This Teacher's Reasons For Leaving Her Job After 12 Years Will Shock You
"Kids are just the innocent victims of that."
In mid-June, Jessica Gentry, 34, a former teacher at Stone Spring Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia, wrote a Facebook post on why she decided to quit her job. Gentry's perspective quickly went viral, earning nearly 215,000 shares over the course of just 10 days.
In her lengthy post, Gentry wrote that people might think she "left teaching because of the lousy pay," but she clarified that her decision had much more to do with the way in which teachers are currently expected to operate. Going against the view that the problem is that "kids have changed," she wrote that it's the parents and society at large that have changed and that "kids are just the innocent victims of that."
"Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/coparenting situations, terrible media influences," she wrote. "The kids flipping tables at school? They don't have a safe place at home. Our classrooms are the first place they've ever heard 'no,' been given boundaries, shown love through respect."
In fact, a 2018 study from the University of Michigan Medical School gave 172 two-parent families with a child age 5 years or younger an online questionnaire that asked parents to indicate how often they checked their phones while with their children and how often their kids acted out. They found that smartphones or other technological devices got in the way of parent-child interactions at least once a day in almost every case.
Gentry also noted that teachers are being pressured to rely on technology instead of promoting "the basics of relationship building and hands on learning." "Kids already can't read social cues and conduct themselves appropriately in social settings," she wrote. This is a concern that has been echoed by some child education experts who are troubled by the fact that many kids today can't read analog clocks or grip a pencil properly.
Additionally, Gentry said that schools today are catering more and more to parents and never pushing back when it comes to their complaints. "Instead of holding parents accountable… and making them true partners, we've adopted a customer service mindset," she wrote. "I've had parents tell me that I'm not allowed to tell their child 'no.'"
All in all, Gentry says teachers feel like "kids need and deserve more than they're getting," which has a destructive effect on their mental and physical health. "We become emotional eaters. We become couch potatoes to zone out," she wrote. "We become so short fused that our families suffer."
In response to all the attention Gentry's post has received, Michael Richards, the superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools, told Good Morning America that "Harrisonburg City Public Schools staff are dedicated, hard-working professionals who care for all children daily."
When reached via email, Gentry said "locals have been heinously mean" about her Facebook post, but she noted that many people "have been positive, sympathetic and have responded with similar feelings."
School cafeteria manager Wanda Hinkle wrote in the comments section of Gentry's post that "these children do not hear 'no, don't do that' from anyone. … We are not allowed to teach them responsibility or have them take responsibility for their own actions. I love all of these little people with all of my heart but … These children will not be able to make a living and a life for their own family because we have not and are not allowed to show them what RESPECT is for others."
In a follow-up email, Gentry added that she welcomes teachers who've disciplined her child. "My own child was in time out several times in kindergarten and first grade—and I encouraged it. I want her to respect rules and authority and grow as a well-rounded member of society," she wrote.
When asked about what parents can do to make sure their children's teachers don't feel the same way that she does, Gentry said: "Know that NO child is perfect. They will have teachable moments—times when the teacher will need to talk to them, impose consequences and help them grow as humans. You may not agree with it, you may think your child is perfect, but we need your trust and support."
As far as what's next for Gentry now that she's out of the school she taught at for 12 years, she said she feels "relieved, but also realizes we have A LOT of work to do to make the school environment better for kids and teachers."
And for an example of how sometimes, technology can strengthen the teacher-student relationship, check out: This Teacher's Viral End-of-Year Meme Project Will Make Your Day.
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