I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself!

Recently a special education teacher in Florida out on maternity leave resigned from her current teaching position instead of returning to work, because she could not stand the thought of her new born one day being subjected to the education system that she was once a part of.

She publicly posted her resignation letter, and when I read it I felt relieved that I was not the only one feeling these same things. I forwarded it to my husband and asked “does this sound familiar?” Her feelings of sadness, disappointment, and frustration are mine. She just said it better. Read it for yourself, and if you would like to see just how many teachers sadly feel the same way, read the comments on WUSF News, or on her original Facebook post.

To: The School Board of Polk County, Florida
I love teaching. I love seeing my students’ eyes light up when they grasp a new concept and their bodies straighten with pride and satisfaction when they persevere and accomplish a personal goal. I love watching them practice being good citizens by working with their peers to puzzle out problems, negotiate roles, and share their experiences and understandings of the world. I wanted nothing more than to serve the students of this county, my home, by teaching students and preparing new teachers to teach students well. To this end, I obtained my undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees in the field of education. I spent countless hours after school and on weekends poring over research so that I would know and be able to implement the most appropriate and effective methods with my students and encourage their learning and positive attitudes towards learning. I spent countless hours in my classroom conferencing with families and other teachers, reviewing data I collected, and reflecting on my practice so that I could design and differentiate instruction that would best meet the needs of my students each year. I not only love teaching, I am excellent at it, even by the flawed metrics used up until this point. Every evaluation I received rated me as highly effective.

Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process. I am absolutely willing to back up these statements with literature from the research base, but I doubt it will be asked for. However, I must be honest. This letter is also deeply personal. I just cannot justify making students cry anymore. They cry with frustration as they are asked to attempt tasks well out of their zone of proximal development. They cry as their hands shake trying to use an antiquated computer mouse on a ten year old desktop computer which they have little experience with, as the computer lab is always closed for testing. Their shoulders slump with defeat as they are put in front of poorly written tests that they cannot read, but must attempt. Their eyes fill with tears as they hunt for letters they have only recently learned so that they can type in responses with little hands which are too small to span the keyboard.

The children don’t only cry. Some misbehave so that they will be the ‘bad kid’ not the ‘stupid kid’, or because their little bodies just can’t sit quietly anymore, or because they don’t know the social rules of school and there is no time to teach them. My master’s degree work focused on behavior disorders, so I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered. The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviors far beyond what is appropriate for their age. The disorder is in the system which bars teachers from differentiating instruction meaningfully, which threatens disciplinary action if they decide their students need a five minute break from a difficult concept, or to extend a lesson which is exceptionally engaging. The disorder is in a system which has decided that students and teachers must be regimented to the minute and punished if they deviate. The disorder is in the system which values the scores on wildly inappropriate assessments more than teaching students in a meaningful and research based manner.

On June 8, 2015 my life changed when I gave birth to my daughter. I remember cradling her in the hospital bed on our first night together and thinking, “In five years you will be in kindergarten and will go to school with me.” That thought should have brought me joy, but instead it brought dread. I will not subject my child to this disordered system, and I can no longer in good conscience be a part of it myself. Please accept my resignation from Polk County Public Schools.

Wendy Bradshaw, Ph.D.


Whoa hormones!

In my last post I described how I was feeling about finishing out my time as a teacher. While writing that post I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I started to feel the panic and dread of going to work slipping back into my life.

I must put out a disclaimer though and say wow I think my hormones from the one and only monthly monster had a bit to do with my dismal feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I still am very excited to leave and begin my new journey (I’m not quite sure what that is yet but I’m working on it!), but I don’t quite feel like my ship is sinking as fast.

I came to this conclusion, because last week was totally different experience. I was patient, I took the time to listen and enjoy their personalities, and I took the time to actually talk with them and laugh with them. I’m going to go as far as to say that I enjoyed it enough to change my decision, but I feel like I can make it the next 50 or so days left.

A dose of perspective is also always good for the soul. I had a staff meeting mid week, and two teachers presented ideas they learned at a reading conference. They came back energized and excited to share their new tips and tricks.Their excitement was contagious, and reminded me of my years of student teaching and my first year teaching when I was so thrilled to be a teacher. I also attended conferences that were mind blowing, and left me feeling jazzed. During the meeting I was happy for them. It made me think that maybe being around teachers who are energized and love teaching would help me like it better. On the other hand if this is what I’m meant to do, shouldn’t I naturally be excited and motivated to seek out these great ideas? I shouldn’t need outside stimuli to in some ways trick myself into enjoying my profession right?

I realize that in any profession you’re not going to love every aspect of it, but I think if it’s something you love and are passionate about, the good should outweigh the bad, or at least make the bad tolerable.


Confession, I’ve Checked Out

Currently I’m a kindergarten teacher, but have decided that this is my last year of teaching, period. I’ve accepted that teaching no longer makes me happy, and I’m ready to make a change. February came and we teachers were given our intent forms. I’ve never been so happy to turn in this yearly form marked “I’m resigning” (after the school year finishes of course). If I felt I could leave now I would. I’m ready. I’m done.

Knowing that I have 60 school days left (yes I’m counting!) makes it incredibly hard to stay focused and not feel like I’d rather be doing something else. I think when you feel like there’s no out, you tend to try to make the best of it. I do have an out though, and I’m over trying to make the best of it. I keep telling myself to buckle down, enjoy my last months as a teacher, make a difference in these children’s lives, be more patient, fight through the annoyances, and stay positive.

I can and should do a better job of these, but frankly I don’t want to. I’m struggling to find the motivation to care, to be patient, to find what I’m doing important. It is difficult to not focus on the annoyances, the problems with the education system, the fact that we push these kids too hard too early. The list could go on.

How do I stop this cycle? Yes I only have 60 days left, but I don’t want to spend them feeling like this. How do I get out of my head and stop to smell the roses. There has to be good things happening in my day. Sadly I’m struggling to see them.

This very blog is called Make It Sunny, and yet I can’t, and partially don’t want to “make it sunny.”Sometimes I feel like I’d rather wallow in my misery.

What are ways you get through a difficult task that you must complete? I’d love to hear from you. I could really use some advice.

Peace and love,