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Updated on Feb 22, 2020. Posted on Feb 19, 2020

This Teacher Tearfully Resigned At A Livestream Where Students Were Watching And Her Speech Is So Important

"Teaching is like a bad marriage. You never get your needs met, but you stay in it for the kids."

After 21 years of teaching gifted students, Amanda Coffman resigned during a livestream for a school board meeting last week:

View this video on YouTube

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Amanda told BuzzFeed that the Shawnee Mission teachers in Kansas had been working without contracts since June of last year. "On January 30th, the school board passed a three-year unilateral contract. Teachers had until February 14th to either accept the contract, reject it and work under the terms of the previous contract, or resign," explained Amanda.

Amanda said that several years ago — before she worked for the Shawnee Mission district — severe educational funding cuts were made in Kansas. "The teachers had agreed to change their workload from teaching five classes per day to six classes per day. This year, the Kansas legislature was able to restore some of the funding to schools and the teachers wanted a commitment that the money would be used to hire teachers to reduce workload and class size. The district did not feel that they had sufficient funds to make that sustainable."

Continuing, Amanda went on to explain that she felt like the district administration was not willing to discuss things that affected the teachers' work life and career trajectory. "Teachers felt strongly that the district was attempting to silence them by issuing the three-year contract. Effectively, they would not have to negotiate with teachers over anything until the Spring of 2022. I have felt increasingly like my voice is not valued in the district over the last few years, and this public campaign to silence us all was the last straw for me."

So after talking with her family and considering her options, Amanda decided to resign. "This isn’t the kind of decision you make impulsively. I had been pretty open with my friends and colleagues that if this was the way that the contract went, I was probably going to resign. I’m not sure how many believed that I really would, though! I called my parents the day before and sent them the link to watch the livestream."

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Amanda added, "This was a difficult decision to make. As a teacher, it is not even in your realm of possibility that you could leave in the middle of the school year. Several teachers in the district, in fact, have chosen to resign, but at the end of this year. I recognize that I am in a privileged position, in that my husband makes a very good salary, and we could afford to do without mine for a few months. I thought it would make a bigger statement on behalf of the teachers — and draw attention to how important teachers are to the students — if I quit in the way that I did. There was also a sense that I was calling the district’s bluff. They didn’t think any teachers would leave."

Amanda went to parent/teacher conferences the Thursday before her resignation. "That Friday, I packed up my classroom, went home, and cried. Every time I would start to lose my resolve, the district would purchase an ad in the local paper or their spokesperson would be on TV telling everyone what a great deal this contract is for teachers and how happy everyone was with the outcome. That made it more important that I tell our story rather than letting the administration tell it for us," she explained.

Since quitting, Amanda said she has spoken with or emailed about half of her former students or their parents. "I also received a very nice email with personal messages from around 20 former students, organized by a former student. They seem to understand that I did not want to leave them, but rather that I am living the hard lessons I try to teach."

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"I was one of more than 2,000 teachers — a replaceable cog in a larger machine. To my students, I am one of seven teachers they see every day. I have had some of these students the entire five years I was with the district. I’m a teacher. The students are always the ones that matter," Amanda added.

Amanda has one ending message: "We as a country really need to rethink the way we treat our teachers. No, I didn’t go into teaching for the money. I care enough for my students to stand up and say that they, and I, BOTH deserve better. We deserve better working conditions for teachers and better learning conditions for students. When teachers are overworked, undervalued, and denied opportunities for autonomy and advancement, then learning suffers. Not because we take it out on the kids, but because society takes it out on the kids. Undervaluing teachers is undervaluing the future."

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