I taught for three years, and I can say with complete honesty that those were the three most difficult years of my life. I was constantly stressed and exhausted, and, in the end, the demands of the profession were just too much for me. I’ve always felt a bit like a failure because of it.
Sariah McCall’s resignation letter shows me that I’m not alone. Her resignation letter was published in full by The Post and Courier. It packs a punch.
She begins by explaining that this has nothing to do with her students, her principal, or the other members of the faculty, and that resigning has left her feeling guilty:
Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation from public education effective immediately. Please understand that this has nothing to do with my children, Ms. Wallace, or the rest of the faculty and staff at Murray-LaSaine. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect fit for my class, administrator, and school. I thought I had found my forever school. In fact, the only things keeping me from resigning until now were the love I have for my students, the love I have for the act of teaching, and the heavy guilt I feel for my children being negatively impacted by this in any way: emotionally or academically. However, I cannot set myself on fire to keep someone else warm.
“I cannot set myself on fire to keep someone else warm.” Yet, teachers are told to burn the candle at both ends.
She goes on to compare the expectations of the teaching profession to being in an abusive relationship.
I have compared the systematic expectations of the profession to the list of signs of abuse provided by the Domestic Abuse Hotline. If you replace “he” with “public education,” it would almost match perfectly with what we are all going through across America. If I were to say that my partner is putting me through all of this abuse and mistreatment, people would be putting me in a shelter and insisting that I leave him. But because this is my calling and I must sacrifice myself for the sake of the children, then it’s really not that big of a deal. Because If I really love my job and I really love the kids, then I should be willing to do whatever it takes and make whatever sacrifices I need to in order to give them everything they need. Do more with less time, funding, and resources. Take more of the blame, guilt, and responsibility. Be ready to sacrifice your personal life, mental health, and physical safety. Don’t be a complainer. After all, if you only work 7-3 for 180 days of the year, then what could there possibly be to complain about? If only it were that easy. In the hardest act of selfishness I have ever been faced with, I must put myself over the demands of helping raise other people’s children. I won’t be in an abusive relationship with public education any longer.
No one should be expected to put their job before their health. And yet we expect that of teachers on a daily basis.
McCall continues, explaining that she loved the children she taught, but love isn’t enough. South Carolina teachers, and teachers across the country, need resources.
Through this whole situation, I have fiercely defended how much I love my children and how much I love the act of teaching. I won’t let anyone try to put that blame there. It is because I love teaching that I will not tolerate what the state is doing to the educators and children under its care. Unfortunately these issues will not be resolved until the perception of public education and other state social services change. Then people will band together for the common goal of elevating these necessary resources to the status of respect they deserve. The public has to demand that they receive the time, funding, and resources they require. We need to prioritize education, not just offer it lip-service.
Due to the fact that McCall is resigning mid-year and without notice, her teaching certification may be revoked for up to one year. Her resignation letter ends on a heart-breaking note, with McCall asking for forgiveness for her decision.
I hope in time you can find forgiveness for me and the decision I had to make. I hope that if you have anger or frustration or sadness over this, that you are able to take it to the avenues responsible for this systemic problem. I had to put my family and my health over my career. The profession existed before me and will continue to exist without me. My children had teachers before me and they will have many after me. But my family only has one of me. I only have one chance to live a life that fulfills all of me, not just my career goals. I have to prioritize my values. Words cannot express the guilt, shame, and sadness I feel that my sweet children and lovely school have been or may continue to be negatively impacted by this in any way. I truly hope you can forgive me and extend me grace in time.
McCall, like all teachers, is only human. She explained to the Washington Post that she often started work before 7 a.m. and then worked until 11 p.m. or later. No one can continue for long at that pace.
Read her whole letter here:
Resignation Letter by on Scribd
Take a moment to thank a teacher today, and maybe call members of your state government to demand better conditions for teachers. Trust me, they deserve it.