Dear Margo: A Teacher’s Tears

Margo Howard’s advice

Teacher’s Tears

Dear Margo: I’ve taught for 20 years and can retire in 12 years. I don’t know if I can go the distance. I don’t know whether to quit and try to find a less stressful job, or keep hoping.

Instead of doing what is best for students, we are doing what is best for administrators: focusing on the tests. I used to have one classroom, and everyone did the same assignments, but I tweaked them for ability levels. Now I am planning for four different groups of students, and it takes a lot longer because I have to use all of the products purchased that promise glorious state test results.

It is near impossible to read the practice test to my ELL students, have a meaningful assignment for my gifted students who will finish the test 20 minutes early, make sure the students with the modified test are able to follow all of the notes and circle the right bubbles, and keep my ED student calm because frustration is his trigger. Oh, and then there are the other students, and they all deserve a teacher, too.

There are endless training days (for which I have to prepare notes for a substitute) and extra duties, but there isn’t any money for lunch monitors. I go home in tears sometimes because I am overwhelmed. My husband has a decent job, and he says if I can hang in for four years it will really help with our two kids’ college funds and our retirement fund. Sometimes I wonder if I can make it four more days, much less four years. — Beleaguered

Dear Be: You really are between a rock and a hard place. Of course, you are not alone, as many pubic schools are a mess. One does worry about the caliber of education our kids are getting. According to Marian Wilde, 16 other industrialized countries scored above the United States in science, and 23 scored above us in math.

As for your mental state, only you know your limit. You actually sound like you care, so on that basis it would be beneficial for your students if you stayed. And the four years your husband suggests is not 12. Perhaps you should explore whether there’s a job available that’s tied to what you’ve been doing, such as administration or an educational consulting firm — or whether there’s a job available of any kind, because your second income is required. I’m not sure I’ve even come close to solving your problem, but I hope I’ve given you some ideas. — Margo, sympathetically

Whatever Works

Dear Margo: Maybe it’s just where I live, but it seems like everybody and his dog is now glucose intolerant, on a gluten-free diet or allergic to peanuts. When I was younger, I didn’t know anyone who had those restrictions. I don’t want to believe that my friends are faddists, but I really don’t know what to think. Why is this happening? — Glenda

Dear Glen: Lust, avarice, sloth, Happy and Doc? Truly, I have wondered myself why these food situations are so prevalent today; they weren’t 10 or 15 years ago. It could very well be the food supply or some element in the environment. There’s a fight right now about Monsanto, whose genetically modified feed is harmful, according to some scientists — not to mention that we have cows and chickens taking antibiotics and growth hormones.

While I take these people at their word that they feel better and healthier eliminating certain things from their diets, I will say that some months ago, because of feeling bloated, I declared myself to be lactose intolerant (because that was a friend’s symptom) and stayed away from dairy. Then I forgot about my self-diagnosis and tried Greek yogurt, which I now eat every day. Just give your friends the benefit of the doubt. — Margo, individually

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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68 comments so far.

  1. avatar BeanCounter says:

    Must be nice to have a husband or wife to rely on with bills.  I have no one but myself.  

  2. avatar Hellster says:

    LW# 1, just quit. You say your children’s college funds will suffer, not that you won’t be able to feed or clothe them. Isn’t it obvious that your college education has been a tremendous waste of energy, or at least a misdirected use of it? Why assume your kids need to go to college, anyway? You might be happier in a pink- or blue-collar job than in the “profession” that is stressing you out so badly now, and for which, presumably, you prepared yourself with a college education. Chill.

    Re. LW#2, it is interesting that a nicotine addict balks at being referred to as a “junkie.” Darling, that’s what you are. Just like the man who hurt his back a year ago and is still on (ever-increasing dosages of ) opioids, and the college student who only gets drunk every weekend. Face it, and then do something about it. Until you do, the tobacco companies will keep raking in their ill-gotten gains as you wheeze yourself into the grave.

  3. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #2,  I’ve wondered the same thing.  I was a very sickly baby (asthma, pneoumonia, respiratory type stuff).  As a child, I had slight allergic reactions to certain fruits and vegetables (itchy throat or tingly/numbness on my lips) and mild to severe allergic reactions to cats (asthma, itchy, watery eyes) up to my early 20’s.  But I continued to eat these same foods and continued to own cats.  By my mid-20’s I’d outgrown all these allergies.  This leads me to wonder if some (not all, I know) of these allergies are nurtured rather than dealt with by expsoure and allowing our immunities to build up and kick in.   

