Why #TST - Why PLI?

Abra Gist
March 7, 2024

A Personal Journey Beyond the Classroom

Nearly four years have passed since I stepped away from my career as a high school English teacher, a decision that continues to weigh heavily on my heart and soul. The impacts—mental, physical, and emotional—are still profound and persistent. And here lies a truth hard to digest unless you've walked the path: if you haven't taught, you truly do not understand.

This statement might stir discomfort or even anger among those who strive to empathize with the loss and grief that lingers long after leaving a profession I once deeply loved. 

The Unseen Battle of Teaching

My journey in education was not unlike a soldier's in warfare, not in the physical dangers faced but in the emotional and psychological battlegrounds navigated daily. My colleagues and I used to say we were “the boots on the ground” and truthfully we never knew what we were walking into on any given day. 

The comparison might seem extreme to some, yet it underscores a vital point: just as one cannot fully grasp the horrors of war without experiencing its brutal reality, the stresses and sacrifices inherent in teaching can only be fully understood by those who have lived them.

The general public, most having navigated the education system only as students, may believe they hold insight into the teacher's world. This notion, however, is a complete misconception. The reality is starkly different—teachers are exhausted, disillusioned, and often exploited or even coerced within a system that demands more than it ever gives. 

Voices from the Field

In conversations with former colleagues, a common theme emerges: a sense of loss for what teaching could be versus the reality we faced. "Teaching is a calling, but the environment makes it unsustainable," shared a fellow educator during a recent discussion. 

“I still have nightmares about the classroom, and worry about my students. My therapist is trying to help me learn to build boundaries…can you imagine having a clear line between your home and work-life balance!?” I shudder when I think of all the times we were told if we didn’t stay – we didn’t care about the kids. No amount of sacrifice was ever enough.

Many of my former colleagues have even pointed out that many of us choose our profession over personal relationships, the chance to have families (children) of our own, and even over our own mental and physical health because it simply seemed impossible to be able to do anything well while being a teacher. 

Why I believe #TeacherServeToo is the Movement We Need

Acknowledging the problem is the first step toward change. It's imperative that we shift our societal view of teaching from a job to a vocation that requires support, respect, and adequate resources. That’s why a book like #TeachersServeToo is so important because it not only serves to call out the issues within the profession but also the ways we can come together to support teachers and empower them. But it starts first by recognizing the utter sacrifice made by those who teach and acknowledging that they are more than just “glorified babysitters”. 

Moreover, policy changes aimed at reducing teacher workloads, along with increased funding for mental health resources, could begin to address the root causes of teacher burnout. Recognizing the invaluable role teachers play in society, and compensating them accordingly, would not only validate their contributions but also encourage a more sustainable approach to education. Change has to be a choice though. And, teachers need our help - especially those of us not in the classrooms anymore to advocate for them because they simply don’t have the time or resources to be asked to do it. 

Leaving my full time teaching job was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. I miss my students and the classroom every single day. My journey, though unique in its specifics, reflects a broader crisis within the teaching profession—a crisis that demands attention, understanding, and action.

To those outside the profession looking in, I ask for empathy, not sympathy. Understand that while teachers’ experiences may not be directly relatable, the need for support and systemic change is universal. I truly believe every single person was born with the ability to change someone’s life, it’s why I became a teacher. Sometimes the biggest and most important things we’ll do in life start with the smallest contributions and will seemingly go unnoticed – but everything we do has an impact. I still believe that every single human being deserves a free quality education. And we cannot allow politics, greed, or apathy to destroy access to knowledge and information. Our teachers and our children need us. 

For the sake of future generations and the educators who guide them, let's work towards an educational system that values and upholds the well-being of its most vital contributors: teachers.

Support Teachers. Support Our Future.

Whether you are a part of the educational system or an appreciative member of the general public, your actions can make a difference.

Share your thoughts on social media using #TeachersServeToo to join the movement!

about the author
Abra Gist

Abra Gist is a writer and educator in Austin, Texas with over a decade of experience in the education sector. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in English at The University of Texas. She is currently an MFA Creative Writing Candidate at Texas State University. She loves exploring nature, practicing and teaching yoga, and sharing her industry knowledge for Proximity Learning.

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