For me, mentally, the coming December holiday break marks the "half-way" point in the school year. While this is not necessarily chronologically true, it is certainly emotionally true.
Back when I was a pre-service teacher, I remember seeing a chart like this one that graphs a first-year teacher's motivation and emotion over the calendar year--with November and December being the pit of disillusionment--but don't despair, rejuvenation and hope are just around the corner!
Ten years later, I feel like the chart still applies to me. It is always in November and December that I wander the web to see what other kinds of jobs my credentials and dispositions might match.
While it has been a few years since I've actually applied for any of those non-teaching jobs, the thought always crosses my mind.
Unfortunately, for some of my colleagues, the climate in education at the local and even the national level has amounted to the perfect storm. I know of three excellent teachers who have made the decision to leave the profession altogether. One of these is National Board Certified.
These are not quitters. These are not complainers. These are realists who have watched their families, health, and attitudes suffer under the constant pressures of being a full-time educator whose work day never ends--the stacks of papers come with to swim lessons, to family holidays, because there is always more work. These are good people who care deeply about other people's children and the future of the country. These are people who are physically and emotionally exhausted from years of leaning a shoulder against cultural and systemic paradigms with tremendous inertia--and most recently, particularly venomous attitudes toward teachers themselves. These are people who tried and have made a difference in lives of countless young people. Yet, the negatives--the unhealthy negatives--too greatly outweigh the positives, and these excellent teachers have opted to save themselves.
Each year, I wonder if I, too, will be able to turn that corner toward the home-stretch second-half of the year. Each year, I resolve to.
And this year I also resolve to do what I can to carry along those other teachers who don't think they can turn the corner. We must support each other. We know the good work that is done in classrooms and in schools all over the country. We know that there are kids who will remember that lesson, experience, compliment or moment of kindness long after we've forgotten. We know that we are not numbers, our students are not numbers, and in the end we know that data actually means nothing because it can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean.
It is a hard fight. Those of us who choose to keep fighting need to support each other, even as attacks from all sides threaten to thin our forces.