A Reader Asks: Should I Quit Teaching if I Can Make More Working at CVS?

Melanie is a fifth-grade math and science teacher at a Title I public school in Florida
where 79 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch.

She’s looking for advice from fellow educators – past and present – on whether she should leave teaching.

Here’s her story:

After teaching for seven years, I have come to hate my job. 

I dread waking up in the morning. The children put me in a bad mood.  The stress of being held accountable for situations out of my control puts me in a bad mood.  Never feeling like I am successful at my career has put me in what seems like a permanent bad mood. 

I’m tired of not being recognized for good work.  I am tired of not being able to “move up” in a company even though I work hard.  I am just tired!

While I was in college, I was a shift manager at CVS.  I have recently gotten in touch with my old store managers and I have been given a window of opportunity to become a store manager myself, starting out at $10,000 more a year than what I make now with my master’s in education.  I’m not sure whether I should take this opportunity.

When I think about store management, I start feeling happy.  I enjoy daydreaming about mastering my job duties and being recognized for them.  Everything about this seems appealing except for the hours. 

I am only 28 years old, and I want a family one day.  Teaching offers a great schedule for having children, with holidays, weekends and evenings always at home.  Store management does not offer such a stable, family-friendly schedule.

Can anyone provide me with a perspective that may help me make a decision?

Thank you!

Those who teach or have taught: What advice can you offer Melanie?

I know that lots of teachers work retail jobs on nights and weekends or during the summer. Do you find retail work relaxing compared to teaching? How else do the two compare?

Here’s my take:

Both retail and teaching require standing on your feet for hours. You also need to interact with large groups of people, manage a wide range of personalities, and cater to people’s needs and complaints in both situations. I know this from making Blizzards at Dairy Queen in high school, checking through long lines of customers at Target in college, and teaching high school for seven years.

So working in retail full-time will be tiring too, but in a much less personal (and more manageable) way. Sure, you’ll have to deal with old ladies complaining about discounts that didn’t scan, or hear kids whining to their parents, but those kids won’t be complaining to you or about you. They are no longer your responsibility. I think that could be really freeing.

But you won’t get to do much creative or intellectually challenging work. And you won’t feel the joy or accomplishment that can come from a great lesson or a funny moment you share with your students.

You say you want to be able to spend evenings and holidays at home when you have kids, but I don’t think that means you have to stay in teaching right now, or that you can never go back to it if you leave.

You’re only 28! What if you try the retail job for a year? You can go back to teaching when, and if, you’re ready. In the meantime, you can try something new, get your energy back and make more money.

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15 thoughts on “A Reader Asks: Should I Quit Teaching if I Can Make More Working at CVS?

  1. Melanie,
    I am also in the same situation. I, too, am 28 years old and beginning to hate the teaching profession. I have been teaching high school for five years and it really has turned sour. I have been fearful of making a career change because of simply not sure if my skills translate well into the business sector and also because I would also like to have time for family when my husband and I decide to start one.
    I can’t offer much advice as I haven’t taken the plunge myself but I just would like to let you know that you aren’t alone in your feelings. I have felt alone, so reading your post really validated my feelings. I hope that you are able to find success in whatever path you may choose. I would not necessarily chase the money but look for your happiness ( and sanity). Best of luck and God bless!
    Brittney

    • Thank you for sharing, Brittney! I would add that evaluating skills and interests is an important step for anyone who wants to change careers.

      Melanie, retail may only be a stopping point that gives you the energy to discover what you would like to pursue next.

      Here are my posts on transferable skills teachers have, and how to conduct informational interviews:

      http://wp.me/p1ylqw-dT

      http://wp.me/p1ylqw-dD

      To both of you: please don’t underestimate the value of the work you’ve done, or your future potential!

  2. Advice to Melanie…
    I have taught for a total of eight years in two different Chicago Public High Schools. My first couple of years on the job, I was insanely passionate about the work I did and found immense joy in those moments where everything went right. Granted, those moments were not very often, but they were enough for me to feel good about the work I was doing and believe that it mattered.

    The longer I teach, however, the fewer of those moments I have. I ask myself often, “Why is this job getting harder the longer I do it?” And this year in particular I have found myself resenting a lot of the work I do. I’m good at being positive, and I don’t think any of my students would ever guess how frustrated I am by my job, but it’s exhausting to wear a mask. And it’s exhausting to talk yourself into going to work each day. And I know from looking at other teachers around me that life doesn’t have to be this way. All of this said, here’s my question: is CVS going to make you happy about work? I think it’s super important to be passionate about what you do– regardless of what job you have. The passion to teach young people is what got me into the field to start, and, I imagine, part of what draws you to it as well. Will that same “fire” spark at a job at CVS? If not, then perhaps a different type of non-teaching job could be in the cards for you…

    The other thing I’d throw out there is that you can always go back to teaching, right? If you try out CVS, you don’t have to stay there forever. It doesn’t have to be the only alternative to teaching. If you go, maybe consider giving yourself an adjustment period. Promise yourself something like, “I will work there for 6 months and see how I feel.” And stick to it. You will need an adjustment period, for sure. But at the end of that time, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep working there. AND, there will always be a need for more good teachers in the world 🙂

  3. A couple more comments for Melanie from my readers on Facebook:

    “My advice: if the hours and the holidays are her only attractions to teaching, that’s not enough to stay in the field. I agree that there are plenty of other jobs that will provide stable hours and (it seems) make Melanie happier.” — Ariel

    “Make the change! Much of teaching IS managing. You mentioned that she might be challenged less at CVS, but you failed to mention that if she enjoys management, she can move up to more challenging positions in retail management. It’s a career and she can continue to pursue it past CVS.” — Kelsey

  4. OK, so I am a high school teacher, and I work in retail in order to make ends meet.–plus I take additional classes in order to leave both. Teaching is always a challenge, and retail is as well because of the demands of the business and guests, plus it can be quite boring in comparison to teaching. I would say to leave both for another area completely, or at least, move up in both, into the area of management.

