Life After Teaching, Part Two: Four Reasons Why I Miss Teaching

Since the last post about Rose’s Life After Teaching,  Ellie Rubinstein’s video resignation from teaching went viral. In the video, Rubinstein is visibly distraught to leave what she loves.

 It hasn’t been a clean break for Rose, either. Though her current office job is much more stable than her past life as a high school biology teacher, she considers what’s lost by leaving education in today’s post.

Why I miss teaching:

1. I miss crafting lessons.

Everywhere I went — the supermarket, vacation, an art museum, you name it — I was always on the lookout for “treasure” – things I could use to make learning biology more exciting for my students.

While visiting the Clearwater Aquarium in Florida, for example, I was so inspired by the aquarium’s work with Winter, the injured dolphin later featured in the movie, Dolphin Tale, that I spent an hour talking with representatives there about the importance and impact of educational materials (which they didn’t have). And, even though I was on vacation, I loved thinking about all the lessons I could generate from this experience.

Winter the dolphin

Winter the dolphin

In addition to planning for my students, I also miss sharing my lessons with colleagues. I miss talking to people who are as passionate about teaching science as I am. I miss working with them to improve my lessons, to improve our school, and to improve the education system.

2. I miss the students (most of them).

I miss talking with the students, getting to know them, and helping them learn a subject that I love. As cheesy as it may sound, students’ “aha” moments are like shooting stars. If you aren’t looking at the right time, at the right student, you might miss them. And if you catch one, it’s like nothing else.

I miss the good, unexpected moments, too — like when the class shares a joke, students thank you for your help, or say that your teaching inspired them.

I even miss the (seemingly) off-topic discussions.

One time, we were studying types of muscles and a student, very sheepishly, asked what muscles cause “nipple-itis”.   After we all laughed, I used that comment as a springboard to discuss involuntary muscles with the class.

involuntary muscles

3. I miss the “nobility” of teaching.

Even though society has mixed feelings about teachers (having tenure, pensions, and so on), most people can accept that a teacher’s life is devoted to a noble purpose.

At the end of forty years in the work force, teachers can reflect on all the students they educated.  They were “in the trenches” helping to improve society.

super_teacher

With my cubicle job, in an abstract, roundabout kind of way, I help society too, but will I be proud of my life’s work in forty years?

Kind of…but I’m not sure “kind of” is enough.  It will be a challenge to find another profession that will give me the sense of purpose that teaching did.

4. Guilt, judgment and second thoughts

I sometimes feel guilty for leaving teaching. I feel like I gave up on the future students I will never have. I gave up on the “good fight” of improving America’s education system.

When people find out that I’m a former teacher, some understand why I left. Others judge me like I’m a monster, saying, “How could you give up a life devoted to teaching children?”

Or, they just think I’m stupid for giving up all those “great benefits”.

I wonder if, one day, teaching will be a great job for me again. What if the American education system is reformed? What if society thinks that those who educate children should be treated like educated professionals and be paid a living salary? What if I have children and want to spend summers and holidays with them? What if…?

Like I said before, teaching was like a bad boyfriend: I loved it, but too many times it made me cry. After I took the stress of teaching out of my life, my physical and mental health vastly improved.

When I reflect on it, my brain tells me I made the right decision, but my heart still hurts a little. Maybe it always will.

Related

Life After Teaching, Part One: Four Reasons Why I’m Better Off

Life After Teaching, Part Three: Yup, I Joined the Club.

Life After Teaching, Part Four: Five Little Things I Look Forward to at My Desk Job

Life After Teaching, Part Five: Why I Don’t Need Summers Off Anymore

Life After Teaching, Part Six: Five Things I Learned in Year Two

Life After Teaching, Part Seven: Five (More) Things I Learned in Year Two

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19 thoughts on “Life After Teaching, Part Two: Four Reasons Why I Miss Teaching

  1. I’m almost certain that I will take a break from teaching after this school year – whether it be a brief or permanent break. This is my 8th year to teach and I agree with everything you wrote about what you miss and don’t miss about teaching. It so is just like a bad, unstable relationship. My husband is supportive of me taking a break due to being fed up with hearing my complaints and all the stress it puts on me/us. Teaching has been a stable job, but it would be nice to explore other options. The unknown is scary, but continuously being in a “bad relationship” is worse. I am for sure I would regret not exploring other options. You only live once! Thanks for sharing!

