My Most Popular Post, One Year Later.

It’s been exactly one year since I asked Rose, a former high school biology teacher, to share why she’s better off after leaving teaching. On its first day, the post had seven “likes” and comments on Facebook.

Today, the post has nearly 300 Facebook shares and 60 comments from readers.

How the heck did this happen?

To answer this question, I looked at the top searches that lead to my blog:

1. life after teaching

2. leaving teaching

3. jobs after teaching

If you enter any of these searches in Google, this blog is currently among the first two results.
Yeah, I’m surprised, too!

And based on the comments the post has gotten, I’ve learned that most of my readers are looking for positive stories about leaving teaching, and specific advice about how to make the transition themselves.

Here are some other things I’ve learned from readers of my most popular post:

Some college teachers have it hard, too — especially adjuncts.

When I was teaching high school English, sometimes I would daydream about being a professor. I imagined that all my students would be responsible and eager to learn because they actually wanted to be there, and that I wouldn’t have to deal with many of the issues that made teaching high school exhausting.

Not so much, according to these community college professors:

Martha Kennedy: “In the past five years, I’ve endured near-physical assaults, open insults, complaints, acting out in the middle of class, argument after argument…More and more I feel that I’m chasing after my students (with Blackboard, with social media, with emails) almost BEGGING them to learn, to get their work in on time, to give me something to grade — no WONDER they feel like they do me a favor when they turn in their homework. I never thought I would feel this way and a little part of my heart is broken because I do feel this way…

madmav7492: “My students are resistant to learning, resistant to working, and generally believe they deserve an ‘A’ for no other reason than they exist. While I don’t deal with the bureaucratic b.s, I have to deal with people who believe the course should be catered to them and what they want to do, when they want to do it…

Some teachers in other countries have problems similar to the ones American teachers have.

MakaOku, a teacher from South Africa, wrote: “There are 50 students cramped in a single class, no resources, discipline is impossible,parents are also impossible…”

Steven, a teacher in the UK, wrote: “...I’ve taught maths for the last eight years but have decided enough is enough. Poorly thought through government initiatives, lack of resources, poor student behaviour and lack of sympathy from management have led to this decision…

And the stress of the job is taking an alarming toll on teachers’ health.

A few of the conditions that readers reported:

– stress-induced migraines

– anxiety

– depression

– abdominal pains

– cold sweats

– exhaustion

But perhaps the most heartbreaking story came from Jack Smith, Latin:

I love teaching, but lately I hate being a teacher. Things really changed for me after a fight in my classroom left me with a broken spine and partially paralyzed. I underwent 13 procedures, and I can walk again, but I’m in constant pain. My sons were just 4 and 6, and I’ve never had the chance to even play sports with them because of it. At any rate, after my injury, the school system basically punished me, and now 5 years later, they’re saying that my performance isn’t what it should be…

So what’s going on here? Isn’t teaching supposed to reward, not punish, those who sacrifice so much for their students? What’s driving this growing search for Life After Teaching?

I think Poodlepal gets at the root of the problem. A veteran teacher at both public and private schools, she writes:

…Teachers are the villains; no bad grade is ever earned, no disciplinary action is ever warranted. It is the parents, kids and administrators against you. I no longer have the will to fight a three-enemy war…

Teachers, does this struggle sound familiar? If you are still happy with teaching, how do you stay motivated? And what do you do to take care of yourself?

Check out the original post for the full conversation.


How to Keep Teachers Happy (this blog)

Milestones and Mohammed’s Radio (Martha Kennedy)

Why I Quit Teaching to Become a Bartender (Patrick Anderson, Jr.)

How to Break a Teacher (21st Century Cynic)

42 thoughts on “My Most Popular Post, One Year Later.

  1. Powerful (and sad) post. I appreciate the referral, though I wish it were not to such a forlorn and bitter post. After those classes ended, and finals were returned, I dealt with a major (and masterful) cheating episode and the usual students begging for and demanding higher grades.

