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I'm an American Teacher. I Love My
Profession. So, I Quit.
You need to know about the mental and physical states, the heartsickness,
the frustration, the anger, and the righteous defeat that right now so many
American teachers feel.

I am a brilliant English teacher.

Here's how you can tell, according to the bosses: my 6th grade Language
Arts students, whom I taught for three years on an ELL team, an ELL and
Special Education Inclusion team, and finally on an ELL and Gifted team, on
the Georgia Language Arts CRCT earned passage rates of 100%, 87%, and
96%, respectively, in 2007-2008, 2008 – 2009, and 2009 - 2010. On the
Georgia Reading CRCT, in the same three year period, the same students
earned passage rates of 99%, 83%, and 99%, respectively –not my individual
homerooms for each year, but the entire team (four homerooms), all of whom I
taught Language Arts; after having taught for just two years as a lead
teacher, I was asked to be a cooperating/mentor teacher to a student teacher;
I was chosen to receive training from The College Board to become a pre-AP
teacher of English; I was chosen to earn my Gifted teaching credential, paid
for by my employer, and to go on to become Team Leader of the ELL/Gifted
Team; I was elected by my colleagues to be the Language Arts teacher
representative to serve on the Teacher Advisory Council; I was asked to be a
Classroom Management Mentor for some of my colleagues who faced
challenges in that area; I taught after school "grade replacement" classes
after school and on Saturdays for students who'd failed previous quarters; I
taught enrichment and test prep classes on Saturdays for students who
needed more individualized attention and more exposure to the Language
Arts curriculum; I started a book club for at-risk female students; I taught
Summer school; I earned exemplary yearly evaluations; and even farther back
than these things, I earned a Master’s Degree in the field of Teaching
Secondary English before I dared set foot in a classroom to teach anyone’s
child.

Here’s how you can tell, according to my students and their families: my
classroom walls and the walls outside my classroom were covered by the
best examples of their work so that they could see, daily, that I was proud of
them and they should feel pride in their hard work; the walls were also
decorated with art and every color in the spectrum; I designed culminating
projects to create learning experiences that would help my students connect
with and build upon old knowledge, bridging it to new knowledge so that they
could apply what they’ve learned – not just memorize it, I created my own
tests which included actual short answer and essay questions, and graphic
organizers which were visual representations where they could show they
were able to think critically about their new knowledge; I sang to them; I read
aloud to them from diverse authors like C.S. Lewis, Joel Chandler Harris,
Roald Dahl, Virginia Hamilton, and Norton Juster; together we read Maniac
Magee, Everything on a Waffle, Money Hungry and From the Mixed-up Files
of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; we made time for creative writing, not state
writing test practice writing, but creative writing; they studied famous authors;
we diagrammed sentences IN COLOR (which makes all the difference); every
student who wanted one could have a job so that they felt that my classroom
was really THEIR classroom; independent reading could be done on the
carpet next to your desk, underneath the whiteboard with your jacket as your
pillow, or at your desk with your head resting on your arm; we played
Scrabble on a huge bulletin board in the classroom, me against the kids; I
graded their work in a timely way; I took Spanish for Educators for two years
so that I could better communicate with parents who did not speak English; I
didn’t allow misbehavior, I was lovingly strict; I didn’t accept work that wasn’t
a student’s best; we didn’t just move on –we reviewed basic grammar skills
over and over and over and yet over again because there could never be
enough practice with grammar; I gifted them books; I believed in their future
success even if they themselves could not conceive it. I was to my students
who my teachers had been to me. I was this kind of teacher: proud of my
work, filled with hope for the future, who believed that I was a part of a
profession whose primary mission was to do good, to get the future ready to
take the reins, and one day propel or pull or kick us all forward to even
greater progress.

I was, indeed, that kind of teacher, until I became a teacher in New Orleans,
where the school system, after Hurricane Katrina, became 80% public charter
schools.
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Tonysha Johnson is a native
Atlantan and Georgia educator. She
recently moved back to the Atlanta
area after a year teaching in two
inner-city New Orleans charter
schools. She writes about her
experiences in education at her blog
Tonygivinglip.tumblr.com”.
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The opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of EmpowerED Georgia.
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