The decision of 2016
I left teaching in 2016 and never regretted it. It was the right time to move on. When this administration showed its xenophobic and racist ways as early as 2017, I was grateful to not be in the classroom witnessing its effects firsthand. Now, in 2020, I'm extra glad I'm not teaching in the public school system anymore.
I started toying with the idea of leaving teaching in 2015. I was tired, and it wasn't the usual nonsense of dealing with administration and assorted adults. The kids were getting on my nerves consistently, and the feeling lingered.
Then, over 16 years into my career, my first student complained about me. She got mad at me for telling her off for not coming to school and went to the principal with a grocery list of things she didn't like. It got ugly between him and me because he proceeded to put a letter in my file for one student complaint in 11 years of teaching in that building. In the end, I leaned into gratitude because it was my sign that I was doing the right thing.
A changing institution
After that, Secretary of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos began her reign of havoc. The unqualified public education destroyer commits one horrific deed after another. And she's not slowing down.
At the same time, the teacher who was my replacement teaching English Language Learners told me of the pervasive fear that the students had over ICE. In the end, the principal had to reassure them that ICE couldn't come into the school. If I were still there, I would have been in a state of constant righteous indignation over my students being fearful.
Then, Parkland happened, and our NRA sponsored Congress suggested arming teachers instead of passing commonsense gun legislation. I understand that besides instruction, part of your job is to protect children, but nobody goes into the teaching profession with the mindset that they need to be armed. That should never be part of the gig.
The pandemic shutdown
Now, we have a pandemic, and it's the Wild West in the United States. The Federal Government expects schools to open safely but can't be bothered to give guidance on how to do it. If they choose virtual options, the Fed has threatened to withhold funding.
Because the government refuses to act in any real leadership capacity, they are forcing public school teachers into situations they should never have to face. As usual, instead of receiving help, they have to figure out how to keep themselves safe.
Unless you're a soldier, police officer, or firefighter, no one should have to go to work thinking you may be in a situation where your life is at risk. That's not the job.
Many teachers are older with preexisting health conditions, which puts them more at risk. If they get infected, will schools have enough substitutes? Will all students, administration, and staff be tested? Will everyone have to be quarantined, too?
The Federal Government doesn't have the answers to these questions, again leaving public school educators to fend for themselves. Instead of looking forward to going back to the classroom, many teachers are fearful. Many are making living wills because they don't know what will happen.
On the sidelines
Again, the powers that be are asking public school teachers to do the impossible: teach in a meaningful way and keep everybody safe at the same time. And they are expected to do this without help from the institutions who are supposed to help. Department of Education, I'm looking at you.
No educator signed up to be a sacrificial lamb or the other bullshit that's happened over the past three and a half years. So, yes, I'm glad I'm not in the classroom where I would have had a heart attack, high blood pressure, or both by now.
At the same time, I will always be a teacher. Now, I'm doing it through a different means. I can't watch my former colleagues get thrown to the lions without speaking on it. Although I'm not in the trenches anymore, I will always stand with public school teachers.
Until next time... look behind and beyond the veil...
"Yesterday, I was clever, so I wanted to changed the world.
Today, I am wise so I am changing myself."
Where I started
My life has changed more in the past 3 years than it has in 10 years prior. It went from not moving much to moving like a frog jumps from lily pad to lily pad. At one time, that would have scared the shit out of me. Now, I enjoy it. So, I'll tell you how I embraced change even when I feared it.
Most of my life, I planned ahead years. When I was 13, I decided I was going to be a lawyer. At the time, no one was pressuring me to decide on what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but I chose anyway.
Since then, that's how I operate. Make a decision. Get it done. Anything less is a failure.
To unpack that way of thinking, I examine my irrational fear of escalators when I was really little. Whoever I was with had to hold my hand before I got on them. One time, I had one foot on it, and it moved too fast. My leg stretched forward, and it scared the hell out of me. I think I thought it would suck me under it.
That applies to how I made decisions in my life because I wouldn't move until I knew my footing was secure. If it wasn't, I was afraid of being sucked under into an abyss of failure.
By the time I was 7 or 8, I had gotten over my fear of escalators. I somehow realized that if I put my foot down and kept moving, I wouldn't fall.
It took me time to apply that principle to other aspects of my life.
Where I am
About 5 years ago, I was dissatisfied with my job. The most joyful aspects of it started to irritate me. Over fifteen years into my career, I was established, growing in my craft, and secure in my position. I had the secure footing I always thought I needed.
Still, I wasn't satisfied. I knew I had to make a change. I proved to myself multiple times I can make a go of it no matter what twists and turns life takes. Since I knew that, the idea of change empowered me rather than stifled me.
So I changed my job and moved out of state.
Since then, I have moved 3 times in 3 years. I made the most recent move a few weeks ago. I love this new chapter of my life. I'm embracing the newness, and it's making my experience better.
Where I'm going
Now, when I make a decision, and, instead of rushing to an outcome, to "get it done," I let life flow. It will lead me to wherever I need to go and provide me with whatever I need.
It took me some time to catch up to my 8-year-old self. I know now, if I take a step forward and keep moving, life won't let me fall.
Until next time... look behind and beyond the veil...
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer