The Tough Decision to Leave the Classroom

The Tough Decision to Leave the Classroom


As the title of this post suggests, I have made the tough decision to leave the classroom for good at the end of this school year.

The decision is a painful one — both personally and professionally. It is also a public one, as I’ve been honored as recently as last month by the Waynesboro Rotary Club as its 2014 High School Teacher of the Year, my fourth such honor in six years.

In that respect, I feel an explanation is in order, as well as a prescription for what we — as a community — can do to right the ship.

Every workplace has its imperfections and challenges. I accept that. But public education is painted as a career where you make a difference in the lives of students. When a system becomes so deeply flawed that students suffer and good teachers leave (or become jaded), we must examine how and why we do things.

Waynesboro is small enough that we can tackle some of the larger problems that other school systems can’t. I want this piece, in part, to force a needed, collective conversation.

In doing so, I don’t want to come across as prideful or arrogant. I simply want my neighbors and friends to understand the frustrations at issue and what’s at stake for the next round of teachers and students.

When I came to this area in 2008, I believed I would be a teacher for life. My wife and I signed a lease on an apartment we had never seen and arrived only a few days before school started. Words can’t really express how excited I was to land a teaching job, work with high school students, and invest in teenagers the way one teacher invested in me.

That first year coincided with the first round of school budget cuts. Salaries were frozen and spending was slashed. This basic storyline has repeated itself for the five years that followed.

Over this time, I’ve lost my optimism and question a mission I once felt wholly committed to.

I still care deeply about students. I’ve worked hard to brighten their day while giving them an enjoyable and rigorous environment in which to learn. If this job was just about working with students, I couldn’t ask for a better or more meaningful career.

The job, though, is about much more. And I have very real concerns about the sustainability of public education in Waynesboro (and as a whole).

To make a real difference in the lives of students, raise the quality of life in greater Waynesboro, and attract and keep life-changing teachers, we must address five key areas:

1. Tear Down the Hoops
Our teachers spend far too much time jumping through hoops.

Every year, our district invents new goals (such as “21st Century Skills”), measuring sticks (most recently a “Growth Calculator”), time-consuming documentation (see “SMART goals”), modified schedules (think block scheduling and an extended school day), and evaluations (look in our seventy-two page “Teacher Performance Plan”).

As a district, we pretend these are strategic adjustments. They are not. The growth calculator was essentially brought forward out of thin air, SMART goals are a weak attempt to prove we’re actually doing something in the classroom, etc. Bad teachers can game any system; good teachers can lose their focus trying to take new requirements seriously.

These hoops have distracted me from our priority (students). I’ve concluded it’s no longer possible to do all things well. We need to tear down these hoops and succeed clearly on simple metrics that matter.

Over the past six years, I can’t remember a time where something was taken off my plate. Expectations continue to increase and we play along until we invent new hoops.

On a personal level, with 100+ students a year, a growing family, and two side jobs, I can no longer be a good teacher and do all the system expects of me.

2. Have a Plan for the Future
I stepped into the classroom around the time of a major worldwide recession. As the individuals and institutions responsible for this recession escaped accountability for their actions, school districts like ours went into survival mode.

Six years later, we’re still there. We have no plan for the future.

Earlier this year, the school board held its annual budget meeting. I left my second job early to attend and asked board members one simple question: “Is there any cause for optimism?” Each school board member, searching for a silver lining, effectively answered “no” by the time their reasoning caught up with them.

These basic mantras seem to govern what we do:

Just do the best you can.
We need to do more with less.
There’s no money in the budget for that.
We’re hoping things look better next year.

I don’t fault our district for a worldwide economic downturn. I do fault it for how it’s handled it. For six years in a row, we’ve cut, cut, cut. And for six years in a row, students and teachers have paid the biggest price.

When times are tough, human beings and institutions have the rare opportunity to reflect and refocus, to think differently and creatively. But instead of seizing the opportunity and gathering stakeholders for collective conversations and solution building, we’ve wandered around aimlessly hoping to make ends meet.

We should have a clear plan for sustainability. Instead, we’re really just worried about balancing the budget.

When we have a desperate need like football bleachers that have to be replaced, or turfgrass that isn’t up to par, we somehow find the money. We — through public or private avenues — meet those needs. Why can’t we find funds to address the areas that seem more pertinent to our primary mission?

3. Scrap Obsession with Flawed Assessments
I’ve seen teachers cry over Standards of Learning scores. I’ve seen students cry over SOL scores. I’ve seen newspaper and TV reports sensationalize SOL scores. These are all indications of an unhealthy obsession with flawed standardized tests.

SOL tests are inherently unfair, but we continue to invest countless hours and resources in our quest for our school to score well. This leads me to the following questions:

  • Do we care more about student progress or our appearance?
  • Why can’t we start a movement to walk away from these tests?
  • Why can’t we shift our focus to critical thinking and relevant educational experiences?

It’s tough to acknowledge that people in Washington, D.C., and Richmond (and sometimes decision makers in Waynesboro) develop systems and policies that affect my students and me negatively. But as they retire and sail off into the sunset, we’re the ones left with the consequences of ineffective measurements and strategies.

Our new teacher evaluations focus heavily on test scores. But while teachers are continually under pressure to be held accountable, there seems to be very little accountability for parents, the community, or district offices.

It’s only going to get worse, and it seems that we have no intention of taking a stand or advocating against flawed assessments. Instead, we have submitted ourselves to these tools that misrepresent student growth. It is a game, and it is a game I no longer wish to play.

4. Build a Community That Supports Education
Stop by the high school for a sporting event (and I love sports) and you’ll be impressed with the attendance and enthusiasm. Stop by the high school on a parent-teacher night and you’ll see tumbleweed blowing through the halls.

If parents and local decision-makers really value education (and there is a small portion of the community that does), student and teacher morale would be much different.

Our school and political leaders must help build a community that truly supports education. A real investment from residents across all neighborhoods and groups would change the climate immensely and allow us to truly tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

Unfortunately, the community seems disengaged with such struggles and more concerned with whether or not we’ll ever land an Olive Garden.

Until the community boosts its value of education…

  • How can we provide high quality to all students?
  • How can we build strong academic programs that meet student needs?
  • How can we prepare students to be productive citizens?
  • How can we successfully partner with parents and others?

If we can’t reflect the values of our mission statement, then we need to change our mission statement.

We simply can’t move forward when there is such little community connection to our educational goals. And if we can’t move forward together, I don’t want to tread water alone.

5. Fairly Compensate Educators
Compensation alone has not pushed me away from education. At the same time, the years of salary and step freezes have taken a toll.

If educators are as valuable as we claim they are (our district website says we “strive to hire and retain quality employees”), then we would make sure we take care of employees and their families. We must fairly compensate educators.

Keeping a sixth year teacher on a first year salary is not looking out for someone who looks out for students. For those like me, there’s only a $100 difference in our December 2009 and January 2014 monthly paychecks.

My wife and I live on a very strict budget. We are thankful for the quality of life we enjoy compared to other people in the world and try to keep things in their proper perspective. But the only financial reason I can afford to keep teaching is because of two side businesses and the generosity of family and friends. I’m not the only educator who manages extra work to make ends meet. Here are some efforts we’ve made to make this job sustainable:

  • We lived with one car (a car that was given to us) for 4 ½ years. During that time, I walked or rode my bike to school to save on gas. We recently bought a second car with money I saved from my web design business.
  • We rarely eat out and maintain our own garden to cut down on food costs.
  • We bought a $114,000 house that needed lots of work. This kept our mortgage payments in the $700 range, which is about what it would cost to rent a decent apartment.
  • We haven’t taken a vacation since I started teaching six years ago.

I love Waynesboro. I’m rooting for Waynesboro’s success. But there needs to be real, quantifiable change if we’re going to create a bright future for everyone.

A love for students and teaching drove me for the past six years. Now I’m watching my own kids grow up and am starting to think more and more about my own family.

What will I have to show for myself 10 years from now when I’ve missed crucial time with my own kids to barely break even and exist in a place where educators aren’t really valued? What happens when I dedicate my life to a place only to discover I’m part of their 10th round of budget cuts?

We need answers. I hope this can move us one step closer to asking the questions that will get us there.

Josh Waldron

155 Comments

Add yours
  1. 2
    Danny Lee

    Josh – You know how Stephanie and I feel about these very same issues you raise here. We have also been very vocal. We are some of the few who refuse SOL testing for our kids and we are not very popular because of it. Talk about treading water alone… We cannot express how grateful we are to you for all you have done to inspire and challenge our daughter this year. She has grown and learned so much (both academically and personally) under your guidance. I grieve for the many students who will not get to experience the magic you bring to learning. But I also grieve for where our educational system is heading. You have summed it up beautifully. We wish you the best of luck in your future ventures and look forward to supporting you in whatever path you walk. You will undoubtedly walk it with excellence, beauty, and grace.

