I did not enter the teaching profession for the money; I entered education in spite of the money and because I felt called to teach.
I love being in front of my classroom and love laughing, thinking, sharing, problem-solving and learning from the amazing young adults who pass through my classroom doors.
When I went to college, I expected to become an architect, a veterinarian, an engineer or to use my mathematical gifts in some other lucrative field. Instead, I try to provide a firm math foundation for students who enter those STEM professions and to teach all my students to think analytically and problem solve for whatever their future holds.
It is impossible to explain the excitement and rush of students having an “Aha!” or “Whoa!” moment. I am inspired daily by my students and my hard-working colleagues. And I have not regretted my decision to enter the teaching profession in 1989 — until the past couple of years.
Recently, I seem to have lost control of my classroom. I am constantly having to defend what has made me successful in the past. I am constantly adjusting to the latest new standards, trends, or state and federally mandated tests. And it is a rare week in which all my students and I are in my classroom together for four hours of class time.
I have never shied from hard work, but each year my job seems to get more difficult; I find myself working longer hours and feel I am being less effective. When I hear of a student who wants to become a teacher, I no longer think of the rewarding moments; I think of why that is a poor career choice.
On May 22, I walked out for those future teachers. I want to recruit and retain the best and brightest college graduates. I walked out for my many students who are now in education; they deserve better from the state of Washington.
I walked out for my present students. I want them to have teachers who receive professional pay and benefits for one of the most important jobs in the world. I walked out for the Tumwater community and the state of Washington.
I am lucky enough to live in a state and a community in which schools outperform those is most other states, in spite of education not being fully funded by the Legislature (and our class size and teacher pay being in the bottom 10 of the U.S.). I walked out for all of my students — past, present and future — because I still believe in public education and its power to inspire.
Kelly McNeal, a graduate of Gig Harbor High School, teaches math in the Tumwater School District. Tumwater teachers staged a one-day walkout on May 22.