Teaching: a love/hate letter (from 11-26-14)

Don’t think I am making light of a serious subject.

I have seen abusive relationships for real,

Fortunately, always from the outside,

But sometimes first hand.

So I am




You are my profession,

And I’ve had a long, long relationship with you.

But Teaching, I have to say,

This has become an abusive relationship.

I was so in love with you, Teaching,

At the start.

You seemed to share my deepest values.

The individual voice.

Knowing facts, but also telling the Truth.

Inspiring love of learning,

Love of reading,

Love of writing,

Knowing the power of words.

We wanted the same things.

We worked together.

You appreciated my creativity and you encouraged me to grow

As a person and as a professional.

Sure, there were some growing pains.

The kids we had in our care were a bit difficult to deal with at times,

But you helped me to find ways to deal with them,

And our time with them, and with each other,

Got better and better.

To this day, Teaching,

I remain enamored of you still.

When did it begin to go all wrong?

Perhaps it was when you insisted on judging me

For things that were beyond my control, turning one little feature

Of our relationship

Into the only thing that mattered,

Blowing it all out of proportion.

You felt you had to test me.


And then there was the issue of trust.

Once upon a time we had a relationship

Where we had certain expectations of each other,

Commitments that I took seriously and worked hard to meet.

But then you started to not trust me.

You started telling me what to do.

And then when to do it.

And then how to do it.

You told me to stop thinking for myself.

You got… controlling.

You demanded compliance.

And yet,

When I would think about leaving you, Teaching,

You would act like things were better.

You would appear to relent.

And I would decide to stay.

Maybe things would get better now.

You told me you had a new set of standards we would live by,

And they would renew and transform our relationship.

They looked good the way you presented them at first.

They promised more freedom.

Things would be different this time.

But then, after I’d recommitted, things only got worse.

Now you tried to control,

Not just the how and the what and the when,

But the why, too.

You tried to control my thoughts.

You asked me to betray my most deeply held beliefs,

The very reasons I had gotten into our relationship in the first place.

You asked me to betray myself.

Worst of all,

You asked me

To betray the children in our care,

To betray their trust.

To tell them their stories don’t matter.

That education is nothing but facts.

That they are cogs in a machine,


Not people.

And that’s when I was ready to leave once and for all,

To get out of this abusive relationship.

But there was no way to take the kids with me.

Maybe it was then that I realized that you were no longer yourself,


You had been kidnapped,

Replaced by someone or something that looked like Teaching,

But was really someone else.

You are now an impostor.

You are not Teaching anymore.

You are Standardization.

You are Reform.

You are Compliance.

You are Test Prep.

You are Hoop-jumping.

You are Text Complexity and Zombie New Criticism and Writing to Text.

You are Rigor as torture

And Death to

Creativity, Curiosity, and


You are… everything that is not really Teaching.

But I am not leaving.

I am calling you out for the impostor you are.

I am searching for the real Teaching.

You are still there, somewhere.

And I will find you again.