I have no idea who Mrs. W is, only that she has chosen to leave the teaching profession. She was put in a tough position, one that many of us have encountered. The blood red, neon sign flashing A.Y.P. strobes above all our heads. Administrators are warned that if graduation rates don't rise, if test scores don't improve, then all hell will break loose; and it will begin with them. Subsequently C.Y.A. crept up in the shadows, lurking, waiting to pounce on what should be the most noble of professions.
Who of us can't relate? Who of us haven't sat at our desk, hands covering our face, wondering if the fight will be worth the money? The parents will be irate because grandma has already bought her ticket. The student will kick and scream because, well, they deserve a future, and we are holding it from them.
Who of us hasn't heard the underlying message when the principal says, "We must do whatever we can for the students who are failing." Whatever we can do? Whatever? WE? Her job is on the line if we don't. And perhaps ours as well. School districts have no qualms about sharing which teachers' students pass assessments and which teachers' don't--without regard to whether the teacher has Honors students or remedial students.
Last year I was put in this awful predicament. The student hadn't passed a graduation requirement, and if he didn't by a certain date, he would not be able to walk at graduation. I couldn't pass him. The easy thing would have been to just sign it off, but it was my name, my reputation on the line. In retrospect, I wonder if I wouldn't just do it, should the opportunity arise. I took hell for it.
For as much as I love teaching literature to sleepy students, trying to get them to just catch a whisper of what literature has to offer, there certainly are days I can't help but wonder how long? This profession, for as noble as it is, can drain the life out of you. And while there are people who will pounce on me for admitting it, take a lesson from Atticus Finch, and walk a mile in my shoes, or Mrs. W's. Come see what it is like in a classroom today, in any school district in America.