    Besides that, I have to tell you (and everyone!) that this semester I’ve had one of the most inspiring and sweetest classes in my whole career. It is the second-to-lowest level English class at a local community college. They see me for 2 hours twice a week and their reading teacher for 2 hours twice a week (we are diametrical opposites) and this gives them continuity with each other and helps create that Holy Grail of teaching, a “Learning Community.” They long ago finished the Student Learning Objectives established for the level. For the past six weeks’ they’ve been doing real-honest-to-God college level work. They love to write. I teach (using the computer and the projector) by composing a sample project in front of them. Then I assign a project. They write it in class. Writing is absolutely demystified this way. HOWEVER…I should not have to feel surprised and grateful for this. It should be a common occurrence and would be if students were taught somewhere along the line to love learning rather than working for grades.

    I know I’m in the last year (or second to last year) of teaching. I still love it, but the point above about fighting a war on 3 fronts is very apt and very sad.

    • Thanks, Martha. I linked to your “Milestones” post, which also gives a fuller picture of your highs and lows than your comment on the “Life After Teaching” post.

      So wonderful about the successes of your recent class. They learned how to write and how to love writing from you — it doesn’t get any better than that!

  2. This was such an interesting post! Thank you for the summary of all the feedback! On one hand, it is nice to know that I was not alone with some of my negative teaching experiences. On the other hand, I am sad that there are so many of us who are unhappy with teaching. I have been out of teaching for three years. Time heals. I think less about teaching with each day. My heart no longer aches as much when I see a school or school bus. I no longer wonder if I should apply for teaching jobs in the spring. A part of me will always be a teacher, but it no longer defines me or haunts me. It is now just a job I had once. I gave myself permission to dream of a different life and dare to follow that dream. I released myself from the guilt for leaving teaching. For all you teachers and former teachers, I wish you the best of luck at finding what makes you happy.

  3. You probably heard recently the ridiculous decision out here in Califormia by a Republican California judge of stripping teachers of the tenure. This judge who never taught a second in his life. What would he do about an out of control student who throws a rock at your head behind your back and a still allowed to stay in the classroom and a vindictive principal who will blame you for the out of control student and give you a poor evaluation for poor classroom management. This is what happened and fortunately I was old enough to leave that mess and get some kind of measly retirement. Now in California teachers can be fired at will for students who have no parenting or principals who dislike you. Who in their right mind in California would want to even consider teaching as a career today?

    • Yes, I have, and it’s distressing to think about how the decision may already be hurting the morale and threatening the job security of good teachers everywhere. Not to mention, as you said, turning off a lot of potentially good teachers from the profession.

      That said, I’m sorry that you left education on a negative note, but I hope you can carry the good moments from teaching with you.

    • Doesn’t just happen in CA. I was tenured…then not after a year in private. Kids can have a lot of negative behaviors that admin like to sweep under the “bad teacher” carpet…even when the “bad teacher” has history of effective and highly effective ratings and positive evals. Anything to deflect the negative away from the school and onto disposable teachers as if “the problem has been corrected”. No it hasn’t. Targeting of good teachers to save school image seems to be common place now. Not acceptable…and part of the failings of a public school system that now promotes tossing tenure. Even the union hands are tied in regards to nontenured. “we don’t need your services anymore” = play the game no matter how unethical that game is …or be targeted… They all but come right out and say that. Hard to work for that type of employer and still remain true to morals and original intention of teaching…

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

  5. This post, and others at this blog, have really resonated with me. After eighteen years in the classroom, I’m finally burnt out, as in not even the tiniest smoldering ember of desire to step into a classroom ever again. The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back? I broke up a fight at school and am now facing a misdemeanor assault charge. That may have been the final straw, but it certainly wasn’t the first – like a previous poster said, I feel like the students, parents, and administrators are largely against me, or at least indifferent. A person’s spirit can only take so much of that.

    • I’m so sorry you have to go through that. I hope you have colleagues (including a good union rep, if you have one) who can support you through this difficult experience.

      When you are finally able to leave teaching — slowly, but surely — you will regain your peace and restore your spirit. And whatever your next step may be, I hope you can take pride in your 18 years of service, and bring the positive moments from teaching with you.