  4. avatar Katie says:

    LW#2    fI was just diagnosed with Celiac (gluyrn intolerance) after feeling awful for 5 months and not knowing why.  There is now a blood test for Celiac, otherwise I’d still be having tests to find out what was wrong with me.  I have been very lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people who know that I don’t make a fuss about nothing.  An attitude like yours would have been very hurtful and made a bad situation much worse.  I am now in the process of finding what I can and can’t eat.  I’m 53 years old and never had a food allergy before now.  My family and friends have always been supportive of each other no matter what.  Too bad yours can’t say the same about you.

  5. avatar susan says:

    #1, After raising 2 sons and seeing them through their schooling, I want to say thank you.  We parents know what a tough job it is, would you feel better knowing how much we appreciate what you do?  Things have gotten more difficult for teachers, this whole teaching for the test business needs to be put to rest.  Also, we all understand how grossly underpaid teachers are, is criminal really.

    I’m coming to the end of my working years as well and am trying to decide if I should work until I’m 65 or 67, so I do understand what your going through.  You need to do what’s best for you.  One thing I know for sure, when you retire the teaching world is going to lose someone special.

  6. avatar Priscilla L says:

    I suspect that the reason the LW sees more reports of food intolerances and allergies among her friends is that there is much greater awareness of these things than there was when the LW was younger. Many years ago, a person who was sickened by a particular food would often suffer in silence, or be declared to have dyspepsia, or to be “nervous” or “picky”.

    Food intolerances and allergies are real. Why not just respect your friends’ needs without second-guessing them?

  7. avatar zz says:

    You are so right!

  8. avatar Eventergirl says:

    Okay after almost 2 days, my comment is still under moderation (I’m assuming it was the links I put) so you’ll have to google them yourself – and both have good resources.

    No, you misread – I never said beef was better for you than soy. I was stating the fact that you are consuming more hormone (and you are correct, it is estrogen – in the case of soy it’s phytoestrogens which are processed and “viewed” by your body identically to estrogen – the quantification of this is “Estrogenic activity”) by consuming soy than you are beef or dairy. Eating organic tofu doesn’t matter – the phytoestrogens are not being introduced, they’re naturally produced by the plant. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that shows detrimental effects from consuming estrogens (plant or animal sources). Also, researchers are actually looking at soy as a possible therapy option for women in menopause because of it’s high levels of estrogen activity!

    My point was, people like to point at beef and scream the word “Hormone!” like it’s a naughty word, however they then turn around and consume MORE estrogen* when they eat their soy burger. And actually, if you compare it to the amount of estrogen the female (non-pregnant, pre-menopause) woman produces a day (5M ng/day), both levels are miniscule (0.0002%-18% per lb respectively for beef/soy).

    *Note: To avoid redundancy in typing and for understanding, when I refer to estrogen consumption in regards to plants, I’m referring to phytoestrogens and their estrogenic activity.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      I am very careful about the meat we consume. It is all free range, grass fed, hormone and anti-biotic free, raised humanely and slaughtered and processed by halal or kosher trained professionals (we are very cautious). The hormones introduced to cattle, pigs and other livestock are suspected in a lot of the neurological disorders, particularly in males, that are either holding steady (despite the cessation of mercury, gosh darn it, I guess it doe NOT cause autism, in vaccinations) or increasing. This has a lot to do with the constant production of male gametes, and how unprotected they are from mutation.

      However, soy in quantity is not safe for everyone. My doctors have warned me away from it because I take thyroid medication, and it severely inhibits the med’s ability to do its job. A lot of doctors recommend soy supplements for women in peri-menopause because it does help with the symptoms. People with gluten intolerance or celiac disease often cannot tolerate soy. I get very sick from tofu and soy based products.

      We do a LOT of research on scientific and medical informational sites…not the media and pro/con propaganda scare sites. We also ask our doctors a lot of questions…and we listen and take notes. It pays off in the end.

  9. avatar Fortuna says:

    You might want to rewrite that:
    “Dear Be: You really are between a rock and a hard place. Of course, you are not alone, as many pubic schools are a mess. “

  10. avatar Lym BO says:

    The Greek yogurt might have helped the bacteria in your digestive system perform better. Eliminating dairy form your diet may have also allowed your system to flush out any issues that were causing bloating.