Hundreds if not thousands of young teachers decide to quit teaching after only a few years, and hardly anyone takes note. The reasons for their departure varies from individual to individual, but research shows that most young people say upon their exit from teaching that it just wasn't what they thought it would be. They entered the teaching profession eager to share their joy and enthusiasm for learning in the same way some teacher or teachers had shared with them as they came through school; but things have shifted in a major way since those days. The modern classroom is less about learning these days and more about the regurgitation of information that can easily be found on any handheld device, smartphone, or computer, and more about high stakes testing, making students feel that they are little more than raw test scores while their teachers are held accountable using arbitrary mathematical calculations that don't hold up in the light of any sort of serious mathematical scrutiny.
Of course, there are a myriad of other reasons that young teachers give for leaving their jobs after only a few years…they didn't like the paperwork; they didn't have time for a personal life; they didn't feel supported by their administrators; and/or they felt stymied by the lack of professional mobility and stagnant salaries. For the most part, no one questions these motivations, for they are each and every one, valid reasons for looking for job satisfaction elsewhere.
When a more veteran teacher quits, however, one should wonder what's up? Why, after over 30 years in a profession that one professes to love would one be willing to give it up and walk away when they are so close to retirement? A resignation of a teacher–any teacher, but especially an award winning teacher–after a 33 year career is noteworthy.
Ron Maggiano is an example of just such a veteran teacher. An award winning social studies teacher from Fairfax County, Virginia, Mr. Maggiano tendered his resignation which was recently re-printed in the Washington Post.
Mr. Maggiano offers that he can “no longer cooperate with the standardized testing regime that is destroying creativity and stifling imagination in the classroom.” He goes on to say that he is “sad, angry, hurt, and dismayed by what has happened to education and to the teaching profession.”
I understand Mr. Maggiano's decision only too well. A year ago, I had the option of returning to my school division after having served as the President of the Virginia Education Association for four years, but the thought of going back into the classroom and subjecting my students to the rigid and sometimes ridiculous requirements that my state and school division have imposed made my heart sink at the mere prospect. After many sleepless nights and lots of thoughtful contemplation and heartfelt prayer, I decided that I simply could not do it. So, much sooner than I had ever anticipated, I decided to opt out and take retirement. It was not an easy decision, but in the end, I know I did the right thing for me; and I trust that Mr. Maggiano has done the right thing for himself and his life.
Mr. Maggiano cites in his letter of resignation that “critical thinking skills and analytical problem solving have now been replaced with rote memorization and simple recall of facts, figures, names, and dates. Educators have been forced to adopt a ‘drill and kill' model of teaching to ensure that their students pass the all-important end-of-course test. Teaching to the test, a practice once universally condemned by administrators and educators alike, has now become the new normal in classrooms across the country.”
He offers that it is “time to say enough.” and I could not agree with him more. Our students deserve better than they are getting, and our teachers deserve better too. It is time for the righteous indignation which teachers in general have been feeling for years to be given a legitimate voice in the ongoing debate about what is in the best interest of our students and our public schools. For too long, teachers have been left out of the debate by the politicians and policy makers who have been making the rules and shifting the debate in the wrong direction. That needs to stop, and if it is going to, it will require that courage be incorporated and teachers stop being afraid to speak their truth. It is time to stand up and stand together and let their voices be heard.
My heartfelt good wishes go out to Mr. Maggiano and his family. I suspect that he will be just fine, and I know that he will now wake up with a clearer conscience, know that he is no longer contributing through silent compliance with a system that he knows is not serving the best interest of his students.