      • Follow-up: My case is scheduled to go to trial in May. For reasons I can only guess at, the DA has chosen to go after me hammer and tongs. I never, ever dreamed that my chosen profession would land me in a courtroom, my career essentially destroyed, my name and reputation smeared. It is hard not to feel bitter when one has chosen to relocate to a particular community and then poured one’s life out into that community, only to have it turn on you and tear you to pieces.

      • Thank you for sharing this update. I’m sorry you are still suffering through this episode, and I hope your trial can come to a just resolution — despite the DA’s efforts — so you can finally move on with your life.

      • Follow-up to the follow-up: my case ended in a ‘delayed entry of judgment’, essentially a one-year probationary period (now completed) in exchange for a dropped charge. On the bright side, I have since found a position as a writer with a great publishing outfit, and my education background serves me well in the new endeavour. I love my job and no longer dread going to work each day. Wild horses couldn’t drag me back into a classroom.

  6. I was one of those who tried to find solace in like minded former teachers who have left and came across this blog. There is a terrible dearth of information on what ex teachers get up to post-teaching. In my country, most work as private tutors (test prep) or work on educational administration/government work. I was ambitious and tried to shift out of education completely. I landed a research/public education role soon after leaving teaching and am now about to start a technical role in a biotech company. It takes a lot of perseverance to switch (studying part time while working full time is a challenge). My 3+++ years of teaching was incredibly fulfilling and challenging. I loved my students, I loved watching them mature. But I was losing myself. My students taught me that it is ok to do what you want and not what others expect of you. That it is okay to chase your dreams. Their exuberance and joie de vivre propelled me to step out of my comfort zone and just discover what is out of the school environment. I just want to tell other teachers that it is possible. Moving on from teaching is possible. Don’t be afraid.

    • Thank you for reading and sharing, Periwinkle. It’s inspiring to know that your students motivated you to do your best and take a chance on a fresh start. And you’re right — we need more positive stories about Life After Teaching, so I’m grateful that you contributed yours. I know your example will help others.

  7. I am in my second year of teaching, I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in kindergarten and am now ready to leave to profession. Part of me wants to give it another chance, but another part of me is just so done and ready for a change.

    • Changing schools helped me figure out that I did, in fact, want to leave teaching. You may want to give a new school a try as well, especially since you’re only in your second year.

      In any case, take a moment to reflect on what you do and don’t want from a job. This could give you some clarity — I know it did for me.

  8. I started teaching in September. I teach at an inner city charter school in NYC, which is 93% title 1. I can’t even begin to describe how bad this job is. I should have looked up articles like this one or articles about teacher attrition before I began teaching. I feel horrible, and worse I am unqualified to do much else. The behavior of the students in my classroom is quite horrifying, and there is very little I can do to correct their behavior. I have one class of 30 students with 21 IEPs and no assistant teacher, which is technically against the law, and I’m a first year teacher. There is absolutely no materials and I end up spending hundreds of dollars per week creating things for my students. I will definitely be leaving teaching at the end of the year, and I advise anybody who will listen not to go into it.

    • Hi Dan,

      The first year of teaching is challenging enough. I’m sorry your school is making things even more difficult for you and that you feel so demoralized already.

      Charters are notorious for wringing everything they can out of teachers — and thus burning through them at an even higher rate than regular public schools do.

      So you might find teaching more manageable at a public school with a union to advocate for acceptable — and lawful — working conditions.

      That said, you *can* move beyond teaching if you want to, but you’ll need to articulate how teaching in such a challenging environment has prepared you to face other professional challenges. To get you started, please read my post on transferable skills from teaching. Hope it helps, and hang in there!

  9. I am considering leaving teaching as I am not getting called for contracts and the substitute pay is not enough to cover my expenses – not to mention the student loans I incurred. I am having trouble getting call backs and I fear it is because I have teaching on my resume. Did you leave teaching on your resume? I am considering going back into administrative assisting. (Where I gained most of my work experience prior to and during my university education years). Thanks for your help!

