and then “teaching” us how to create a secure password for logins. That’s your (and my) tax money in action.
Administration, fucking gag me, right?
#4 Handling of Money
I hate to say it, but money was a factor. I never got into teaching to be rich, but I didn’t plan on being miserable for peanuts either. But it wasn’t the relatively low pay that bothered me. I always said, and still do, that I got paid a decent wage for the amount of work I did, and there are some wonderful perks like getting a fuck ton of time off. So my problem isn’t really with wages, though there is certainly room for improvement there. My real problem with money ties back to administration, and it warrants its own number on this top X list.
That burning sensation isn’t the chlamydia you caught from a french whore, Ben. You’re in the hands of a school administrator!
A Note About Red for Ed
For five years prior to the whole “Red for Ed” movement by the teachers’ union, the teachers at our school received a token cost of living raise of around 1 percent. After Governor Doug
Douchey Ducey’s promise to raise teacher salaries twenty percent over two years, I was told we’d get 2% raises across the board because we were a charter school. I smelled the bullshit immediately, maybe my dissatisfaction was palpable by that point and they were hoping I would quit, maybe not, but when the state numbers posted to the web (I’ve tried since to find this info again, it was an official department of ed page but it’s missing now. If you find it, send me the link), I did a quick conservative number crunch and found that even if the school had opted to give give a two percent raise to all staff regardless of their role, that a 2 percent raise left a lot of money unaccounted for. Again, I don’t know why I was misinformed, but I have learned since then that my colleagues did receive raises closer to what the governor promised. Which is good!
Here’s another list because I know how much you guys love lists. Some other questionable money stuff:
- Multiple leases on company vehicles for administration.
- Nepotism as the director hired his spouse whose job appeared to be primarily to follow him around all day for 30k a year. I literally watched one day as he dug a hole and she just observed his shovel work.
- Four separate office aides hired to be utilized by a single administrator who often spent much of the work day not working.
- Missing bonus money. We were given 2 bonuses a year without fail to the point people planned on the winter disbursement to fund the holidays. These monies were funded by a AZ Prop 301 which was set up explicitly for teacher bonuses. My last year teaching it was dispersed to no one with no warning or explanation. Someone asked after the fact and was told it wasn’t in the budget. I call bullshit and think a better explanation is that it went toward the new cafeteria/auditorium building they installed, a purchase that benefited no one but those involved with the school play since there was already a shaded and misted outdoor eating area that had served the school well for twelve years — which is still where the kids ate whenever something was happening in the auditorium, which was actually quite often around the time of the fore mentioned musical, weeks at a time.
- Multiple spouses/friends/family on the payroll.
#5 My Personal Reasons
I know I’m petty at times, and I think it’s only fair that I include a few very personal reasons for quitting. I’m listing these as an insight into me that will allow you to re-frame the rest of it if you like. If you want to characterize me as a malcontent, that’s fine. But here we go.
They cancelled my after school club
Administration said Minecraft Club was no good because the kids could play video games at home, neglecting the fact that there were various clubs that the same rationale could be applied (board game club? Anime viewing club? tea club?) My response was to say yes, they could play the games at home, but they AREN’T at home playing games alone if they’re in my club; they’re in a safe supervised place where they could game together. I even offered some research on the positive aspects of video games, but that wasn’t enough to convince them. This cancellation came after three years of running the club with no problem.
My fucking AC was broken for four years
I pleaded repeatedly, filled out the proper forms that were all but ignored, watched technician after technician do the minimum to fix the problem to no avail, and was left to teach in near 90 degree classroom temperature as the AC tried to do its job. The director himself came to check it out, measured the temp of the air coming out of it and told me that there was nothing wrong and that the problem was that the thermostat was across the room and too far away to accurately register the temperature. Basically I was told that I was broken, not the AC.
Actual photo of me teaching the elements of fiction in late July in Arizona. Note the kids who are dead.
Eventually, an administrator suggested I was breaking the AC by leaving the AC fan on overnight. I admitted that there may have been isolated incidences of this happening (which probably wouldn’t have happened since the only reason I used the fan setting was because the AC wasn’t working) but if they really thought it was that, I came in multiple Monday mornings to find that the Friday evening cleaning crew had left the AC fan running. I was mildly perturbed by the accusation (remember, I’d already been dealing with this shit AC for years by now) and was asked why I wouldn’t just say that I would make sure it was turned off and move on. I told them that I didn’t like being accused of things I didn’t do and was met with “Well, who does?” What kind of response is that?
FINALLY, after nearly five years of requests and complaining a technician looked in the roof and it was discovered that the AC duct was not hooked up to the ceiling vent, so all the cold air was just floating around above the ceiling tiles, with a faintly detectable flow making its way into the classroom. I don’t know how much money was wasted in “fixing” it again and again (and the wasted energy costs!) when the whole thing could have been taken care in a few minutes by checking the entirety of the system.
Let it be known that I have nothing against Mormons as a religious group, I think they have the right to be as duped as any other adherent of an organized religion that requires your money, time, and mind, but I taught in a very Mormon-dense community and there was a particular Mormon clique that seemed to have administrations ear more than any other group. I already mentioned the new auditorium for the play, a play that was put on (very well for the most part) by the Mormon clique. My problem is that the bulk of the cast was Mormon, with the lead parts consistently going to biological kids of the producer and director, as well as members of their church (many of which didn’t attend our school but were allowed to participate anyway). I mean, some of these kids were OBJECTIVELY bad actors and singers, but they were given lead roles year after year. Again, nothing against Mormons as a whole, but this particular group really played favorites. And to be honest, their perpetual cheer made me a little uneasy.
Probably a family of overly cheerful Mormons. Not enough kids present to say for certain.
There it is, that’s the end of my top X reasons why Ugly Dad quit teaching. Maybe it was more of a rant, but what a rant! I anticipated a shorter version but sometimes when I get going, I really get going.
So, what do you think? Am I way off the mark? Am I just a malcontent? If you have something to add or a comment, I’d like to hear it. Love you!
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