Our May 29 hour exploring why three classroom teachers would voluntarily leave a job they love covered a lot of ground. Some teachers leave for a perceived lack of institutional support, while others head out after classroom overcrowding and a push for institutional testing regimes on the state and national level. One of our guests, Suzi Sluyter of Massachusetts, took the time to write about her own reasons for leaving the kindergarten classroom she had loved so much after twenty years, and we've posted her thoughts here.
Much changed for me as a classroom teacher, due to the focus on testing, data collection and academic push that was inappropriate for the age. Mostly I felt that I was being forced to teach in a way I did not believe in, and I came to feel I was actually harming children by pressuring them to do things they weren't ready for.
I also felt that the number of interruptions to the school day and the flow the school day was fragmenting my days and my ability to plan and implement curriculum I feel is rich and engaging for the children. The sorts of curriculum that help young children learn best are hands-on, project based, and come from the particular interests of the children in any given classroom. When teaching in this sort of way, integrating all parts of the curriculum into a project or study theme (math, literacy, science, social studies, art, music, etc), children learn best.
They also learn best when the necessary time is given for building community and helping children to feel safe, known and loved. More and more I was required to teach in academic blocks, with ramped up academics appropriate for 1st grade. Much of the fun, engaging, joyful learning I used to be able to scaffold for the children was being crowded out. Children were being seen more in terms of deficits, and what we need to teach them rather than being seen through their strengths and helping them to cultivate those strengths and grow in all areas through those strengths at their own pace.
I was being pulled out of the classroom way too much, so that I felt unable to create and maintain the sort of safe, consistent, loving, supportive environment I know to be crucial for best learning.