  10. It’s April 2015 and I just found this post. I really identify with all these stories.

    I began teaching in 2013. I am in Denver, Colorado, and work for a hard to serve school. In my second year, I found out I was pregnant (happily) and endured a lot of physical changes including exhaustion. I simply couldn’t put in the long hours at night anymore. My doctor advised me to relax in the evening and exercise for my health and the health of the baby. No surprise, my lessons no longer were as intricate as they were before. The district put me on a special coaching plan and gave me low scores as evaluation after evaluation was conducted. Basically, I ended up asking for a year of leave although I may still not have a job at the end of the year. I never want to walk into the classroom again. There is simply no room to be healthy and have a personal life outside of school. Every time my students don’t turn in homework, it’s my fault for not sending home engaging assignments. When students act out in class, it is also my fault for not having enough classroom management skills – although I managed to break up a fight between two students in my classroom the very first week of my teaching career. I will be honest, teaching is not worth it.

    • Hi littlestsprout,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Your feelings of frustration and disillusionment are familiar indeed, and it makes perfect sense that your pregnancy has compounded your exhaustion and determination to make a healthy change. Although teaching often allows for more generous pregnancy leaves than other jobs, I have no idea how new moms make it work once they return to the classroom.

      Whatever happens with your teaching job, you know that your health and your family’s health is most important. I wish you all the best for your exciting new chapter.

  11. I’m so glad I found this site. I’ve been teaching English for eight years. In the first two years I was too busy to think about anything other than getting through the school year. Then I went through a very idealistic period where I thought I knew what my school needed to run a lot more smoothly – and I seemed to be recognised for my hard work – so I put my hand up for every other position of responsibility going. I dreamed of promotion and being a Principal someday. Reality hit, affecting change was harder than I’d thought and in my fourth year I had a break down. My Principal at the time suggested I use my sick leave to recover and “get help”. I returned, truly believing it was my fault; that I’d been weak and needed to develop a “tougher skin” as the boss suggested. I tried to be smart about things. I reduced my list of responsibilities and looked for ways to develop my resilience. Unfortunately this meant compromising my values, but I felt that was what had to happen. My job became about survival. I had to look away when I saw certain behaviours, because I wasn’t getting support for managing behaviour. I had to expect less and accept that my job had major ups as well as downs. I saw nepotism and incompetent, bullish people promoted to senior positions while incredibly good teachers were pushed away to other schools, other careers or early retirement, often without thanks, pay or safety mechanisms in place, because they had to leave quickly for the sake of their health. The past two years have been the most difficult as my reserves for dealing with bad behaviour have slowly but surely run out. My non-teaching friends began saying that listening to me talk about school was like talking to someone in an abusive relationship, so I stopped talking to them about school. Of course, that meant that I bottled it up. Talking to my colleagues didn’t help. Their bitterness is every bit as real as mine, so I often end a conversation more wound up than before. Every year dozens of students request to be in my class – and they get top grades, so I know that a LOT of my classes appreciate what I do. But right now I’m also faced with classes that have groups of students who are anti-social, aggressive and dismissive. They ignore me as if I’m invisible, swear at me, throw things at me, wrestle or fight in class, break doors and furniture, throw food at each other, yell at and intimidate me, take things out of my desk, break the materials I lend them – I won’t even begin to tell you what they do to each other. Yet time and time again the only consequence I see them face is temporary removal from class, a reminder about the school rules and a phone call home, often to a parent who says, “Oh yes I know, isn’t he awful, I can’t get him to do anything either.” The Principal or other management’s strategy seems to be to try get them on side, ask them about their future goals and to think about how their behaviour is going to impact on their lives. They sympathise with the student and ask them to accept that teachers are human, and don’t always get it right, then with a smile and a handshake send the student off, to escort themselves back to class. Unsurprisingly, these students return angry, resentful, and quickly repeat the same behaviour. Last week, when I burst into tears in the staffroom because a student (who has written no more than a paragraph in 3 months – but comes from a difficult home so is being allowed the “space to find his feet”) stood up in the middle of the lesson and punched another student because “he called me a liar”, totally derailing the lesson yet again. The new Principal (the third I have worked for) suggested I had enough sick leave saved that I could take some time off, get some counselling, and “develop a thicker skin”. At this moment I saw the boy leaving the administration block and heading to his next class. I asked what had happened and why he was allowed to return to class after hitting someone. She said the boy had apologised to the other boy and there was no longer an issue between them. I knew then that I had to leave teaching. By the way, that boy ‘destroyed’ two more lessons that same day. He is still in class and teachers are still doing their very best to cajole and contain him.

