Classroom Teachers, I Bow Before You

Sep 5, 2019 12:00:00 AM


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.

[pullquote position="right"]Classroom teachers, you are the front line.[/pullquote]

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 classes. Wright was a national finalist for the 2018 U.S. Department of Education's School Ambassador Fellowship, and he was named Philadelphia's Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2013. During his more than 10 years in Philadelphia classrooms, Wright created a relationship between Philadelphia's Mastery Schools and the University of Vermont that led to the granting of near-full-ride college scholarships for underrepresented students. And he participated in the fight for equitable education funding by testifying before Philadelphia's Board of Education and in the Pennsylvania State Capitol rotunda. Wright has been recruited by Facebook and Edutopia to speak on digital education. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he organized demonstrations to close the digital divide. His writing has been published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Citizen, Chalkbeat, Education Leadership, and numerous education blogs. Wright lives in Collingswood, New Jersey, with his wife and two sons. Read more about Wright's work and pick up a copy of his new book, " Dismantling A Broken System; Actions to Close the Equity, Justice, and Opportunity Gaps in American Education"—now available for pre-order!

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