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teacher quality

Classroom Teachers, I Bow Before You

Classroom teachers,

I bow in deep, humble and honest reverence and respect before you.

It’s been a year since I’ve been out of the K-12 classroom game.

A year since I last arrived in room 103 in West Philadelphia, putting 'Do Now' papers in blue bins atop blue tables, feeling the growing anticipation laced with anxiety and fear as 7:30 a.m. ticked closer and closer.

A year since I was on stage for nearly 7 hours a day, responsible every minute for supporting and pushing nearly 150 students every day.

A year since I felt that tiredness, that dread, that excitement, that energy.

I think back now, seeing all of these back-to-school pics and posts.

I miss the classroom, and I don’t.

I’m proud of my new educational position, and I’m not.

I know I’m doing good work and am serving, and I doubt my efficacy every minute of every day.

Classroom teachers, you are the front line.

The writers, pundits, professors, policymakers—we talk a good game.

We get likes, retweets and page views.

We complain about the hard days at work.

But that’s not where it’s at.

The classroom is where it goes down.

Where minutes are as precious as gemstones and pour through our fingers like sand.

Where lives are saved, souls supported, hungry mouths fed, thirsty brains quenched.

After nearly 10 years in the game, I had to step out.

The bell-to-bell life, the 18-22 minute lunches, the hundreds of papers to grade, the minutes to fill—they had taken their toll.

The Sunday nightmares had gotten too scary, too deep.

I am filled with profound guilt and shame, convinced of my weakness for having had to leave.

So classroom teachers, imperfect as we all are, I bow low before you.

Thank you for your service.

May your school years be filled with safety, love, compassion, support and classrooms filled with students who receive the quality education that is their inalienable human right.

Zachary Wright 
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating ...

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