A kindergarten teacher explains why she quit — and it’s heartbreaking
Jessica Gentry was a kindergarten teacher at Stone Spring Elementary School in Harrisonburg, Virginia for 12 years, before recently deciding to call it quits. In a Facebook post that has since gone viral, the former educator pops the lid off of her decision to switch careers, explaining why so many other teachers are doing the same thing.
She starts off the post that has been shared over 223,000 times by explaining that many people have the misconception that she decided to turn in the keys to her classroom because of the “lousy pay” or because she found something she was more passionate about. However, that wasn’t the case.
“Let me tell you why those who ooze passion for teaching are leaving the occupation like their hair is on fire,” she writes.
The first reason she outlines is that kids are being negatively impacted by a lack of parenting — it’s not that “the kids have changed” but instead “PARENTING has changed. SOCIETY has changed,” she continues. “The kids are just the innocent victims of that.” Therefore, they act out at home and in the classroom, and it has become the responsibility of teachers to show kids the meaning of “no.”
She also points out that schools have moved to embrace technology, even when it detracts from relationship-building. “Kids already can’t read social cues and conduct themselves appropriately in social settings… let’s toss more devices at them because it looks good on our website,” she sarcastically continues. Then there is the irony that when looking for teachers, she says schools are more concerned with hiring teachers that are good with technology instead of focusing on how they are with the kids.
Next up, the fact that teachers are getting their instructional and planning time taken away from them in lieu of unnecessary training. Then, there is the troubling relationship or lack there-of between teachers and parents. “Instead of holding parents accountable… and making them true partners, we’ve adopted a customer service mindset,” she explains, expanding that parents get mad when letters go home about attendance, don’t read the notes and reminders that she sends home with the kids, and miss scheduled conferences. Some parents even yell at her for telling their children “no.”
Finally, she points out, her “mental and physical health was in jeopardy” every day. “Knowing that your kids need and deserve more than they’re getting. Sitting in one meeting after another, begging for more support, only to be told ‘don’t lose sleep over them’… when you LOVE your kids and are PASSIONATE about your mission… these messages tear you apart,” she writes. “Watching them come in… dirty clothes… chaos at home… and knowing they need more than you can give them in a classroom of 21, with less and less support, multiple [sic] languages spoken, several different disabilities… it breaks you. We become emotional eaters. We become couch potatoes to zone out. We become so short fused that our families suffer.”
Many of the post’s comments were supportive of Gentry, but sadly so many other teachers and former educators from around the world could relate all too well.
In an interview with “Good Morning America” Gentry elaborated on her decision to leave, revealing that she shared her concerns with human resources on two separate occasions, including one that involved despicable behavior on the part of administrators. “There were a few major events that spurred my departure. I hold teaching in such high regard that watching my most recent administration laugh about students with disabilities, state that we ‘shouldn’t lose sleep over’ struggling students, say that she [a school administrator] ‘washed her hands of this year’ in April was disheartening to say the least,” she said.
GMA reached out to administrators, who denied being aware of the allegations.
Gentry reveals that the response to her post has been “overwhelmingly positive” in general. “There is an enormous amount of educators who feel that exact way but have felt alone and guilty for thinking so,” Gentry told GMA. “I never expected it to reach farther than a few friends — but I am so humbled to be able to throw the curtains open on the issue and give those who feel unable to say it a voice.”
She also hopes that her confession will inspire change in the educational system. “I’d love nothing more than to do work with those willing to listen to change the current path our public education system is headed down. I promised my coworkers when I left that I’d be the voice for them since so many fear being reprimanded for speaking up,” she said.
Gentry’s message is sad, disheartening and totally eye-opening. As a parent, it is difficult to dispute anything she is saying about the educational system and how we, as parents, are failing our children. Let this serve as reminder going into this school year that we need to do better. Whether that means being more present for our children, making more of an effort to work with educators rather than against them, or simply acknowledging all the blood, sweat and tears our children’s teachers are putting into educating our young ones.