The following is a submission from an educator as part of the Your Soapbox feature, which explores the experiences of educators in North Carolina through their own words. Check out more first person stories here, or if you are an educator, submit your own.
Exit Stage NC
I once worked in NC for three years, but bills were piling up, teachers’ work conditions worsen, and benefits were slowly being stripped away.
So I had no choice, but to work a weekend job. I decided to work for a company that provided services for people with disabilities. Even though I worked on the weekends and really enjoyed my job, I still wasn’t earning enough to pay off my college debt and save up for the future. Since I worked 60 hours a week at school, three hours at home each night and an additional six hours on my weekend job, my wife and I realized we weren’t spending much time as a family. I also realized that I did not have time for friendship, especially after my son was born.
My wife and I began thinking of our future and sought opportunities abroad and within the country. Our options were Florida and California. Those options did not seem feasible due to the overwhelming amount of money to move once more within a 3-year span. So, we thought of living abroad in order to make a fair wage, earn great benefits, move with expenses paid and obtain reasonable health care.
This year my wife, son and I decided to pack our bags and moved to Singapore in order for me to work for an American international school. The move was bittersweet – leaving a school which has been setting trends in NC and around the world with its leadership model. Luckily for me, my principal was very supportive to seek and discover a better life abroad. However, my new reality began to set, and I soon realized how sad it was for me to leave my students, knowing they would not be able to say hi in passing nor have the opportunity to visit me. To know that I no longer would be a member of their community and in turn become part of the rotating door of exiting teachers. To know I had to leave my friends and family in order to pursue a chance to be respected, recognized and properly compensated for what I am truly worth. When I decided to return to university in 2003 to become a teacher, I did not know these hardships would lie ahead of me.
As a former North Carolina teacher, I have made huge sacrifices in order to make ends meet. I also felt so embarrassed to know that anyone, at any time, could see how much I was making by simply going on-line and visiting the Wake County website. The amount of work just continued to pile up. Some of my responsibilities were inputting continuous data on-line, implementing the Common Core standards effectively, meeting Wake County’s teacher’s standards, responding to daily e-mails from families, administrators and colleagues, attending professional trainings without pay once a month, accommodating a high-risk class of 2nd graders, conferencing with interventionists and Special Ed, and the list goes on.
It is hard for me to fathom the current state of teaching in North Carolina and how it got to this point. How can a state with a remarkable reputation for having an amazing medical, technology, research and agricultural industry be short of funds for education? Not only teachers will be exiting NC, but the families who also demand the best education for their children. Highly effective teachers are effective because they are risk-takers, caring, dedicated, well-educated, reflective, balanced, open-minded, principled, global, thinkers and compassionate. For these teachers, the sky is the limit, and they will not settle for anything less, especially a slap in the face from a government whose best interests are to keep the top one percent rich and a culture that is so far from the 21st century. I will never understand how a state with well respected universities, where there are well-educated people, continue to try to turn back time to the way the south once was. In a state that has so much promise. A state that is always seen as one of the top 10 places to live, will eventually be a place where teachers and families will be forced with a decision to exit stage NC.