Advice for Teachers Considering Leaving the Profession
By Michele Rispo Hill, Educator
“Hi Mrs. Hill, thanks for the call today. Thanks for being a great teacher inside and outside of the classroom, thanks for being a role model to those around you. You have made a tremendous difference in so many people’s lives, and you’ll continue to do that for a lifetime! I am proud to be your student and a friend. You’re the best!” (recent message from one of my students who graduate in 2012)
So many of us trained as teachers because we love teaching and learning and love being able to make a real difference in children’s lives. There are so many rewarding moments and we really are lucky to be in a position where we can have such a positive impact (as you can see from the message above), but teaching is hard!
Now, more than ever, teaching has become a challenging career that requires long hours of planning and grading that can creep into the life-work balance. The regulations, high-stakes tests, and censorship have stolen much of the joy of teaching. I get it! But before you throw in the towel and decide to change career pathways, there are some factors that you should consider:
Your “why”! Why did you want to become an educator? So many of us love what we do and find such joy in teaching our students to become the best versions of themselves by helping them learn and grow. We have the ability to make a real difference in our students’ lives: not just academically, but personally too. We get to experience the ‘aha’ moments with them. We can be one of the most influential people in their lives. There is no greater reward than that!
Combining your hobbies and your profession. Most professions do not meld your personal interests or hobbies with your professional role in an organization, but teachers can participate in activities outside of their role as a teacher. Being able to coach a sport, advise a club, chaperone school trips, or attend extra-curricular events can allow educators to fulfill their desire to pursue interests outside of the classroom, while on campus.
Love of Learning. Most educators went into teaching because they love the process of learning. The teaching profession requires teachers to continually learn new things. Whether you are learning more about the subjects you teach, new technology, new pedagogy strategies, or new approaches to connecting with colleagues and students, your mind will be challenged to learn new things — and that keeps your brain healthy.
Being part of a community. Schools are often the hub of the community, and certainly inside of a school is a smaller, connected community of students and staff. Being an educator, you are able to forge strong relationships with colleagues and students and fulfill one of Maslow’s needs: a strong sense of belonging; a sense of connection. Don’t forget that as an educator you are also part of a bigger community of educators worldwide. You have the unique opportunity to develop a Professional Learning Network with other passionate educators across the globe and share the joys and challenges of teaching.
Work-Life Balance. Teaching does require that teachers use personal time to complete many administrative tasks, no doubt. My experience has been that if you manage your time well and get into a groove with your subject matter, you can become more efficient in completing administrative tasks during the workday. You can set boundaries for after-school communications so that it does not impede your personal life. Although it can be challenging, it can be done. You can create the work-life balance that you want — and you will be healthier for it!
Schedules. The school year schedule is family-friendly. Working parents in other professions are tasked with finding childcare for longer work days, school holidays, and summer vacation. Teachers normally mirror the school day and school holiday schedule. The alignment of calendars is a big plus!
Job Security. As I write this article, we are standing on the precipice of a potential recession. Teaching is a stable profession that generally offers health care benefits and contributions to a pension or 401K-style savings account towards retirement. Now, I would never advocate for someone who has lost their passion to stay for just these reasons, but they are certainly something to consider when thinking about leaving.
The hope of better days. I have two daughters who followed in my footsteps as teachers. During COVID, they were stressed and exhausted, contemplating if they made the wrong career choice. I reassured them that there are better days ahead. How do I know? No, I do not have a crystal ball, but I am an eternal optimist who looks at the proverbial and literal signs. People are finally waking up to the massive teacher shortage. The topic is making headlines. The government is acknowledging the crisis. The US Department of Education is providing relief funds to raise teacher salaries and support the social and emotional well-being of staff members. I cannot predict how fast things will change for the better, but I can feel it in my bones that better days are on the horizon.
Of course, there are times in our lives to take on new roles, have new adventures, and make radical changes, including careers, but do so with a calm heart and clear head. If you decide to leave teaching after considering all of the wonders, find something that sparks your passion and feeds your soul in the way that teaching did. After all, we only have one life, so make it a great one! Whatever you choose to do, I wish you the very best!!
Throughout her long career as an educator, Michele Hill has been a champion for struggling and impoverished students and a strong supporter of teachers. Michele has been a guest blogger for ASCD Inservice, McGraw Hill, Principal Leadership, Teacher Tool Kit UK, Edweek and ASCD Road Tested and the co-author of Fired Up Teachership and 100 No-Nonsense Things that ALL Teachers Should STOP Doing.
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To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.