Barth Keck: Teachers Increasingly Feel the Threat of Moral Injury
Writing for the CT News Junkie, teacher Barth Keck considers the problem of teachers who are asked to work against their own values.
Earlier this school year, I wrote an op-ed whose title sums up its message: “Teachers Are Feeling More Stress Than Ever.”
That was back in October, and I explained how even as the issues kept piling up – dealing with the pandemic, attending to students’ growing social-emotional needs and, yes, planning lessons and grading papers – it wasn’t enough to shake my confidence in teaching.
“I still love teaching,” I wrote, “and I remain absolutely willing to put in the time required to do the job effectively. I love helping kids grow, learn and achieve.”
Fast-forward five months. It hasn’t gotten any easier, a fact highlighted by the mid-year exodus of many Connecticut teachers, including Sheena Graham, the state’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.
“My concern for the profession is going to be, if there isn’t a way to address [the challenges], we’re going to see a lot more educators leave,” said Graham.
A recent entry in Peter Greene’s “Curmudgucation” blog pinpoints the dilemma for teachers, many of whom are feeling “moral injury,” a term Psychology Today defines as “the social, psychological, and spiritual harm that arises from a betrayal of one’s core values, such as justice, fairness and loyalty.”
Teaching, in other words, is more a calling than a job. When external factors hinder a teacher’s ability to attend to that calling, frustrations follow.
Teaching was not my first choice of careers. I embarked on a job in hospital public relations after graduating college with a degree in mass communications and completing an internship in Yale-New Haven Hospital’s public information office. My PR career lasted six years until I realized I was becoming a hospital administrator – definitely not in my wheelhouse.
My gut told me to pursue teaching. I had always enjoyed supervising the college students working in my office as PR interns, and I loved coaching youth hockey. So, I quit, earned a Master of Arts in Teaching and got certified. That was 31 years ago. I’ve been teaching ever since.
During my entire time teaching, I have never questioned my decision to change careers. I’ve always known I belong in the classroom, working with teenagers. I simply connect with them. I’ve also enjoyed the freedom to develop original, creative lessons that follow the curriculum. Lately, however, I fear the current atmosphere in this country is changing that situation.