I don't even know what went through my brain that made me think teacher was an acceptable career choice.
I mean, yeah, I'm extremely good at understanding ideas, and how ideas fundamentally fit together in correlations and causations. And yeah, understanding how ideas fit together so well I'm also extremely good at recognizing in another person the faulty perception that is causing them to understand something poorly or to have difficulty learning something. And I guess I'm also extremely good at verbalizing that difficulty, at taking their misconception and making it plain and simple and easily understood, and telling them how they can rebuild their understanding to something more coherent and correct, and fit the pieces together into genuine knowledge. So I guess in that sense I can understand why I decided to become a teacher - I'm just really good at teaching people things.
But fundamentally, I am diametrically opposed to the school system, and to being an active member within the system. I am existentialist libertarian with strong mormon tendencies. That means that I have a very deep-seated belief in the ability, nay the unalienable right, of all humans to make their own choices and to suffer the natural consequences thereof. It means that I recognize in everybody, even the most obscenely ill-behaved student, a basic level of worth simply because they are a conscious, sentient, autonomous being; and therefore I recognize in them a basic right to enjoy the free education they have been given just as their peers do. And being so good with ideas, I see how the education system undermines that with every single fiber of its being. I clearly recognize that it is an education system that is fundamentally antagonistic to human beings as autonomous choosers. An education that actively seeks to break people down. And I hate inefficient bureaucracies, especially government ones.
And it is a constant struggle to operate within this system. I have two choices - I can actively fight it (because passivity is an acceptance of the system), or I can put aside my ideals and actively perpetuate it. There are no other choices. And each has its hardships.
If I actively fight it, I am actively against my superiors, and they make it quite well known that they recognize my resistance and are attempting to fight it. I open myself to censure, punishment (both formal and informal), and belittlement, and make the future of my employment uncertain. I am constantly told (both explicitly and implicitly) I'm not doing a good enough job, though I'm never given anything but the most vague suggestion of what I'm doing wrong, let alone how to fix it. If I actively fight this system, I am fighting a culture even within the students that tells them, "I am not worth anything, I deserve to be punished because of my actions, I do not deserve an education, I never have. WTF is this teacher doing refusing to punish me and keeping me in class? People who care about me send me out of class. People who care about me isolate me. People who care about me belittle me. It's been this way since Kindergarten. This teacher clearly does not care about me. If she doesn't care about me, then I won't care about her, and I will make her life hell, and I won't learn this material." Students have rationalized and internalized the features of a system that tells them it cares about them while constantly undermining them as human beings, and therefore anybody who actually treats them with legitimate respect for them as human beings does not show the characteristics of somebody who cares.
But if I actively perpetuate the system, I am ignoring who I am fundamentally, ignoring who I believe children are fundamentally, and becoming perpetually and undeniably unhappy. One of my professors once told me something that has stuck with me for six years, and that has solidified and intensified my desire to always do the right thing - "The vast majority of teachers who burn out, burn out because they choose to ignore their values, their morals, their systems of beliefs, in order to function within a school system without conflict." I know that if I actively perpetuate it (and I feel this every day that I give in and just decide to do what everybody else is doing, just because I'm tired and it would be so much easier), I become immensely unhappy, and my feelings of self worth nose dive into an abyss.
And the worst part is, I am burning out. And I can't tell if it's because it's too overwhelming and too exhausting to actively fight the system to often; or it's because I give in too much and ignore what I know to be right in order to make the day a bit easier.