The end of the school year has finally arrived, and although you may be groaning that this means the kids will be home 24/7 for the whole summer (and driving you nuts in the process), teachers everywhere are letting out collective sighs of relief. BIG ones. Because teaching is hard, y'all. It's exhausting and thankless and unrelenting. Just ask Jessica Gentry, who recently penned an eye-opening Facebook post that highlights the mounting stress most teachers feel they're under each day. A stress that for many — including Gentry — often proves too much to bear.
In a June 13 Facebook post, Gentry shared that this was her last year teaching. And it's not because of the "lousy" pay (though it is pretty lousy).
"Let me tell you why those who ooze passion for teaching are leaving the occupation like their hair is on fire," Gentry writes, before listing off the many (many) reasons why she's going — as well as the inaccurate assumptions people will make.
For starters, she says, it's not because "the kids have changed," as many people often like to say about Gen Z. Nope.
"Kids are kids," Gentry says. "PARENTING has changed. SOCIETY has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that."
By that she largely means the 24/7-culture parents are consumed by, which in turn impacts the kids.
"Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices," writes Gentry. "And we are going to give the excuse that the KIDS have changed? What did we expect them to do?"
She has some theories on how this plays out, both at home and in school, based on what she's seen. And they might not be so easy for parents to swallow.
"Kids behave in undesirable ways in the environment they feel safest," Gentry continues. "They test the water in the environment that they know their mistakes and behaviors will be treated with kindness and compassion. For those 'well behaved' kids — they're throwing normal kid tantrums at home because it's safe. The kids flipping tables at school? They don't have a safe place at home. Our classrooms are the first place they've ever heard 'no,' been given boundaries, shown love through respect. Cue 'the kids have changed.'"
She's also not a fan of how technology is valued over one-on-one learning, which can leave their interpersonal skills pretty weak.
And don't even get her started on the overbearing parents.
"I was cussed out by parents who wanted to attend field trips, but missed the THREE notes that went home," Gentry continues, "and when they did attend a trip, [they] sat on their phone the entire time."
She's had parents stand her up for multiple parent-teacher conferences and then have the gall to "tattle" on her when she wouldn't offer an after-school hours option.
Heck, she's even had parents tell her that she's not allowed to tell their child "no." (WHAT?!)
But above all, the reason is really this: Gentry says her mental and physical health "was in jeopardy every. single. day."
And that isn't all because of the parents or the curriculum. It comes from feeling unsupported in the workplace, put under impossible scrutiny, and ultimately the knowledge that her students needed and deserved more than they were getting. It's all of it, rolled up into one giant ball of stress.
"Sitting in one meeting after another, begging for more support, only to be told 'don't lose sleep over them' [is hard]," Gentry continues. "When you LOVE your kids and are PASSIONATE about your mission ... these messages tear you apart."
Especially, she writes, when they're coming in to school wearing dirty clothes that haven't been washed — a reality that many kids from low-income households have to deal with on a regular basis. Or when they're coming to school to escape the chaos that may await them at home.
"It breaks you," says Gentry. "We become emotional eaters. We become couch potatoes to zone out. We become so short-fused that our families suffer."
And so, she's getting off the emotional roller coaster, before it gets the best of her.
Gentry admits that she's walking away from a lot that others might say is crazy — including her pension. But her decision was part of a greater realization that "you can't save them all" if you can't even help yourself.
Gentry shared that she's going to be heading into a new line of work and spending more time focusing on one child: the one she has at home.
And even though she doesn't elaborate on what her next job will actually be, she does take the time to say that although she may have left the classroom, she's still going to be advocating for the kids sitting at those desks.
"It just looks different now," she explains.
Since Gentry's post first went up, it's been liked more than 212,000 times, and shared more than 174,000 times.
Needless to say, it's resonating with people, far and wide. Especially teachers, who chimed in on the comment thread with an enthusiastic "hell yeah."
"I’ve never seen anything so true!!" wrote one woman.
"It’s like you read my mind and spoke words from my heart!" wrote another. "Yes!"
"You are TOTALLY spot on," wrote one teacher. "I see examples of exactly what you're saying ... and it's heartbreaking. Little kids left to basically raise themselves, because the parent is so self-absorbed and out of touch in even the basics of how to train a little person ... to give them priority, to set boundaries, to teach them self-control. It is very very sad, for this next generation."
In fact, a lot of people were on board with her observations of how modern parenting has produced a different generation of "unruly" kids — and not all were teachers.
"I am behind you 100%!!!" wrote one woman. "I used to work retail, parents just let their kids run wild in stores because they are on their telephones or shopping, not paying any attention to their kids. I've seen high school kids not being able to to count money or add without their phones. The school system is not taking care of them nor are they helping the educators."
Still, although many agreed wholeheartedly with what Gentry had to say, others had to ask the question: How do we really make it better?
Especially considering the reason parents are working 24/7 and on their phones so much is because of the relentless work culture most Americans have been sucked into. And with the cost of living as it is — not to mention how hard it is to take a break from your career and find your way back into the workforce — it becomes harder to see how this hamster wheel can really change.
"I would definitely agree with many of the things you said," wrote one person. "[But] I am really interested in how we make it better for kids."
The answer to that one is certainly layered, though I'd venture to say some so-called "lawnmower parents" could probably stand to be a little less demanding and involved. (After all, if the college admissions scandal taught us anything, it was definitely that.)
Still, that only chips away at part of the problem. As for the rest of it, well, we've clearly got some work to do.
This story was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.