  2. 3
    Leslie Hellerman

    Beautifully written, Josh. While this makes me sad for the students and those of us who are in the trenches daily with you, I certainly understand and feel the same struggles. May this change will be what you and your family need. All the best, Leslie

  3. 4
    Sarah Gottschalk

    Mr. Waldron, I am sad to hear that you are leaving education; even compared with excellent professors here at UVA, you remain at the very top of my “all-time favorite teachers” list. It’s such a shame for Waynesboro to be losing an award-winning teacher like you and I am sorry for current and future students who will miss the fun, intellect and wisdom you brought to the classroom every day. I appreciate your explanation for leaving, agree that our education system is deeply flawed, and wish you and your family all the best with this transition. Thank you for all you have contributed to Waynesboro High School; I know you will be missed by fellow teachers and students!

  4. 5
    Seth Jones

    I was very sad when I first read this. I have only known Mr. Waldron for a short amount of time, but in this time he has become one of my favorite teachers and a good role model for me as well as many other students. In his short time at WHS, Mr. Waldron has contributed greatly to the lives of students, teachers, and the school as a whole. Mr Waldron will be missed, but nevertheless, I wish him good luck in his future endeavors.

  5. 6
    Fonda Gardner

    I live in Staunton but would be willing to assist in forming a group to address some of these issues.

  6. 7
    Charles Edmond

    Even though I didn’t get to experience the full school year with you, you were one of the most amazing and outstanding teachers I have had I’m all my years of school. Every point you’ve brought up is excellent and it’s voice needs to be heard everywhere. This country’s educational system is failing, each state has a form of an SOL test and it’s sad really. Parents and the school board wonder why some student call it the” s*** outta luck” test. It’s for a painfully obvious reason. I as a student feel as if I have not learned anything in any of my SOL classes because they’re so focused on the test. I believe a repeal to these tests should be written up and sent through the system. Even if it doesn’t pass at first, a big enough impact might get parents to finally speak up or learn what’s really going on inside the classroom where their child is at all day. Maybe then we can stop punishing teachers and pushing away good influence such as yourself from the school system. All in all, amazing summary and you will be missed.

  7. 8
    Glenn Loan

    Josh I wish you all the best and I am thankful for the support you have given to the students. The community, and your fellow teachers. I know that my wife Angela constantly tells me of the encouragement and support you have given her over the years. It is shameful what teachers are paid in this city. It is also shameful that the school system has been shaped by the hands of politicians instead of teachers like yourself. I fully appreciate what you have contributed these past six years. Now it is you and your family’s season to take care of yourselves. I will be praying for financial success in your career course change. I hope you made sure that all the right people received your statement . Since I know that you did let me just end by saying …”Waynesboro, are you listening?”

  8. 9
    Scarlette Harris

    I am so sad to see you go, Mr. Waldron. I was really hoping my younger siblings could see how awesome of a teacher you are. You were an amazing teacher, and I hope you know that you did change lives while you were at Waynesboro High School. Thank you so much for your dedication to your students, and the opportunities you provided me to help me grow and appreciate history and current events. I wish you the absolute best of luck in your future endeavors!

  9. 10
    Angela Loan

    I am so proud of you for having the courage to say what needed to be said. It has been an honor serving on the front lines with you at WHS and I will miss you greatly. Josh, thank you for being a role model, for having personal intrigrity, and for taking a stand. You are my hero!

  10. 11
    Trisha southern

    Thank you for seeing and telling about the truth. You’re an amazing teacher and role model not only for high schoolers, or your children, but to the community. I remember your first year teacher always having a smile on your face never turning a child down. It takes a lot to be a teacher but you have pure talent for it. My prayers will be with you and your family as you take a new journey in your life. Always remember “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Mandela

  11. 12
    Coleen Paixao

    Josh as I read your article tears filled my eyes. You are right on target! I was a substitute teacher for over 20 years, and a good part of those years where spent in Waynesboro. I have a passion for teens and desire to see them through this challenging stage of life. Teachers play an intricate part in helping to make that happen. With this said I have seen through the years the decline of the system. As you mentioned “good teachers” can no longer do their jobs because of all the cuts and politics that go on! Unfortunately the children are the ones that will suffer…and they are. Thank you for being brave enough to speak the truth and step out in faith. And I thank all the hard working teachers that work for so little but give so much!

