To be fair, teaching itself is a profession that has long been given to a certain amount of bombast; parents and students in Chicago were dismayed to find this out a couple of years ago when Chicago teachers engaged in an eight-day strike in order to protest “their evaluations being tied to performance” (can you imagine?). And yet the public, media-supported teacher resignation seems to be gaining ground as a kind of new literary art form. In the Wake County Public School System this month, a teacher “gave her employers a month’s notice and copied her letter of resignation to the local media.” The Washington Post appears to run such letters on a semi-regular basis; early this Spring they published a resignation letter from a kindergarten teacher, last year one from a high school social studies instructor, a few Octobers ago one from a “disgusted teacher” who was quitting “in order to preserve [his] sanity, [his] family, and the forward movement of [their] lives.”
Of course, these teachers may indeed have perfectly legitimate and understandable reasons for leaving their profession; there are a fair number of excellent criticisms of modern American education, many of which are often cited in these types of letters. And yet it’s puzzling why so many teachers feel the need to be so grandiose in their professional departure: like the ending of a Siegfried and Roy performance or a Barnum & Bailey finale, a great many teachers seem to feel the need to go out in a blaze of glory, dazzling the world with a grandiloquent performance of egomaniacal proportions: I am disgusted, my sanity must be preserved, and I’m going to tell you why.