Why I’m Returning to the Classroom After Leaving for One Year: A Reader Reflects

Though many of my posts have been about the rewards of leaving teaching, I’m interested in multiple perspectives on this career shift. It’s why I asked Rose, the former teacher behind my most popular post, to share how she’s better off after leaving education and what she misses about it. And it’s why I’m sharing this follow-up post from another former teacher, Melanie.

The first part of Melanie’s story goes likes this: after teaching fifth grade at a high-needs school in Florida for seven years, and considering a store manager position at CVS, she was thrilled to finally land an office job.

One year later, however, she’s decided to head back to the classroom. Here’s the latest on Melanie’s story, in her own words.


I left the classroom last year after years of feeling like I wasn’t good enough, years of never being able to please the parents and countless hours of grading papers that my students didn’t even care about. I was so fed up with the way things were going in education that I couldn’t take it anymore — or so I thought.

After one year of sitting in a cubicle, I realize how much I miss being a teacher. The things I miss the most are:

The students

When I had a rough morning as a teacher, it lasted only until my students entered the classroom. Then it wasn’t about me or my rough morning anymore — it was about them. They made me forget my worries by demanding 100% of my energy. I would laugh, cry and yell, all in one day — but that day flew by because my students wouldn’t let it drag. Here in my cube, though, I’m left with my own thoughts. As I work on my tasks, my day doesn’t change much. I never thought I would miss the emotional roller coaster of teaching, but I do.

Sharing

Even though I enjoy the work I’m doing, I don’t work on a team. So there’s no one for me to teach what I’ve learned. It makes me miss my professional learning community. I even tried to start one up at my new job, but it didn’t stick. I miss working with my colleagues on special projects, including the process of reflecting and then revising. I miss finding a great lesson plan and running over to my coworkers’ classrooms to show them. I miss being part of a unit with a common purpose.

The time off

This past Christmas, I didn’t have time to cook and decorate beforehand, and I didn’t have time to take the decorations down afterward. I barely had time to finish my Christmas shopping because I had to work on Christmas Eve. Then I was back at work the day after Christmas. Sure, I have vacation time now — four full weeks of it. But it isn’t what I had as a teacher. I have no Spring Break, and no reason to look forward to summer. Right now, all my close friends are making summer plans and getting excited. I wish I could join them.

What have I learned overall? The grass is NOT greener.

In fact, I think it’s made of plastic. I may not have parent conferences or administrators berating me, but I don’t have a purpose, either. In the classroom, at least I knew I was giving my all to contribute to society. At least I knew that even if the kids didn’t show it, deep down, they did care and were impacted by me.

The industry I work in now is changing people’s job descriptions and telling them they no longer fit the description so they have to leave the job. I’m learning that is a common thing outside of the public school system. I will take new standards and evaluations over that any day. At least then I can feel a real sense of accomplishment and improvement.

I realize now that I didn’t need a career change. What I really needed was to change schools. My administration was bringing me down and I let them get the best of me. Before making this major shift, I should have tried a smaller one first. At least I had one year of making decent money — but I’ve learned that my well-being and sense of purpose in life is much more important to me.

Next fall, I’ll be back in the classroom greeting a new set of students. I can’t wait to meet them.


If you’ve gone back to teaching after trying another career, what was behind your decision? Can you relate to Melanie’s story?

Related

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

Teacher Who Left: Why I Am Returning to School (The Answer Sheet)

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16 thoughts on “Why I’m Returning to the Classroom After Leaving for One Year: A Reader Reflects

  1. Hi Melanie,
    I left teaching too, and tried two different schools before I decided it wasn’t for me. That helped me actually as I realised it definitely wasn’t, but I’m really sorry to hear you didn’t like life after teaching. I am so fortunate to have a job where I still work in a team, with students, and get all the best bits with none of the rubbish. Sadly it does come with less pay and holiday – but I’ve decided my less stressed life is a good alternative. All the best for your return to the classroom!

    • I wish I had done the same and tried different schools before deciding teaching wasn’t for me. This next venture will truly tell me where I belong. I’m glad you found success in your new position! Perhaps the less stressful route staying in education but out of the mess is the way to go. Thank you for sharing your experience with me.

  2. I’m about to embark on my non-teaching cubicle life as I finish the last week of my 14 year career as a teacher. GAK! I am VERY jealous of all who will be footloose and fancy free this summer, but come September when I’m not wallowing in the back to school blues or making the dreaded schlep to Lakeshore Learning, I think I’ll be happy with my decision. I hope it works out for Melanie – keep us posted! If I go back to education, I doubt it’ll be as a classroom teacher. In fact, I wish I could have stayed in education, but for the life of me I couldn’t find any opportunities as a “non-teacher, still an educator” person. Hence the quiet office job. One week to go…

    • 14 years? That is a long time. I hope you have better luck than I did with your new job. I will definitely comment on here to keep you posted. I still have not found a job because my current boss will not fill out an online reference form for the school district I am applying to. Very frustrating as ads begin to close and I want to begin applying. I think it will all work out though. Best of luck to you!!

