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“Why I Can No Longer Teach in Public Education” by Stephanie Keiles

Why I Can No Longer Teach in Public Education

In the article “Why I Can No Longer Teach in Public Education,” Stephanie Keiles argued that the job of a teacher of a public school was almost impossible due to the lack of respect and the low salary. The writer tried to induce her readers to think that her decision to quit the position of a public school educator was right. Keiles began her article with a distressed tone, grabbing the readers’ attention. The aim of the article was to persuade the audience that it was hardly possible to work in public schools since the teachers could just “barely scrape by” (Keiles, 2015). Although the conversational style of the writing is not appropriate for a big number of people, such rhetorical devices as repetition, sarcasm, bold sub-headings, logos, and pathos support the author’s argument and emphasize the whole claim.

Keiles began her article with present time, and then she narrated a passage of nostalgia – the author returned to her first dream of becoming a math teacher. The goal of this rhetorical device is to persuade the audience that the work of a teacher is the author’s desired work; that is why she felt so sad about leaving this position. The author repeated several times that the job of a teacher was her “epiphany,” “passion,” and “calling” (Keiles, 2015). This repetition is used to put emphasis on the significance of the teacher’s profession to Keiles. Although she did not want to quit her job, she had to do it because of bad compensation, impossibility to make personal decisions, and a lack of respect. The author’s claim is emotional; however, it would influence only those people who were in the similar situation – the teachers of public schools. Thus, if the intended audiences were the teachers, Keiles’ article would have had a great impact on them. However, if she wanted to persuade other people, her rhetorical strategies might not work well.

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In her article, Keiles used sarcasm when she told about teachers’ learning goals, as though she wanted to reproach such a useless occupation. For instance, she wrote: “I don’t know how we ever got to be successful adults when we had no “I Can” statements on the wall. (sarcasm)” (Keiles, 2015). In brackets, she explained that her statement was sarcastic. Probably, Keiles did it because she was not sure whether her readers understood it or not. This rhetorical device is used to criticize the teacher’s approach to a studying process. In the article, there are also several transitional words, such as “plus,” “in addition,” “in fact,” etc. (Keiles, 2015). Their goal is to link the sentences logically. The author often began sentences with “and” or “but,” which is not appropriate for academic writing. However, in the article, such writing seems quite balanced because the article itself is non-academic but rather conversational, written in a persuasive style. Another example of the conversational style was that Keiles asked several rhetorical questions in order to make the readers think over and look for the answers themselves. Academic writing does not allow rhetorical questions. All these devices are aimed at evoking a response from the readers and gaining their support.

While arguing that public school teachers received a low salary, Keiles was not the unique person to mention this issue. Another teacher, Alice Trosclair, wrote, “Many teachers must work over the summer to supplement their low salaries” (Strauss, 2012). The tutor of American Literature agreed with Keiles’ statement about low compensation. The logos in both articles is “low salaries” – it is logical that teachers should not work free of charge; they have to earn enough money for a living. Thus, it is an important reason to quit the low-paid job. Keiles did not use the direct quotations and dialogs to support her claim. Therefore, the article resembles a personal diary. Such a strategy is very successful since people are always interested in reading someone’s diaries, and it may attract many readers. Moreover, the use of pathos, or “emotional appeal,” helped the author to make her claim more persuasive (Weida & Stolley, 2013). The article is very emotional, and it arouses compassion. For example, Keiles (2015) wrote about leaving her students and co-workers “it really breaks my heart.” Thus, pathos supports the author’s argument and makes it more effective and emphasizing.

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Keiles did not arrange her ideas in a chronological way. On the contrary, she began with the present, telling about the particular moment when she was writing the article. Then, she used flashback, narrating about her dream to become a teacher and telling about her experience in this sphere. This rhetorical device helps to explain her claim better and convince the audience that she has dreamt of being a teacher during her whole life. Keiles also mentioned her activist’s occupation, which underlined her interest in the problems of public school educators. All these stories are interrupted by bold sub-headings, returning the readers’ attention to the present time and reminding them that the claim is up-to-date. The author ended the article with her present condition. The whole arrangement of the essay is quite appropriate for the conversational style since this style does not require strict following of the rules. The language is rather informal than formal; it is easy to understand, and the word choice is diverse. Keiles used shortenings, such as “it’s,” “you’re,” “can’t,” etc., which is normal for this type of writing. The sentences are well-written; they are long and short, and such combination makes the article more readable and understandable. In her article, Keiles used different punctuation marks, such as colons, exclamatory marks, question marks, dash, quotes, and brackets. For instance, “I was pregnant with my oldest child, sitting on a sofa in Stockholm, Sweden, when I had my epiphany: I would be a math teacher — a middle school math teacher!” (Keiles, 2015). This sentence has six punctuation marks, and each of them is important. Thus, colon represents her “epiphany,” and dash is necessary for a more precise definition of her future profession. Exclamatory mark is used to show the importance of this thought. Therefore, Keiles used all the punctuation marks according to the rules; moreover, she used them to distinguish the most significant statements among the others.
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Keiles wrote her article “Why I Can No Longer Teach in Public Education” to convince her intended audience that she liked being a teacher but she could not work in a public school because of low salary, a lack of respect, and impossibility to change the standards. The author used such rhetorical strategies as pathos, logos, sarcasm, repetition, nostalgia, flashback, etc. All those strategies helped Keiles to support her claim and make it more emotional and persuasive. However, the article can influence only those people who work in public educational establishments and who are aware of the situation there. For those who do not work in public schools, all these claims may be useless since there are no credible quotations and other evidence to support the argument. Nevertheless, the rhetorical strategies and the arrangement of the article helped Keiles to convince the intended audience in her personal claim. Informal language attracts the readers, and conversational style makes the article more readable and easy to comprehend. Moreover, while reading the article, the readers believe that she will fight for the teachers’ salaries and rights in public schools since she is truly worried about these issues. Thus, the author’s goal can be achieved successfully.

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