Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 05 2013

Hating My Job

I should probably have mentioned that I hate my job.


It is hard. There’s a constant stream of angry middle school students in front of me, who aren’t sent to me until the situation is so dire that the teacher feels helpless. They are explosive and defiant and wildly irrational and I have to serve justice while getting them back into their right minds. I often have to do this while simultaneously managing the other student(s) having a meltdown in the room next door.


It is overwhelmingly heartbreaking. If it’s really terrible and it happened to a child, it ends up in my office. When your parents are beating you and there’s no food in the house and the heat just got shut off and the only person who loves you just got murdered while you watched, you end up in my office. I go to court with kids and communicate constantly with child protective services. I’m supposed to prevent suicides and stop wrist cutting and address substance abuse. It is the entire emotional weight of a middle school.


The hours are endless. No matter what else I should be doing, my first priority is whatever emergency needs to be addressed. There’s almost always some degree of fire that needs to be put out and that usually keeps me moving all day long. In my rare moments of calm, I’m expected to be proactively in classrooms and working with teachers and students. Notice that leaves no time for paperwork, family communication, meetings, or planning and developing all the projects I’m supposed to implement. It also leaves no time for bathroom or food. Those things all have to wait until the kids go home.


It is thankless. We can all see so clearly when I fail at something. Any kid who misbehaves at any time can somehow be traced back to me. I wasn’t proactive enough, I wasn’t intimidating enough, I didn’t support the teacher enough, I didn’t establish the school culture right. My big successes come when ridiculously tough kids show marginal improvements, when fights don’t happen, and when dangerous things are found before harm is done. Who wants to celebrate any of those things? I have the world’s best, most supportive and appreciative teaching staff behind me, and I can still say no one wants to celebrate that.


Last winter, everyone in my personal life started telling me to quit at the end of the year. All signs pointed to not doing this again, but deep down I didn’t want to leave. I was excited at the chance to try again, to do things differently, to get a chance to improve. I had a million things that I was working on and wanted to see through. I love my kids and didn’t want to say goodbye. I hated the thought of leaving while things felt unfinished.


Now that the school year is ending, I can’t believe I committed to stay. I miss teaching in a deep, achy sort of way. I can’t reminisce on the last year because all it does is make me cringe and realize how much I went through. The year was far too long and I feel like I’m running on fumes just to drag myself to the end. I really promised to do it again? I’m going to need a magical bolt of enthusiasm if I’m expected to get in my car and drive to work every day.

6 Responses

  1. MsH

    How did you feel at the end of your first year of teaching? I know that this has been a very trying year for you, but you did do amazing things with your students! They know that you love them, even in their meltdowns, and you were able to reach more students than just the ones in your classroom.
    I think that the upcoming year for you will be a lot better than this one because you will be more prepared. Just keep your head up and know that you are doing the best you can, and that is all that anyone can ask from you!
    You ARE great at your job and your students DO need you and you ARE appreciated (even if it isn’t always obvious).

  2. stephanie HASTIE

    Agreeing with MsH here about the first year. I don’t know you personally, but know some other tfa teachers, and the first year is almost always tough. Year two, you start in a different place, and learn from your mistakes. I would suspect it would be the same in administration, (Altho I admit, I was very surprised to see your blog in Sept, and realise that you had changed posiitions …. you seemed to love teaching so much.)

  3. mathinaz

    Yeah, I did love teaching and leaving was an accident. My school was getting desperate to fill this position and it just sort of happened.

  4. stephanie HASTIE

    I started following your blog when my daughter in law started teaching for tfa in the Boston Area. I looked around, wanting to get an idea as to what she was facing. I read a lot of them, but only actually followed your’s and Wess’s on a regular basis. My daughter in law is finishing up her 3rd year teaching, and is taking a job for tfa next year.

    It sounds like you have already committed to another year? Administration has to be so frustrating, as you mention, you get all the kids the teachers can’t handle, and all the other things that go wrong. If you have a good day, it isn’t because of you it is because the kids, or the staff, of even that the weather behaved. But if there is a BAD day, it all falls on you. Even tho it is not your fault that a kid melted down, or a teacher was out and the sub couldn’t handle her class, or that a fluke 4 inches of snow fell starting at 10 am, and you had a school full of children to get home safely. You still get all of the blame and none of the acolades. It does sound like you are good at this too, but maybe after another year, you can go back to what you really seemed to love best.

  5. mathinaz

    I’m glad to know you’ve been reading and I appreciate your empathy! I did commit to another year because I feel like I owe both the school and myself one more shot, but I plan to go back to teaching after that. I can’t wait.

  6. Ms. Math

    I’m impressed that you even tried to be an admin. I knew always and clearly that I would never want that job because of many of the things you wrote about above. I think it’s great to learn about other perspectives because it will improve your work in education for the rest of your life. I’m so glad I saw how hard it was to teach at a disorganized school because I’ll forever understand the constraints that many teachers are under and be less quick to blame them. I’m sure you’ll have more empathy for administrators in the future from a perspective of real understanding.

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