A kindergarten teacher with a passion for education and a love for her pupils recently walked away from her career — and not for the reasons you might suspect.
It wasn't the pay, which has prompted many teachers to leave the profession in the past. And it wasn't about the children in her care, at least not directly.
In a now-viral Facebook post, Jessica Gentry has explained precisely what drove her away — and what she believes is driving other qualified teachers away from their callings, too.
"I think it's easier for people to believe that I left teaching because of the lousy pay," Gentry explained in an essay she shared on Facebook last week. "It was easier for my former HR director to believe it was because I found something that I was more passionate about. Some would allow them to assume that... let them be comfortable in their assumptions because your truth may lead to discomfort of others. Well... I'm not some. That ain't me."
In a detailed list of points that followed, she proved just that.
And parents, you might want to prepare yourselves for her no-holds-barred take on your role in all of this. Because Gentry doesn't subscribe to the theory that the nature of kids these days has somehow changed — mom and dad, on the other hand ... well.
"Kids are kids," she declared. "PARENTING has changed. SOCIETY has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that. Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/co-parenting situations, terrible media influences... and we are going to give the excuse that the KIDS have changed?"
If parents don't provide children with a stable, kind and attentive environment in which to thrive — including feeling safe to act out — they're bound to act out at school, according to Gentry.
She believes that the 21st-century approach to learning, which puts kids in front of devices and screens throughout the school day, just adds to the problem by distancing them from the traditional bond they'd otherwise form with their teachers.
"So forget the basics of relationship building and hands on learning," she wrote. "Kids already can't read social cues and conduct themselves appropriately in social settings... let's toss more devices at them because it looks good on our website. During an interview, one division asked me 'how are you with technology? That's important to us.' Uhhh... I hear Bobo the chimpanzee is pretty tech savvy... I consider myself pretty great with kids."
But all the technology hasn't solved any learning problems, as far as she can see. It's only created an increase for alternative teacher training and a decrease in real face time with students.
"Just this year, a new math assessment was introduced for K teachers," she recalled. "We had to attend a training on a school day (time missed with students) then it took us THREE WEEKS to administer it... one on one... to 21 students. Such. A. Waste. All of the info I could have told you about them without taking away from precious instructional time."
Add to that an increasingly distant relationship with her students' parents, one that felt more like "a customer service mindset" than a true working relationship with families who were willing to be accountable.
It became her personal breaking point earlier this year, when, after 12 years teaching kindergarten, she left her job, along with her retirement fund and 46 paid sick days — and she believes it's the same breaking point for so many other educators who are "leaving the occupation like their hair is on fire."
"My mental and physical health was in jeopardy every.single.day. Knowing that your kids need and deserve more than they're getting," she said, speaking to parents directly. "Sitting in one meeting after another, begging for more support, only to be told 'don't lose sleep over them'... when you LOVE your kids and are PASSIONATE about your mission... these messages tear you apart."
After realizing she couldn't truly serve all the kids in her care, she had another realization — that maybe there was another approach that would allow her to continue "advocating for those kiddos" — so now, according to her Instagram profile, she's acting as a life coach to help the teachers "escape the stress of the classroom by creating healthy habits."
And if the 190,000+ shares and more than 700 comments on her Facebook post, including plenty of empathetic comments from teachers, are anything to go by, it's a stress that demands relief.