  5. I was just offered a job in retail management today, and I am seriously considering accepting it after 4 years in the teaching profession. I’ve known for sure for the past year or so that teaching just isn’t for me, but I didn’t really know where to turn. Considering I decied that I want to relocate as well, that opened up an opportunity or me to start fresh in a new place AND new job. I began applying in November for jobs I really wanted, mostly desk job positions at universities in the area that I want to move to. I quickly found, though, that I needed to widen my search considerably if I actually wanted to have something lined up in time to tell my principal that I wouldn’t be returning next year. Very nerve wrecking! (Though not as nerve wrecking as the thought of returning for a 5th year of teaching…) So, I went from applying to 1 or 2 jobs every couple weeks, to applying for every single job I could find that seemed remotely interesting (and was not teaching, obviously). After a 6 month search, and about 75 jobs applications (give or take) later, I have landed a few interviews with no success… until now. I had a phone interview a few weeks ago, and then went for an in-person interview yesterday. And, like I said, I just got the call that I got the job… but I did not accept right away. Do I really want to do retail?? Many of the comments on this post are encouraging, and I think I would really do well in management, but the hours are definitely a change from teaching, not to mention the cut in pay, and (my biggest obstacle) the ever-so-cliche thoughts that teaching is “so noble”/”how could I ever leave it for retail” flood my mind and keep me up at night. Contentment is what I’m looking for, though, not how good any certain jobs looks from the outside. So although teaching “looks good,” if I come home everyday and sleep until bed and repeat every day for 9 months, there’s every reason to make a change… even if it’s to something society might see as inferior. Right?

    • You’re right — thinking that teaching is something we “should” be doing, no matter how unhappy it makes us, is an unhealthy belief so many of us buy into. It’s hard, but we have to give ourselves permission to admit that teaching is no longer — or never was — a good career fit. And that’s OK.

      If you take the retail job, you might find it a relief compared to teaching, at least for a little while. And although it has a lower status than teaching, you can still find ways to make it feel productive or to make a positive impact through it. That said, you shouldn’t feel stuck in retail. Use your time off to plan your next step, whether it’s going back to school, conducting informational interviews, or starting your own business. Good luck!

  6. Hello all, this is Melanie! I have taken a long time to respond to these, but I have been so overwhelmed with figuring out what to do, I didn’t want to respond until I had an outcome. I pursued the retail management, but found that at the moment, they did not have the budget for a store manager trainee. Soo, I decided to not apply for anything until I was 100% that I wanted it and give it my all. (Previously I had filled out so many applications on Monster and Career Builder, I was burnt out).

    I read a bunch of articles on how to stand out when sending your resume electronically and read the best advice: Instead of a paper resume as an attachment, send a video resume. I kept this in the back of my mind. Being registered for teaching newsletters paid off, because a couple months ago I got an email job opportunity advertisement from one of them working a desk job in communications. I decided this was the one. I made a video resume instead of my paper one, and sent it in, along with my regular resume and cover letter. It wowed the hiring manager. He said it was the only one he had received out of almost 200 applicants.

    It was all over after that! I got the job, and am beginning the new school year not in a classroom, but at a nice desk where I am still working in education, but in a happy setting. I was very close to giving up, but I didn’t. This blog is so inspirational, and I appreciate everyone who posts on it, and the creator of it!

    Everyone needs to look up video resumes, because it really helps you stand out, and as my hiring manager put it, shows initiative! 🙂

    • That’s wonderful news — congratulations on getting the job! It’s great that you’ll be able to stay involved with education *and* get all the perks of office life.

      Thanks for the video resume tip, and thanks for sharing Part Two of your story with us!

    • Melanie, if you do decide to go back into the classroom consider teaching in international schools. While I have recently left the classroom to try new things after 17 years, the decade I spent teaching MS internationally were tremendously rewarding. Think about great packages…salary, housing, benefits. Fabulous kids…very little discipline and often academically above their North American counterparts. Wonderful professional colleagues…often the best educators the world has to offer. Great travel opportunities. Fab professional development…..

      Benefits too numerous to mention.

      Think about it.

    • Melanie,
      What teaching newsletters were you registered with that allowed you to see this job? I have left teaching after 10 years of sixth graders (loved them), have moved to CA, and am now looking for a job outside of the k-12 classroom setting. It’d be awesome if it was related to education, but I’m open to other options as well.

      Thanks!
      Erin

  7. Pingback: Money Talks, Teachers Walk: Low Pay Is Yet Another Reason Why Teachers Quit | Those Who Teach

  8. Pingback: Leaving Teaching: The Money Question | Those Who Teach

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

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