Originally Written 5/13/2010
I just realized something. You know how they say that it is the 5th year that determines whether you will stay in teaching or not? Well, I always wondered what it was that happened in that 5th year that scares so many teachers away from teaching and you know what? I just figured out what it is…
I remember my first year, the “hardest year” for any new teacher. It was terrible. I worked in the ghetto of Stockton, CA. Directions to which included the phrases “lock your doors”, “ignore the hookers”, “pass the Yum-Yum donuts”, “turn left into the ghetto” and “over the railroad tracks”. I had never taught a day in my life. I had never subbed in a classroom. I had never student taught. I had never been in charge of anyone before and I was teaching (dun dun duuuuuu) Middle School. Oh my goodness it was terrible. I had gang bangers, crack babies, fights inside of my classroom, profanity written on the walls and yet, somehow, this would not be the defining moment which would make me realize that I did not want to teach. Somehow I survived that year and moved on to teach 4 more years of High School.
That last year though, that defining 5th year, I realized something. I realized that after the 4th year of teaching that it stops get any easier. By the 5th year you know your curriculum, you know what is expected of you and, most importantly, you know all of the gaps, loopholes and politics involved with education that suck the life out of you. You realize that children will try whatever they can to make you bird walk, that they don’t want to learn and that you- as the teacher are not only leading a horse to water, but are forcing it to drink. By the fifth year you realize that you care more about the student’s grade then they do and that numbers and “growth” are more important then people- then education- then teaching. What you realize, is that you have no accountability- that being a good teacher is a choice. You realize that Big Brother isn’t watching you.
Those teachers who continue teaching after year five do it because it is their passion and they are self motivated- because they don’t need anyone to tell them that they are doing a good job and that self satisfaction is it’s own reward. Either that, or because they want a job where they can coast and have little accountability- where there is a “closed door policy”, where the teacher wont have to teach.
But the student, the student doesn’t want to learn either. It is true that many blame the terrible teaching (which I am sure there is plenty of going on) and many teachers blame poor parenting (of which, again, I am sure there is plenty of going on) but we can only control ourselves- not others. So by year five we realize that we are alone.