  12. 13
    BillyD

    As a former teacher, in Worcester MA, I can empathize and appreciate every concern you have voiced, Josh. I moved to FL in 2005, after 4.5 years of teaching (2.5 years teaching 7th grade English – 1/2 a year because I started teaching in Jan. for a teacher on maternity leave, after my short time substitute teaching- followed by 2 years as a H.S. Inclusion Specialist). Like you Josh, I was a recipient of awards and took great pride in bela quality educator. Many of the problems you referred to were clear to me back in 2002; the standardized tests and metrics and “hoops” we had to jump through were becoming more and more absurd. Why, as an English teacher, am I being asked to coordinate lesson plans with the Math teacher across the hall? We ended up having the students create word pr to solve. It was the beginning of the end for me. We would have to submit weekly documents showing how our lesson plans “helped students become ready for the MCATS”. This was absurd to me.

    Eventually, I decided to move to Florida. I sought out teaching positions, but only briefly. After learning the methods in Florida were far worse than what I was subjected to in MA, and the salaries were about half, I immediately started looking for other career options. Yes, I miss teaching and I especially miss coaching; it was my calling in life! Starting a family, with one on the way, it’s not possible to be a teacher, like it once was less than a generation ago. While I was in education, I needed to supplement my income by coaching, officiating, and waiting tables (often serving my own students and their families). Rather than staying after school to help students, I would have to change, eat, and start taking orders, after school. I would finally get home after 11:00pm, exhausted, leaving absolutely no time for family or any kind of social life.

    I wish I could continue teaching, but you’re correct; the system isn’t providing hard-working, dedicated teachers the tools to continue in the field. It really is a shame to lose teachers, such as yourself! Best wishes in your endeavors!

  13. 14
    Bonnie Bowen

    I regret you decision to leave a profession that I launched as a student teacher in Waynesboro. Your concerns are heard in Halifax County, across Virgina, and across America. Waking up seems to be lost on the politicians who can impact public education the most. Thomas Jefferson cautioned that failing to educate the masses would destroy this union. The devaluing of teachers and the overall attack on public eduction has the USA in big trouble . Best wishes, but sadden to loose you.

  14. 15
    Mary Yuhasz

    Josh, I’m sure this has been a tough decision, indeed. You’ve been more than ‘just another teacher’ to your students, you’ve been a friend, a role model, and a positive influence. I know that my children benefited by the critical thinking skills you taught them, and were personally enriched by your kindness and friendship. I hope that, if you decide to continue your teaching career in the future, that you’ll be able to find an environment that appreciates and appropriately rewards your gifts. I wish only the very best for you as you step into your new future. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you and your family.

  15. 16
    Inga Taylor

    I have never had the pleasure of meeting you,however I have heard great things about you. A wise choice you are making for your self and especially for your children.I had 4 children go wholly or partially through this Waynesboro system.I watched it go down and down each year. The last child only survived because she was smart,motivated and able to attend the Govenors School. I would never at this point subject a child to this system as it is now. One of our children is now a Mother,she indeed is already looking in to homeschooling or private schools in the area. It has become a joke.You will be a great loss but for your children it is the best thing you can ever do to get them out of this.

  16. 17
    Anne Salembier

    Josh, I do not know you, but feel very strongly about the issues you have written about. I have family that taught for 30 plus years, a relative who was both a teacher, principal and served on the school board when he left education, and know how they feel about SOL’s , etc. It is sad when we lose the brightest and best because the “establishment” can’t take a positive stand for our children and educator’s. You will be missed by the students and their parents (the ones that care about their children’s education). Best of luck to you and your family in the future.

  17. 18
    Alex Carter

    Sad to see this. When an educational system gets so flawed, and shows no optimism, it effectively causes one of it’s very best(if not THE best)teacher in the area to leave. I personally never had Mr. Waldron as a teacher, although I worked closely with him one year in a science/history activity for several weeks. I found myself going to HIM for any questions and not my actual teacher at that time. Very brilliant and ambitious mind who will be missed.

  18. 19
    Robert T Canipe

    Tell it, brother. It’s as bad in the community colleges. Administrations makes six figures while teachers lose their homes. Every time a non-educator (legislator, politician, wealthy elite) create measures, another administrator gets his or her $100,000 plus wings. We are so top-heavy in well-paid admins in the community college that there’s no budget left for student needs like decent teachers. Why no one raises alarm about administrator pay is beyond my understanding. Moreover, why do voters continue to elect people who use teachers as pawns in their fear-mongering attempts to get elected? However, best of luck to you and thank you for this essay. Brilliant work.

