Skip to main content

Why I Quit Teaching

I've decided to quit teaching.

After six grueling years teaching high school math to New York City's most at-risk students, I've become jaded. And no, it's not because of the kids. They were the most compelling reason against leaving. It's just everything else.

When I first started teaching, I walked into the classroom absolutely on fire about everything. I was twenty-four years old and cocky: coming off a high from people telling me how impressed they were that I'd decided to forego a career in investment banking to pursue teaching. Like any first-year teacher, my life revolved around my profession: plan, create, assess, grade, adjust, repeat. I was an animal and it certainly didn't hurt that I was coming from an industry where people averaged working over ninety hours a week.

For the next few years, I grew very comfortable being "Yo Mista" in the classroom. I'd had my share of run-ins with district/school politics and bureaucracy, but I still felt untouchable. I realized a lot of the "sweat the small stuff" bullshit floating around mainstream education was just that: bullshit. I enjoyed teaching the most when I was speaking off the cuff. Instances where my students got off-task provided excellent opportunities to teach in the moment and connect. Scripted dialogues were for actors and I certainly didn't sign up to pretend.

After my third year, I decided to investigate what teaching at a charter school serving the same student demographic would be like. Despite my own personal reservations working at a charter school, it was a unique opportunity to be a founding teacher and work closely with the founding principal to set up school culture. The mission of the school was herculean: serve only high school students involved in the criminal justice system, child protective services, and transitional housing. It was rough. The days were long, the results less tangible, and the charter network less grounded in the realities of poverty. Still, a few of us persevered with some student successes. But it wasn't enough to just teach well anymore.

Teachers don't just teach. We make phone calls home. If someone doesn't pick up, we call again. We connect with social workers during lunch to investigate student concerns. We enter detailed anecdotal notes about our students in classroom management systems. We write and adapt curricula to meet our own classroom's needs. We grade. A lot. Then we synthesize all of the individual student achievement data to figure out where to move the class next. We research educational technologies most optimal for our students. Even the most tech-challenged teachers make genuine attempts to learn and incorporate technology in the classroom. We do a lot, because of our own passion for teaching or because of a fire lit under our asses by the nurturing of a good instructional coach.

It's what is imposed upon teachers by those outside the profession that irks me.

Often, district and school-wide administrators sign us up for software, technology, and classroom management systems that we never asked for or needed. Sometimes, they do this without even trying the technology themselves. Other times, they adopt systems and technologies that don't jive well with the mission or culture of the school, classroom, or teacher. I have a lot of frustrations with the education system in the United States of America, but this example of the complete and utter disrespect for my profession and expertise has finally gotten to me.

I've quit teaching (for now), but I'm not quitting teachers. In fact, as of today, I now work for a young educational technology company whose mission is to empower individual teachers. I've been informally consulting them for over two years now and I've decided it's time to fully commit. I'll be working directly with the CEO to help shape the application's design and features. I want to connect teachers to other teachers who use the application to create a community of shared resources. I want teachers to promote the application with other teachers if they think it's useful. I don't want to sell in bulk to districts and networks without teacher advocacy and support for the product. I get that teachers are resistant to being told they have to use something.

If you think I'm selling out, maybe you're right. Maybe not. But I'm not quitting teaching forever. I took this job with a goal in mind: help create something incredible for educators to compel me to come back into the classroom on my own terms.  Of course, now that I'm out, I won't be "Yo Mista" to my co-workers. I'm reviving the blog to stay grounded in my experience, but no one at work is going to call me that. And I'm honestly going to miss it.

So with that, my name is Abbas Manjee, and I hope to hear and work with you at Kiddom very soon.


nicspa said…
I wish you the best of luck in your new position. I am a computer tech in a high school and everyday I see the frustration of adopting new technology (software or hardware) without thinking it through and getting input from the teachers who are expected to use it. Unfortunately, it ends up being a painful and sometimes expensive time for everyone involved.
Yo Mista! said…
I appreciate your comment. As someone who's always been technology-forward, I've had a very hard time working in ed the past six years. I really hope to help make a tool that will change the game and let teachers not only pick and choose what tech to use, but also incentivize them to see what else is out there (because there's a lot).
Anonymous said…
What a shame.I heard through the grapevine that you might just come back to Innovation and I got kind of (saying "kind of" only because it doesn't feel as welcoming as it used to) excited. You were one of the first teacher's to make me feel motivated enough to go to school and grow a pair...of mature ovaries. I took your advice. I'm in a better place now. Except for finals. I swear my hair is falling out by the handful.

Thanks for the tough love, Mista.
Yo Mista! said…
@ Anonymous:
I appreciate your kind, sincere words. I did come back to Innovation multiple times over the past few months - not to teach, but to show the teachers there what I'm working on. I have to admit, I do miss teaching and I will likely come back to it someday.

I'm really happy to hear you're in a better place now. Finals are finals -- do your absolute best. But just remember that at the end of the day, nothing in life ever asks you to summarize everything you've learned in one extreme effort. Finals are an outdated exercise I hope our education system eventually terminates.
Logan Paul said…
Get excellentacademichelp for the professional writers with quality work before time.
Anonymous said…
Web design is one the most important things that need to be considered while making a website it can get traffic or it can show bad impression on your site. That's why we provide web design service to make your website looks the best among all read more about it and get our service we provide grantee increasing your website traffic.
Steve Smith said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Smith said…
We are providing milk forther judge service, we ensure that you are drinking proper good for your health milk or not check it more about it here.
Jeff Adam said…
Do you need to repair your appliance and can't find any good service? Don't worry we are here for you providing lees appliance repair service we can get you excellent service with excellent quality work. Order us now!

Popular posts from this blog

On My Visit to My Old High School

I had the incredible opportunity to visit my old high school while I was in Chicago last week.  This was something I was really looking forward to; I was worried I wouldn’t have enough time to cram in a visit. I wanted to not only visit my old teachers, but also to walk around the hallways aimlessly and remember what it was like to be me eight years ago. It still blows my mind that I’ve been out of high school for that long.

Okay, fine. The voice of accuracy in my head desperately wants me to clarify how long it’s really been. Technically, I had gone back to visit a few of my teachers shortly after I graduated high school, but I choose not to count that as a “proper” visit as I was still in college and coming back home quite often. It’s not like I was living out of the state as I am now. So it doesn’t count, okay?

So Wednesday morning, I walked into the visitor’s entrance at gate 3 and received my visitor’s pass for the day. It was odd because as a student, I never enter…

We Need to Talk About Tenure

The idea and privilege of "tenure" in public education has garnered a lot of attention as of late. Most people who have never worked in education a single day in their lives seem to feel that tenure is unfair and teachers should work under the same expectations that other "regular" and hard-working Americans work under. At least, that's the narrative being presented in the media. Three years ago, I would have agreed, but I didn't know any better.

At the college and university level, tenure is difficult to obtain and can take 4-8 years. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but from what I think I know, the candidate usually needs to have published some sort of research and have demonstrated a strong teaching record, among other things. Before becoming a high school teacher, I understood why tenure was necessary at the college and university level as it protected academics when they published work that went against the mainstream, and thereby prevented professor…