I am a second-year special education teacher. I’ve dreamt of being a teacher since I was young. After my two older sisters dropped out of high school, I was the first of my siblings to graduate. I then went on to be the first in my family to graduate college. My father had an 8th grade education; my grandfather, 3rd grade. From them, I learned the importance of education and dreamt of the day I would get to share my story of grit and perseverance with a student; of how I scrambled on my bike to catch the bus from Boise to Nampa to attend CWI. Then, the nights spent juggling coursework at Boise State and University of Idaho while being a new mom and working. Now, as a teacher and Johns Hopkins graduate student, it seems to be the perfect ending to a story that I hoped one day would inspire my students to never give up.
But those dreams have been crushed by the weight of the very institution I once adored. Like a toxic relationship, I have been gaslit into believing I’m not doing enough after working myself into tears- trying to perfect my instruction, meet the deadlines, push an endless pile of paperwork, navigate the adults, and support my students. My sad reality is I often have nothing left to offer when I get home to my own small children. I now have a constant knot in my stomach that accompanies an internal dialogue of what I may have forgotten or how I will meet all of the demands. I am tired. I am tired of hearing about the importance of self-care while simultaneously given another special education teacher’s caseload because of a labor shortage that could’ve easily been predicted. We’ve all heard the stories: low pay, high cost of tuition, standardized tests, callous school board members, and the list goes on. I am tired of the attacks by conspiracy theorists. I am tired of the tumultuous board meetings over the politicization of science and irreverent comments when teachers’ well-being is broached. Like all educators, I am tired.
It should be noted that I work at a school with kind and supportive colleagues and, undoubtedly, the greatest leaders. My school and its staff have been refreshing in comparison to past experiences. Still, kindness and emotional support is not enough. I am being asked to do the impossible. When one can’t fly- understanding human limitations and the laws of physics- we do not blame the person. Do not blame the educators for not being able to do the impossible, but the myopic legislation that has manifested in our classrooms and fringe politics that have robbed Idaho’s education system of dignity, funds, and much needed resources. Our schools are in crisis. And educators are, too.