    • Dear Ash,
      Thanks for reading! I edited the post, but it was actually written by a friend. I’m glad that you’re seriously considering a break from your unstable relationship with teaching. Your husband will appreciate having you back, and so will you! I know this step will give you some much-needed perspective. Best of luck on your journey!

  2. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part Three: Yup, I Joined the Club. | Those Who Teach

  3. Reading both part 1 and 2 of this, I felt as if you were inside of me and writing everything I was feeling and thinking. This is my 16th year teaching and I’ve had it. I was hired to teach P.E and have done everything but that. This testing bit I’m so over and just the thought of driving to work everyday makes me sad. It infuriates me that so much stress is on the test and that my feelings don’t really matter. I feel I’ve made a difference and have contributed to society in a good way, however, I desperately need something new to be excited about again. I’ve lost that spunk and I miss me so much. I honestly feel, teaching has left me and I’ve stuck around to make it work and have gotten no where. I must move on to something else.Thank you for writing this as it gives me hope. I know that there are other things I can do, but it’s scary.
    Audrey;)

    • Hi Audrey,

      So glad to know that Rose’s experience gives you hope. Thank you for reading!

      Making it through 16 years of teaching subjects that aren’t your true interests is no easy feat, so think of the strength and energy you can bring to pursuing work that excites you!

      Even though it’s scary to think about, Life After Teaching *does* exist, and finding fulfilling work is definitely worth the effort.

    • Hi Audrey ~ After twelve years, most of it teaching in schools where no one else wanted to teach, I am also giving it up. Reading through everyone’s comments, I am heartened by the fact that so many of the teachers who are leaving the profession still have so much respect for education. Testing (I am an English teacher/high school) is destroying public education as we know it, and I just can’t be a part of this anymore…not when I have kids in my classes who are several grade levels behind their peers, and there is no help.
      So, like you, I am moving on into the big, scary, unknown. I wish you all the best!

  4. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part One: Four Reasons Why I’m Better Off | Those Who Teach

  5. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part Five: Why I Don’t Need Summers Off Anymore | Those Who Teach

    • It is so true that we make a family with our friends and colleagues in education, we spend so much of our time with them. I have also left teaching full-time, and I am spending the month “readjusting”. I do keep in touch with some of my fellow teachers from years past, though I think that sometimes when we step out of the classroom we are viewed as “quitters”, and those who stay can be a bit resentful. Good luck to you during your own time of readjusting to “life without school”!

    • I imagine an international school would have an especially close-knit community. But that’s an experience that most people don’t get to have, and I’m sure it has influenced who you are for the better.

  6. I quit teaching after two years this past June. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. But I made it because I was so stressed out last year that I was having mental health issues and I gained 25 pounds. My stress came from not “fitting in” well in the school I taught at. After leaving, I feel so much better physically and mentally. The thing I am having a hard time with is that I miss my coworkers that were my friends and I definitely miss my students. So, it’s been really difficult.

    • Hi Breann,

      Though it’s natural to miss your co-workers and your students, your physical and mental well-being are worth it.

      Plus you can stay connected to your “old life” with school visits, e-mails and/or get togethers outside of school. You can also find ways to teach and mentor outside the classroom.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad you’re feeling better overall!

  7. Thank you so much for articulating the exact feelings I had when I left my high school classroom after 26 years in the profession. I thought I’d love the slower pace of an office job, the chance to get all of my work done during the day without hours of homework looming over my head, an hour for lunch and the stress of trying to reach every student, every day. After three years, I couldn’t stand another day in ‘the office’ I was bored, unchallenged and under appreciated so I decided to get my administrative endorsement and work to mentor and support teachers in the trenches. This semester I have had the absolute joy of working with student teachers, observing, encouraging and preparing them for the profession I still love.

    • Hi Cindy,
      It’s wonderful that you have found something outside the traditional classroom that sustains your passion to mentor and teach! Thanks for sharing your story — I know it will help open up possibilities for others who are considering a change.

  8. Pingback: Why I’m Returning to the Classroom After Leaving for One Year: A Reader Reflects | Those Who Teach

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