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A Florida teacher’s list of “Things I did not sign up for” inspired him to leave his once-beloved profession.
Jonathan Carroll, a social studies teacher at South Lake High School in Groveland, Florida has worked at both private and public schools during his 20-year career. “When I started teaching, I was excited to make an impact on children. I loved every minute of my job,” Carroll, 46, a married father-of-two tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
However, in March, feeling disillusioned by the state of his profession — teachers across the country have been striking against overcrowded classrooms and low wages — he started recording his grievances: Overly-digitalized classrooms, high-stakes test scores, burnt-out students, and a yearly salary of 48K.
Last week, Carroll’s list helped him reach a decision: He’ll retire from teaching on May 28. “So I guess this is it....I am leaving the field of education. I have had so many wonderful memories. But it has become a toxic profession,” Carroll wrote on Facebook.
Once believing he would spend his days “Opening minds, debating history, inspiring the next generation to reach higher and learn from the past,” Carroll wrote, “I think of all the things I did not sign up for....like micromanaging administrators, mental health counseling, blueprints with no freedom or flexibility( even though you can not enforce planning), not being considered an expert in my chosen field even though I have a graduate degree. Students overdosing on drugs and collapsing in my classroom when they get back from the bathroom. Active shooter drills. Teachers being armed. Knowing where it is safe to hide in my classroom. Feeding and clothing my students. Buying my own supplies. Being told I should be thankful I have a job and to get over myself. I am tired of the constant testing...tired of everyone else knowing better and being chastised if I dare ask questions or challenge leadership. So this May, I am walking away...”
On Wednesday, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to arm teachers in their classrooms. According to the Miami Herald, each district that chooses to participate enrolls their staff in a “Guardian Program” carried out by local police departments.
But teaching, says Carroll, is not law enforcement. Still, in the case of an active shooter, educators are trained to designate areas in their classroom to sequester children, practice running drills, and follow a ‘Run, hide, and fight’ model that at last resort, has students fighting back with objects at their disposal. “It’s a direct response to Stoneman Douglas High School,” Carroll tells Yahoo Lifestyle. In 2018, a mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida school claimed the lives of 17 people.
School supplies are also underfunded— in his district, says Carroll, teachers are given anywhere from $200 to $300 to stock their rooms with pens, paper, and other materials. “We burn through those pretty quickly so I use my salary to buy extras at the dollar store,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “One time the air conditioner in my teaching trailer broke so I spent $300 of my own money on a replacement A.C. until it was fixed. I store it in my garage for emergencies.”
According to Carroll, intense standardized testing makes children burn out and teachers anxious over whether their classroom scores will impact their employment. Those tests, he says, don’t measure much. “Lots of districts only care about school-wide growth. So children are pressured to succeed without factoring in their personal development.”
Only since making his decision, has Carroll been able to enjoy teaching for the first time in ages. “The pressure is off, so I can teach history my own way,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We’re doing cool projects and having fun.”
Until he makes his next move, Carroll will be a stay-at-home father to his 13-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. Dana, his wife of 21 years, will support the family on her salary as a nurse practitioner.
“I am going to stay home for awhile (thank you Dana) and start a new chapter,” Carroll wrote on Facebook. “Honestly, I’ll break even if I become a bank teller with no experience. But the truth is I will not miss what education has become. A soulless industrial education complex where admin cares more about the test scores than their faculty or students. I have loved teaching many of you. But it is time to ride into the sunset. Start enjoying life. And find happiness again.”
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