  19. 20
    A. DeMoss

    Josh,

    Enjoyed (and learned from) the read. As a preface, I didn’t know these issues were so affecting and prominent, but you always did a good job masking frustrations both personally and as an instructor.

    From a critical perspective, your rationale sounds just and close to necessary, but your motive feels more ambiguous. Before beginning six years ago, you were aware of the state of the economy nationally, and even admitted so in the article. Could you really expect gravitating change in funding/compensation within 6 years? Additionally (and unfortunately), there has been no secret that education often is placed on the back burner as it pertains to the national public interest (the nice football bleachers fall conveniently in infrastructure, which has much broader funding and precedence). So, I don’t think it would have been farfetched to forecast a very gradual financial transition with national education policy and funding, and an even greater strain for local legislatures and pockets. I don’t think your prerogative is misguided, but I think its fortified a little congenially for an issue that was expected to take decades of resolution. I agree that there should have been at least mild progress, but a glamorized hindsight shouldn’t occlude a trepidation that was certainly palpable from the start.

    Secondly, your argument supports no hierarchy. The stifled progress and expectations continue to overload, but surely that could be overcome with a 25% pay raise. 10%? 5%? Or maybe compensation flattens, but “hoops” are reduced. Eliminated? The motive needs to formulate priority of issue, as considering its entirety leaves many questions:
    1. Would compensation alone negate struggles from expectations?
    2. Would less or more reasonable expectations allow for flat pay?
    3. How/why are other teachers capable of continuing despite working in the same environment?
    4. How much value is really placed on “changing lives” of students?
    5. What threshold quantifies a “plan for the future”? 10 years? 25 years?

    Funding and criticism aside, the teacher/student/parent interaction is truly inexcusable and would be reason alone for a departure in my honest opinion. From a college student who has seen the black and white contrast of interaction and standards in HS and college, the discrepancy is unacceptable, and an issue outside of funding entirely. As an instructor, you always encouraged the critical thinking and high value work that is necessary at the next level academically and in everyday life. Funny how such a style warrants 4 TOTY awards, but is not conducive to meeting imposed standards.

    I commend your autonomous, and justified, attitude and am forever grateful for the expertise and structure you were able to provide as an AP instructor. Again, great read, great mission, and great stance. Hope we can catch up soon (NBA Finals)?

  20. 21
    Meg Heubeck

    Josh, I really appreciate what you have written. As a citizen I will continue to advocate for the changes you have considered in this article. I am sorry you have to leave the classroom- I would have liked my son to be in your class. As a former educator in an urban area- I totally understand. Thanks again.

  21. 22
    Patty Duncan

    Josh I appreciate what you said in your article. My son JT Armstrong was lucky to have you as his teacher this year he was upset when I read this to him. I know you had an impact on him cause thru out his school years there has been many teachers that he has liked but you are one of them. I agree with you 100 percent they are more focused on SOL tests than anything and some kids can’t comprehend all of the information in a short time and they get so frustrated and upset then the schools wonder why kids fail them. I wish nothing but the best for you and your family and again thank you for making such an impression on my son.

  22. 23
    Dan Bledsoe

    Josh,
    Thank you for an incredibly well thought out and well written post. It was apparent from day one that you had the “it” factor that cannot be taught at an Ed. school and makes you an outstanding teacher. Your passion for the students of Waynesboro High School and the community will be missed. It depresses me that another great teacher is gone. Good luck and keep in touch.
    Dan Bledsoe

  23. 24
    Fred Simpkins

    Mr. Waldron; I have been teaching for 33 years and I feel your pain and understand each and every word you so passionately wrote. Thank you for sharing and at the same time, as a resident of the City of Waynesboro, I am so sorry to see someone of your caliber and your passion leave the profession that I love so dearly. You need to address each and every school board in the Valley with this writing. Maybe it will open some eyes. I am sure it will give the rest of us some glimmer of hope. Good luck in all you do.