    • Hi Kerry,
      The nonsensical and teacher-undermining approach to discipline you describe is one that I, and many others here, can relate to. In fact, administrators’ poor management of behavior issues is one of the main reasons why teachers quit.

      In other words, you don’t need to develop a “thicker skin” because “it’s not you, it’s them.” Please remember that — and try to stay focused on your many successes in the classroom — as you take steps to leave teaching.

  12. I am currently struggling with leaving teaching. I love teaching, and I love students. BUT I don’t love being a teacher. I have experience so many of the same situations as fellow posters. In fact, right now I am too exhausted to really put all my frustrations into words. Over the past couple years, I have developed medical problems with no physiological cause. Each doctor says, “Cut out stress.” When I tell them I am a teacher, they say that they understand and are treating more and more teachers for illnesses related to stress and depression. I am so tired that at times, I can’t even spend quality time with my family. Where can I go from here? I have tried to find a job outside of teaching but to no avail. I would love to hear what others are doing one they have left teaching.

    • Anne,
      I hope this summer gives you a chance to relieve your stress and restore your energy. It’s also a great time to research jobs outside teaching where you can still fulfill your passion to teach and mentor. You may find inspiration from Terry’s comment downthread — she explains how working with seniors lets her teach without the frustrations that come with a traditional classroom role.

      You can also read about Marie, who has also found working with seniors to be very rewarding, and Meg, who now leads workshops on social justice. Hope this helps and best of luck!

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

  14. I do not teach any more. I feel so happy now. My bloor pressure is down, and I have lost weight. I am now retired. I am looking to do something else with less stress. I use to love teaching. It was my joy, passion, and my calling, but the stress level was just to much for me. This generation of students, parents, and administration has changed so much. One has the standards, core, and you have update your computer knowledge daily to keep with your your students. The respect for teachers has gone!! I am glad that I am retired!!!

    • Hi Pamela,

      Congrats on your retirement! So glad to hear that you’ve been able to improve your health and lower your stress. Perhaps you could use your teaching skills in a low-stress environment, such as leading workshops or classes for seniors. I interviewed a retired teacher, Marie, who did just that: you can read her story here.

      Thanks for commenting, and best wishes for your retirement!

  15. I discovered this website during the a search of what to do after teaching, because I dread going back to school not because it was a four day weekend but because I slipped and fell on the second day of school and injured myself. I feel guilty for the loss of time and that’s why I’m still going to go in regardless of my swollen ankle.

    • Hi Latricia,
      I’m so sorry to hear about your fall and I hope you are feeling better now. However, I hope you’ll consider taking at least a few days off if you are still in pain. This guilt about needing to being there for the kids, even if it means sacrificing our own health, is something that happens all too often. Although I definitely participated as well, I realize now that everything would have been fine if I’d taken the days — really. Kids are more resilient than we think, and ignoring our well-being now can lead to more serious issues that require more time off down the road.

      • Thank you for responding. And what you said is very true. When I did make it back they were all very concerned for and even went out of their way to help me.

  16. These posts and articles have been a godsend. I feel so guilty about resigning from my teaching job, but to read about others who were brave enough to take that leap and who have gone on to lead more fulfilling lives…this gives me hope.

    I’m ashamed to say that I only “lasted” in teaching 2 years and 2 months. In my 3 (or 2 and beginning of my third) school years, I’ve had 3 different principals. I’ve also considered that maybe it’s the school or age/grade that was the problem, but after extensive effort, I can’t find another teaching job in a neighboring school district, transfer within my own district (because for some reason you have to spend your first 3 years in the same school), or switch grade levels. (That said, I don’t/didn’t really want to switch grade levels. I *love* first grade. The neighboring school districts all have NOT ONLY significantly smaller class sizes for K-1, but ALSO a teacher’s aide for at least half the day. How can I do my job if I’m the only adult in the classroom, and I keep getting interrupted by severe physical behavior issues, bathroom accidents, etc.?)