  3. I just interviewed for three science teaching positions after leaving teaching 12 years ago. After my interviews all the reasons why I left bombarded me and I broke down crying in sheer panic that I’d again be faced with the overwhelming exhausting being thrown to the wolves with no support workload again. I’m on the fence at the moment as I await to hear back as to whether or not I will be offered any of the three positions. I may say yes, but the terrifying fear of what I went through is enough right now to make me say no and take that file clerk position being offered to me.

    • Hi Kristi, as I mentioned in my response to your comment on the “Life after teaching, part one” thread, you’re in a much better position this time because of everything you learned over 12 years. You can head off problems and take heed of warning signs before they become overwhelming. Whatever happens, you will learn even more about yourself from the experience. Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

    • Hi kristi, I am in your exact position right now. The novelty of the job can quickly go away. Wondering if you ever took any of the positions and if you are happy? Im suppose to go back to teach 3rd grade this year and now the idea of all the stress is flooding my thoughts. Thank you 🙂

  4. I taught at a private school for 7 years, and while it was a great school, the job made very little money. In our city, public school teaching jobs are very hard to come by, so I left the classroom to be an administrator at a large university (so I could use my skills of project management to climb a potential career ladder). I enjoyed better pay and less intense work environment. I especially loved having time to thoughtfully compose emails. But compared to teaching, a desk job is often very boring and can feel unfulfilling. Teaching was so dynamic and intense. Yesterday, I was offered a public school teaching job, and I can’t wait to jump back in. Strangely, I feel like the past 4 years outside of the classroom, my backbone got a lot stronger in the “business” setting. I no longer feel the need to please everyone at my own expense. Looking back, there were many times that parents and fellow teachers took advantage of my kindness. I felt guilted into doing a lot unnecessary work, to be liked by others. Hindsight is 20-20, and now I don’t feel that inner critic anymore that is telling me that I need to do such and such to be a good teacher. Good teachers connect with students and help them achieve things they didn’t think they were capable of. I am excited to teach again and to feel that sense of connection and fulfillment!

    • Hi D Teacher,

      Congrats on your move back to teaching! I agree that the enthusiasm, wisdom and mental strength you’ve built up will help you and your students thrive, and I think your experience in school administration will be especially useful in helping you forge supportive relationships. Thanks for sharing, and best wishes for a fulfilling first year back!

  5. Wow! All the great comments about teaching and new careers, the upside/downside to leaving, leaves me to this reply.

    My scenario is that I have decided to retire after 33 years in the education business. There have been very challenging times and great times. Great students and challenging students, along with the parents, too. I changed school districts for a new challenge and was gifted with a community that cared about education (better parenting!), hence a great end to my career.

    Yet, I am thinking about returning to teaching in the classroom. It’s a joy that always made my day. Sure there have been down times, but, it seemed that something would come along to pick me up. So, I may take this year in retirement, and, decide whether to return.

    In the meantime, I may start my own career (business), researching how to make it work, and, financially feasible.

    To all of you following this great blog: You will be okay because your hearts are in the right place!

    • Hi David,
      Thank you for your words of encouragement, and congrats on your retirement! It’s great that you were able to end your career on a positive note. I wonder if you can teach and develop your business at the same time. Perhaps you could be an adjunct professor of education, or start a business that showcases your teaching skills. In any case, it sounds like you are well on your way to a fulfilling “second act”!

  6. Congrats to Melanie for realizing she wants to give teaching a second chance! It takes bravery to make a career change and bravery to go back to the classroom. I am in a similar situation – it has been one year since I left teaching, which was the right decision for me at the time, but now I want to try it again at a new school. Can we get an update on how Melanie’s time back has been going?

    • I would also love to hear the update on Melanie’s story. How was the transition back into teaching after making a career change and then returning? I’m finding myself in a similar position where I left teaching for many of the reasons you described, and now I wonder if it’s where I should be all along. Is it just nostalgia, or would it be a good move? Would love an update on Melanie!

  7. Part of my struggle right now is that I have a “job,” not a career like I had with teaching.

    My larger struggle is guilt. I feel like I abondoned my profession. The irony is practically painful. I was drawn to teaching in order to stand up for injustice and to put some good back into a deflated system. Then I walk away when the fight for what’s right gets too hard.

    Now, I’m knee deep in a job that, albeit, pays well, lacks authenticity and is boasting of its abundance.

    My situation is unique for a few reasons; first, I taught virtually; secondly, I left mid-year (because of a tasty carrot made of money dangling in front of my face).

    Adding to my dilemma is my former co-worker telling me that “they haven’t filled your spot yet and would LOVE to hire you back!”

    I’m not sure non-teachers really comprehend the stress we face when the going gets tough, so I find it difficult to discuss this with anyone that doesn’t teach, but I’m so conflicted.

    • Such a great point: ” I have a “job,” not a career like I had with teaching.” Well said, and so poignant. That’s where I too feel lost. I have a job. The money and benefits are good. But teaching was a career, and even more than that, an identity.

    • I taught via ITV/virtually and in the classroom at the same time at my previous job. I had to leave because my job was cut to part time and take a non-teaching job. I miss teaching, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. A year away has made me realize how much the virtual part of my job made my life very stressful.

      I recently got a job that is in-the-classroom full time and I think it will be so much better. I would recommend that you try that first! Virtual teaching had so many drawbacks. You have more stress and fewer rewards as building a relationship with the students is SO much harder.

      You’ll have to let me know what you decide!

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