Lately, I’ve been in the mood to remember how I got to the place where I currently am as a teacher. It’s been quite a ride and I’m planning to stay on it for a while longer, despite what some may have expected. Here’s a story about someone who did not expect me to stay.

Eight years ago, I walked into a DOE office in NYC to get my internship certification papers to begin teaching. I can’t remember if this was a central office or a region or district location anymore. I had completed over half of my master’s program at Bank Street, and there was an initiative that allowed me to enter the classroom without my full master’s degree with continued mentorship from my Bank Street faculty advisor. I just had to have a letter offering me a position at a school, which I finally had in hand. (That story of how I first got hired is here.)

The middle-aged woman who processed my paperwork was friendly in that way only New Yorkers can be and chatted me up a bit. When she gave me the thick envelope with the certificate and other information in it, she told me, “I can see you’re a bright one. It won’t be long before I see you back up here with a district job.”

At first I had no idea what she meant. I understood from her tone that she was paying me a compliment, but I was confused by the implications in it. I was super excited to teach. I walked out of the building like, “Yeah, I’m going to have my own classroom!” I also knew the last thing I wanted was an office job. I had once tried it and lasted not two whole days. So what did she mean?

In a nice way, the woman in the district office sent a message to me that no one really wants to teach for their career. People with better options don’t stay. Teachers by and large aren’t that smart. Teaching is not worth many years of your life. You won’t last in the grind. You will lose your idealism quickly and leave. Success in teaching = moving to a DOE office job, not teaching.

I don’t fault the woman for her perspective about teaching. Most likely she had been a teacher and somehow been rewarded with a job in a DOE office and been happy with it. But I wonder, has anything changed since her days in the classroom? Are we still sending the message to teachers that moving up is moving out? That the educational office trumps the classroom every time? In pay, working conditions, and status? That needs to change.


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