    There was no administrative support. When I did call for admin support after being jumped on and hit repeatedly by a student, said student was taken outside to play basketball because “he just needs to work off some extra energy” and then he was returned to my classroom (boasting to the whole class that he got to go shoot some hoops for hitting the teacher). I was not allowed to write behavior referrals because “we can’t let numbers go up.” I was not allowed to send a student to the nurse for a change of clothes after a bathroom accident. All behavior issues were considered my classroom management failures.

    As a new teacher, I fully accepted that I had a lot to learn. I went to every possible professional development, worked 12+ hours a day in my classroom (then came home and worked some more), poured thousands from my salary BACK into my classroom (because there were literally NO materials except what I purchased myself), sought advice from my more experienced co-workers, everything. I had no time for any kind of life outside of my job. No friends, no potential for romance or a family of my own someday, nothing. I had students who were violent to me and others daily, and admin looked the other way and somehow found a way to blame it on me. I got negatively skewed evaluations — which I fear might be the reason I can’t get a teaching job in another district. (Also, every teaching application I’ve filled out requires a reference specifically from your previous principal. And if the reason you want a new school is because things were not working between you and your principal, then you’re not going to get a good reference and be able to move on.)

    When I went in to resign (partly because of my own rapidly declining health, partly because I feared I was being set up to be fired), my current/last/new principal even noted, “Yes, I saw you using all the management strategies…you’re saying and doing everything I could advise you to do…but the bottom line is that they’re not all responding. It just isn’t in your nature to teach these kinds of [rough] kids. You’re right that it’s better for everyone if you move on.”

    I’ve been out a week now, and already my health is improving. I have ideas for possible new career tracks, but I’m still trying to figure things out. I love all the practical advice about how to advertise my teaching skills on a resume for another profession.

    …But a very large part of me still feels like a “failure” for giving up teaching, especially so soon into it.

    • I feel you completely. I’m going into my 4th year and I’m depressed and mad at myself because I can’t muster the excitement I should have at the beginning of the school year. You should be commended for your bravery for realizing that you have to leave. I wish I were that brave. I keep hoping that something will click and the this wave of depression will disappear. Your strength and courage will carry you through. I hope all is well and turned out great for you.

  17. I have been teaching for over 30 years (primarily as a 4th grade regular education public school teacher). What keeps me in teaching? Simply put: it’s the kids. Our political climate has changed drastically in America. Unfortunately it’s taken its toll on the career. I’ve been teaching since 1986. During that time I went through what I would call the sweet years of my teaching career. This was when I received raises and cost-of-living increases almost yearly. During that time I would’ve said that it didn’t matter to me how much money I was making I just loved teaching. I realize now that it’s important that you earn enough money to live comfortably. There’s added stress and tension that I’ve experienced because I have not seen even a cost of living raise for the last eight years of my teaching career. I’ve remained in teaching because I truly enjoy being with, talking to, living and creating with children. Children have a fresh and beautiful way of looking at the world. I love that about them. They are not as accomplished at hiding emotions and frustrations as adults. They can be more appreciative of those adults who are caring and helpful. They are also quick to see through adults who use them to achieve personal goals. I hope to continue teaching (I am 55) for at least 5-6 more years, but I am looking for other options because money is tight for my family and I right now. I think our educational system is being used as a tug-of-war rope between political parties, and it is causing tremendous strain on the institution. Perhaps this is a good thing, because changes are needed. However, EVERYTHING doesn’t need to be changed. Entrepreneurs who wish to invest in our educational system and make changes to it should start with the heart – teachers. Work closely with teachers who have been involved for the long term, as well as the young enthusiastic newcomers to the field. Rely less on the “laboratory studies” and more on those who are working the front lines and know the needs of the students and communities they work with.

  18. I’m a teacher/librarian. I am more a babysitter than librarian. Students required to come to library with major issues. As a new employee in a new district and new grade levels, I have felt the pressure to perform miracles from admin on day one. There is no allowance for a learning curve. We’ve already had more than one confrontation and I feel for the first time in my 13 year career that I am under surveillance daily. I am already experiencing jittery nerves, high anxiety and extreme fear of each day. This has translated into other physical issues. And my creativity is next to non existent at this point. I am older but just about ready to return to a traditional office job! I regret leaving my other campus!

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