Well, I did it. I quit.
I was teaching middle school, and most of the time it was a reasonably good experience.
Except when it wasn’t.
This past year I taught two classes each of chorus and orchestra (what I refer to as my primary classes, as both are full programs in themselves), plus an “extra” class of guitar (I say extra because most teachers have one class beyond the programs they run – theory, music appreciation, guitar, keyboard, etc.). I also had a class of what was supposed to have been musical theatre. I was to team-teach this with the school’s drama teacher, but he left for a full-time high school position at his alma mater (I can’t say I blame him), and I was stuck with this drama class.
At first I was rather excited to teach this class. “This could be fun, I thought!” There are lots of drama games, and we could do fun skits and activities. I knew I would need help and a curriculum, but I was still excited. Well…come the first day of school, I realized that only about 5 kids really wanted to be in the class (I had about 38) and the previous teacher was apparently not very strict. (I heard lots of “we learned this last year!” but the kids had trouble completing worksheets and testing on information that they had supposedly learned twice.) It was very difficult to even get them to do something as simple as watch a movie or fill in the blank on a worksheet. Their behavior was regularly disruptive, and students were added to the class fairly regularly (I had several fights occur in my class too). The end of 7th period left my classroom with chairs askew, and papers littering the floor (when the room was neat the class period before). I finally was able to get a drama resource book, but much of it was rather out of the scope of this class, but I did use the book in addition to internet resources. The school was also able to get a drama coach to come out, but he was only able to come out once a week, and he could barely get the students to PLAY GAMES and behave. When we had a troupe come from the high school to show some skits and play games it was not much better. (And before you say, “You must have poor classroom management”, my other classes were not like this, and I did everything in the book to manage the class!) I often spent many hours (as many as 6 sometimes!) on the weekend planning for the theatre class, plus the other classes. Last year I had I think about 8 concerts, 2 competitions, 3 field trips, and I planned the entertainment for a “showcase” of our local schools. (I came up with the schedule, contacted all the teachers, etc. and my kids performed.) I got a small $250 stipend which is allotted to chorus teachers.
Near the end of the year I expressed interest in dropping the drama class in favor of trying to create a separate girls’ chorus and boys’ chorus; it’s developmentally appropriate, and would allow students to learn in a comfortable environment while also allowing more advanced singers to either take a class with fewer performances or to take more than one chorus class. The administration was not on board with this (“We are not going to separate the classes.). I was told that I would be teaching drama next year (16/17), a class that is out of my certification, which is at the very least unethical, if not illegal. (They said 60 kids signed up for drama. 60!) I told them I would not be teaching drama and I was asked if I was resigning. I said, “I suppose so, if you’re going to force me to teach drama.” I offered to teach part-time and that was declined, so I mentally started planning to do lessons in my home. Later I was told part-time might be an option. I offered to teach two classes of chorus, and two of orchestra, WITHOUT a paid planning period. I was told they would look into it, but nothing ever came of that. (Only being allowed to teach three classes with a paid planning would mean that my orchestra would be down to one class, like they were in 14/15, and that my 8th graders would be going through book 1 a THIRD time). I also noticed that, for the second year in a row, the coding for the drama class was changed to be the code for a music class. In my state teachers are not allowed to teach out of their certification for more than one year. Anyone auditing our classes would never know I was out of area. I’m not sure if it is illegal, but it’s certainly unethical, and not supportive.
Please, don’t get me wrong, I understand that administration often has a hard time with what they are dealt, and maybe I wasn’t always the easiest to get along with, but I felt entirely unsupported in this environment. There were a lot of other issues too, beyond the scheduling…like, I was asked if concerts were a part of the curriculum! On top of the out-of-certification issue, and the other issues (which I will not mention now), the best AP left in May, one of the guidance counselors was forced to leave, and the Spanish teacher (who was one of my few friends) were also leaving. It was time for me to go as well. So far, I do not think they have found anyone to take over the class, and school started today!
My next adventure: teaching private lessons and being a housewife! I have two little birds, and a husband who works hard. I truly think that this part-time option is where God wants me to be. This will allow me to maintain my household (my house has been clean for weeks in a row!), reduce stress for my husband, prepare healthier meals, cut down on gas and car wear, and allow me to spend time with my little birds. I currently have about 20 students (I’ve had up to 40 before!) and am teaching both from a studio and my house. I love it! I don’t have anxiety attacks every time I think about going to work, I don’t have to spend hours planning on the weekend, and if I have a particularly difficult student I can “fire” them.
I hope someday I will be able to look back on this time and say, “This is one of the best decisions I have ever made.”