  24. 25
    C M

    It is a loss for the school that you are leaving. I would state though that in this economy, many of us, even those not in education, have had to do with no or very little raises and similar perceived undervalued compensation for the work we do – yet so often this complaint is given as if educators should be an exception. I hope you’ve found work that increases your income, while allowing free time for your side jobs if you should continue them or at least more time with your family if not. In a smaller market such as Waynesboro, jobs like that are not easy to come by. I agree SOLs are a waste of time and money, and the hoops and ridiculous measures are unnecessary and seem to be thought up to inflate administrative staff’s egos and are randomly created more to justify their position than improve education in any way. I’d also like to say, I find great fault with unions who make true evaluation of educators, the ability to identify and terminate the poorly performing while identifying and rewarding the excellent, are a big contributor to the problem. They create the environment where the randomly created “hoops” are thought up to take the place of honest evaluation. I have had some exposure to WHS, enough to know that my children will not attend it. While there are certainly good teachers and some good students, there are serious problems. I have no answers as to the failure of families in this community to participate or even care about their child’s education – it is apparently a lack of education on their part and a continuation of the cycle of ignorance and poverty and pervasive laziness in many cases. Poverty and lack of education are not excuses in a public school setting where every child can succeed with a free education, so I feel calling it laziness is a direct truth in many cases. There are too many examples where a child succeeds with family support and encouragement despite their poverty and their parent’s lack of education — where parents actually want, even demand, that their child do better — and they do. So calling it laziness definitely applies to many situations where parents just don’t make it a priority to be involved, to encourage, and to hold child and themselves responsible. Even at the elementary school level, the lack of parent value on education and their laziness in parenting affects the entire school as teachers and administrators are forced to try to fill the vacuum as a substitute parent as well as educate. This is not unique to our town though, it is a nationwide epidemic and part of what continues to divide the masses between the doers and the takers, the contributors and the those that are a drain on society because of their laziness, addictions, and/or perpetual outlook as a victim. Perhaps harsh, but often true. There are no easy answers for that – either in our community, or our nation – as we continue to see throwing money at the problem has only made it worse, and programs and grants designed to fix these issues see little true success. Perhaps the best answer is letting the true pain of consequences be felt instead of our enabling social programs being expanded. I wish you well in your future, you have served your students well, and you need to do what you need to do to provide and seek the best for your family.

  25. 26
    skylar phillips

    Congratulations Mr. Waldron. Even though i didnt get the chance to be your stundent, I always looked at you as one of my favorite teachers. You proved to me that not all people think the same just by what they see. Your truly the definition of an all around great person at heart. You give me inspiration to make the most out of my flaws and not so smart decisions. Im going to miss playing basketball with you. Your energy and determination cant be compared. I wish you all the luck and success in everything you do. Much love. See you around Mr Waldron.

  26. 27
    jd

    akk the taxes we have to pay and schools. are taking cuts just hard to believe my taxe money is going down the drain schools make enough money they just spend it all on sports.I make only 200 a week where I work and I make it with what I got and got 3 kids this is just a copout all the way schools. have more than enough y’all r just greedy. and wht more and more for from those that really break a sweet qhen thwy work your a quieter. that what’s money to come from the air off your hand the the sweat. off your back

  27. 28
    jd

    I never seen a teacher that don’t complain about their pay come wrk where u only make min wage then complain I sell lottery. tickets. all day tht all goes to schools. so feed that lie to someone else if you cared like u sais u did u would makw a difference insteaf u lwave those that might really. need u some role model when it gets rough just quit that’s the American. way

  28. 29
    Patty

    JD you single handedly just proved Mr. Waldron’s point. All the emphasis on SGOs, standardized tests, and little to no budgets produce community members who cannot create a sentence, let alone paragraph, in an intelligent, articulate fashion. As a teacher and coach of two sports for 14 years, I see no light at the end of the tunnel. However, I’m going to keep plugging away because my students need teachers who love them, many times more than their own parents.

  29. 30
    John Garasimowicz

    Josh, you will be sorely missed! I am completely cognoscente of your position because I was faced with the same economic challenges in the 1980’s. At one point one has to choose one’s own family over the “family” they’ve developed in school. Fortunately Connecticut passed a “Teacher Enhancement Act” in the 90’s that brought salaries on par with our education and training. It allowed many of us in the field to return to the profession we loved. Hopefully Virginia will come up with a similar solution to retain good staff, I shudder to think how things will go if they don’t. Best of luck friend, all the best,

    John

  30. 31
    Derik Hayega

    Josh, I do not know you….but I know thousands just like you. The cost to your district to replace you in direct and indirect costs is about $25,000. Consider the consequences if we were able to design a system that was sustainable…….and reduce our attrition by half. We could have over a billion dollars to invest in quality, professional educators like you. Thanks for your service and insights

  31. 32
    George Kirychuk

    Josh, I am sorry to hear about your decision, but I certainly understand. As a student, you were always thoughtful and analytical, and I see as a teacher you have those same outstanding qualities. You know our family loves yours and pray for God’s blessings on you.

