A 34-year old teacher in Virginia, Jessica Gentry, recently resigned her position and posted her reasons why on Facebook. She asserts that good teachers are leaving the profession “like their hair is on fire” because of the stress and frustration they feel trying to deal with large class sizes, with large numbers of students who need special attention due to their home situation, their mental health issues, and the demands placed on them to be all things to all students all the time. Gentry cited the toll this all takes on teachers’ physical and mental health and said “When kids are struggling with home life, poverty, abuse… the things they do and say— it takes a toll on you mentally. I carried all of that home with me,” Gentry tells Yahoo Lifestyle. She became short-fused and checked out at home and had to temporarily take medication for depression and anxiety due to the stress of her job.
This exodus has been taking place for at least 25 years. It’s not something people have noticed unless their child’s favorite teacher resigned unexpectedly. The stress and anxiety of being asked to be all things to all people are a big part of the reason why I left the public school classroom, 25 years ago. And the problem’s only gotten worse. My hat comes off and my heart goes out to our Jessica Gentrys, whether or not they’re still in the classroom. We are losing more of them every year. We’re losing them early, and losing out on 20 or 30 or even 40 years’ benefit to our children from their teaching. And no one notices, essentially.
We’re noticing the effects, though. We’re noticing them more and more, both quantitatively and qualitatively. We’re becoming a less literate, less tolerant, more badly-informed and badly-polarized society every day. A democratic society in which that is happening has to own up to the fact that its education system has failed. I’ve seen over 35 years of hand-wringing about the state of American education. I haven’t seen any owning up yet. Like climate change and extreme economic inequity, the collapse of our education system has reached any correction point short of revolution. And all revolutions devour their own children.