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Friday, February 24, 2012

Are teachers numb or insane

From Mr. Teacherbad

A cou­ple of weeks ago some­one posted a com­ment I think you should read. Jes­sica Knapp wrote about what teach­ing can do to peo­ple. Her words struck an arrow through my heart. I would very much like for you to add your thoughts and stories.

Here’s what she said:

I taught KG for 6 years in an inner city school where 94% of the stu­dent body qual­i­fied for free lunch. In my first year at age 25 I was older than most of my stu­dents’ par­ents. Many stu­dents arrived in my class­room not know­ing their last name nor how to hold a pen­cil or a book. Like all the teach­ers at the school, I was expected (threat­ened with los­ing my cer­tifi­cate) to bring these stu­dents up to grade level. Twenty-three 5-year-old kids in a class, always at least 5 with no Eng­lish lan­guage skills, 3 or 4 with severe behav­ior issues, a class­room aide assigned to my room for 45 min­utes a day (the only time I was able to use the restroom) who more often than not was pulled to sub another class so the school didn’t have to pay some­one from outside.….

I would never stop writ­ing if I listed all of the challenges.

Here’s the thing. After a while I noticed some­thing. The teach­ers who had been in that envi­ron­ment for over 7 years or so fell into two dis­tinct camps.

1. Com­pletely numb. There is only so long that you can pour your heart and soul into mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of chil­dren that start with noth­ing, only to be called into meet­ings once a week which item­ize all the ways you are fail­ing. Even­tu­ally you shut down.

2. Com­pletely insane. For the same rea­sons as above. Just depends which kind of per­son­al­ity you’re more prone to develop. I’d see these peo­ple walk­ing down the hall­way and do a 180 because I knew a whole lot of crazy was about to be com­ing out of their mouths…

Have you ever had so much work that you could never hope to fin­ish it? At some point I just shut down and was unable to do any of it. No mat­ter what I did some­one thought it was the wrong thing — so why do any of it? I real­ized I was on the path to being one of the numb ones — so I quit.

Those “bad teach­ers” who are “part of the prob­lem” most likely didn’t start that way. They are worn out and either numb, or nuts. The teach­ers who feel like they can do some­thing else…ANYTHING ELSE.…get out. The ones whose self esteem is low, and/or stu­dent loan debt for their edu­ca­tion degree is high, are the ones STUCK in the class­room, with no hope, no help, and no energy.

This was writ­ten by Jes­sica Knapp about her teach­ing expe­ri­ences in Tampa. She is now hap­pily not teach­ing in Green­wich, CT. It was orig­i­nally a com­ment in a dis­cus­sion fol­low­ing Part II of my review of the awful movie Wait­ing for Super­man.

I would des­per­ately like to know what you think about this. Either com­ment here or write me directly at And tell us where you’re from. (I won’t attribute any­thing to you with­out your permission.)


Mr. Teach­bad

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