  32. 33
    Rachael Mccutchan

    I had Mr Waldron as a teacher, I believe, the first year and semester that he began to teach at WHS. I went to his class hating the subject history and left enjoying it. He was amazing at turning something boring into something interesting. Not only was he a wonderful teacher but he was a great person. He would have some sort of connection with every student whether it be an inside joke or discussions about your favorite sports team. He always looked out for his students and im sure he looked out for his co workers. I agree with everything he says here.

    To you Mr. Waldron, you should definately stay a teacher. Just dont stay at one as disappointing as Whs. My fiance and I already moved and agreed to NOT send our son to Waynesboro city school. If only every teacher and staff member could be as dedicated, caring, and smart as you there! Best of wishes to you!
    Rachael Mccutchan Class of 2013

  33. 34
    Frankie

    I understand. I wish you’d been around before we lived and died by the SOLs and we tested the pants off our children. Oh, my! It was wonderful, but it makes the pain so much worse KNOWING that there’s a better way.

  34. 35
    kc

    I am really sorry you felt the need to leave teaching over this mess. If, after a year or two, your heart tugs you back towards kids, please embrace it and return. I totally understand your sentiment, and as a teacher and wife of a teacher, we get the difficulties of the job. My husband and I have 32 years between us- so we get the ins and outs, ups and downs. But every day I realize, that someone’s got to do it. It might as well be someone like me who really gets what education SHOULD be about and makes this wonky system work for kids anyway. You sound like an amazing teacher from the comments above- if you want to make changes for kids from the inside, feel free to jump back in at anytime. We need dedicated teachers who see the promise and will not stop fighting for kids and education in this country.

  35. 36
    Denise

    Josh, the fact that you wrote an in-depth and insightful explanation speaks volumes. I taught for years at an independent school so my experience was a different. However, I did experience the salary issues and the increased responsibilities (in my case doubled my teaching load). I could no t continue to teach on the level that I knew that I was capable of and that was a hallmark of my career. I believe in public education and try to keep up with this issues concerning teachers and students. I am convinced that all the accountability plans in place that take up so much of a teacher’s time is a weak attempt to bring sub-par teachers into line. What other job is there that you cannot be fired because or poor performance? The school systems should come up with a plan to either bring these individual teachers up to a productive level or get rid of them. And, to recognized the excellent teachers with perks and bonuses. Get rid of tenure. Individuals who aren’t knowledgeable, creative, caring and hard working will avoid education in the first place or work harder at getting to excellence.

  36. 38
    Janita McNemar

    “Bad teachers can game any system; good teachers can lose their focus trying to take new requirements seriously.” Yes, so true. Preach on, brother.

  37. 39
    Debbie Inman

    As a counselor who was forced to be an SOL test coordinator when students needed a counselor the most I retired. For 35 years in public education I had a passion in which I wholehearted believed I could make a difference. What really pushed me over edge was when my son who graduated two years ago said “mom you know school failed me.” The conversation continued with him citing SOLs, teachers not being able to really teach because of what the powers that be expected and the impression that I and his teachers hated our jobs. This broke my heart and I realized I could no longer be a participant in a system that did not value me, my students and my own child. I hope new teachers keep up the good worthwhile fight to change this disaster.

  38. 40
    Shank

    I saw this on a friend’s facebook page, and had to comment. As a non-teacher, these are two things that you wrote really resonated with my observations as a parent – aside from the “there’s always money for sports” thing. – 1. There is no vision in public education leadership today in Virginia that accepts the ‘new normal’ and tries to find a way to adjust to that reality or perhaps advocate for change. We’re just planning to muddle through until it’s suddenly 2007 again. Businesses run that way fail. Schools do too. 2. I believe very much that teachers should be held accountable, ie, should be fired if they’re not up to the job. (I had some teachers who belonged in prison, not a high school, but that’s another story). But, you can only be held accountable, in the truest sense, over the things over which you have control. The testing and teacher performance systems we’ve set up are holding teachers accountable for things far beyond their control. Parenting matters. It just does. It’s not PC to say that, but it does. So does funding and community support. Again, you can’t hold people ‘accountable’ for things beyond their control. That’s merely shifting the full load of responsibility off others’ shoulders. Good for him for not wanting to carry someone’s load.

  39. 41
    Sarah Greesonbach

    What a great post! I completely agree — I left the classroom three years ago and unfortunately came to experience greater mental, physical, and emotional health as a result. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my e-Book, Life After Teaching!

  40. 43
    Harry

    Josh, I have two daughters that teach….well, after Monday, only one. The other is resigning after 19 years of incredible teaching, team leading and all the other tasks that teachers are asked to perform. My wife was a teacher for 22 years. I’m 71 years old. I attended a tiny high school (200 kids in 9 through 12) in a backwater town of 2000 people in West Virginia (1956-1960). None of the crap that today’s teachers must do even existed in 1960. The had only one job – teaching. I will stack the education I received from this school and teachers up against anyone’s from any school district in the country today. Part of the success of those old schools was that the parents and townsfolks RESPECTED AND SUPPORTED the teachers. The old stories that talk about getting in trouble at school and then getting in double trouble at home are true. Sports were important, but the hard and fast rule was that if you failed in the classroom, you were not welcome on the team….no exceptions.
    When I walk through a chemistry lab in a modern school I realize how pathetic our “lab” was. Regardless of the class, our only “equipment” was our textbooks. They were loaned to us at the beginning of the year and we wrapped them in paper bags to protect them while we used them.
    There was zero horseplay in the classroom. And, of course, there were no cellphones, tablets, computers to serve as distractions. As a result, we got a wonderful education. I have often said that the school is secondary to the students desire to learn. I don’t see much of that today….just a focus on getting that piece of paper at the end regardless of how it happened. And that is the parent’s focus as well as the student’s.
    And then there is “the administration”. These people appear to be completely focused on their career to the detriment of the teachers and students.
    Lastly, the business people and politicians focus on nonsense such as “charter schools”. These businesses (and education is NOT a business) exist for the sole purpose of enriching those that found and run them.
    Unfortunately, I don’t see any positive change…ever.

  41. 44
    Collin Ingles

    Im so sorry that you will be leaving Waynesboro High School, but you are making tbe right decision. I too believe that our school system is very flawed, and something has got to give so we can keep the great teachers like you. I hope that you speaking out will start to make a change in our school system. The idea that a student only has to do the bare minium to get through school (no child left behind) has taken the effort out of the equation for students. Thanks for having a positive influence on my education and life. Please let us know where you endup.
    Thanks so much,

    Collin Ingles

  42. 45
    Melissa

    I am a first year teacher in Richmomd City and have experienced everything you mention. Thank you for such a beautifully written piece. You really nailed the current state of public education.

  43. 46
    Stafford County Teacher

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said. I’m sorry to hear you’re leaving teaching — maybe you’ll consider getting a job in admin or in a central office position? Even better, run for school board? I find myself in the same precise situation you find yourself in and I’m trying to stick it out… but it’s getting harder to justify it, hoping for the better future. It’s probably time to ask our BoS and SB the same question — is there cause for hope of improvement in SCPS? May your family and future endeavors be blessed and please PLEASE stay involved and outspoken for local teachers, wherever you decide to go!

  44. 48
    Thom Ryder

    Josh,
    Your feelings are similar to my feelings and those of most of my colleagues. Many, many of us are reevaluating are career choice. I will be leaving the profession after next year. I have 32 years in the can and feel that I could easily teach another 10-15 years, BUT the atmosphere has become toxic. I will sadly leave the classroom after next year. Children and employees have ceased to be regarded as human beings; rather, they are now budget place-holders. It’s much easier to dismantle a system if it is depersonalized.

  45. 49
    Robert

    Though it will sound harsh, ultimately your decision is based on putting yourself before students. None of what you listed is justification for making even a small differences in the lives of students, especially for someone as talented as you.
    You are making a good living, you are in a professional environment and you work with young people. You seem to have let your heart focus on the negatives and have let them win over. As you mature, you will see the issue with that.
    I worked in the private sector for 30 years and now have taught for 8. You think you have issues in teaching you don’t like? Try working for selfish people with a myriad of issues who, if they decide for any reason at any time they don’t like you or want a change, can hang all sorts of workplace issues over you. Or if things slow down for a few months can let you go (it happened to me twice though I was a very competent worker). I submit that you don’t know what you’ve got in the teaching profession.
    Buck up, smile, endure and make a difference and let that be enough satisfaction.

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