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

Last time, I wrote about how teaching is still woven into who I am, two years after quitting. Like it or not, my teacher side shows in my thinking, the clothes I wear, and, it turns out, my accessories.

Since the last post, I remembered that I’d also been carrying one of my teacher bags to work. It’s a black canvas number roomy enough for several sets of papers.

Though I’ve switched to a smaller bag that better fits my essay-free life, I’m still thinking about what I’ve learned after leaving the classroom. Here are a few more items I’m adding to the list:

1. Not teaching has helped me make healthier choices, but there’s a catch.

I start most days with fruit and yogurt, instead of the sad cereal bars or bagel, egg and cheese bombs I used to eat when I had time for breakfast at school.

a much healthier way to fuel the day

a much healthier way to fuel the day

My lunch break also gives me ample time to eat a complete meal and take a long walk around the block.

The downside? On an average day, I consume a lot more calories than I used to. What’s more, my cushy office job is actually too cushy: I spend more than six hours a day sitting! (Cue the tiniest of violins.)

But seriously: I went from never worrying about sitting too much at work, to knowing every day at the office is boosting my risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

I like to think that my lowered levels of everyday stress still put me ahead, but sometimes I’m not so sure.

2. Teaching has had a lasting negative impact on my confidence.

Even though I’ve written about being proud of what you’ve gained from teaching, it’s been a challenge to follow my own advice. Years of answering to hundreds of people  — be they students, parents, or administrators — often made me question my judgment. In fact, the longer I taught, the less confident I felt in what I was doing. As my old colleague used to say, “Teaching makes me feel bad about myself every day.”

I wish I could tell you I’ve left all that negativity behind, but it still gets to me. I continue to doubt myself in small moments and major ones. And despite knowing better, I sometimes think about how I wasn’t “good enough” to last as a teacher. In two more years, I hope to be more comfortable in my choices, including my choice to quit teaching.

3. At the same time, teaching made me feel powerful.

When I think back to those seven years in the classroom, I wonder, how did I do that? How did I stand in front of those students each day? How did I grade hundreds of papers each year? How did I get up for work all those times when I dreaded it? Part of my self-doubt now is feeling that I’m no longer strong enough to teach.

4. Making up for lost time isn’t easy.

The calls avoided because I was too drained to talk to anyone; the visits cut short because I was anxious to catch up on grading; the times I was impatient, cranky and generally not fun to be with — I see how they added up over the years. Knowing that I let my personal relationships suffer because of teaching makes me sad. I’m trying to be a better wife, daughter and friend by calling, initiating plans and showing up more — but it’s going to take a lot more work to close that seven-year gap.

5. The most surprising thing I’ve learned? I’m not content with “just” an office job.

When I first quit teaching, I thought a quiet cubicle job was all I’d ever need. I was wrong, of course. I’ve attempted to fill the intellectual, physical and emotional space that teaching used to occupy with cooking classes, an improv class, several seasons of league volleyball, mentoring and signing up for Skillshare.

I’ve also been thinking about my old teacher bag:

a second life for the old teacher bag

The bag was a gift from a fellow English teacher. She had designed a senior project that asked students to take positive social action in the world, and invited me to use the assignment with my own seniors. I remember enjoying the experience of helping my students develop their action projects and present them to the school.

Toting the bag as a non-teacher, I felt its white-hot letters prodding me with questions like: What are you doing now to be socially responsible? and How can you make an impact beyond the classroom? 

Two years in, I’m still figuring out Life After Teaching. Though I’m not planning to return to teaching, I know it’s the most significant public service I’ve done. This year I learned that I don’t want it to be the last.

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

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

  2. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part Two: Four Reasons Why I Miss Teaching | Those Who Teach

  3. Lovely post. Full of hope. When I was 9 years old I decided “I’m here to be a teacher” and in that same moment, looking at my class teacher and recalling my other teachers, I thought; wonderful people who are stressed out, imaginative people not free to create and caring people in a system that doesn’t care. So, I’m not a school teacher. But I am teaching. I’ve created a virtual after-school club for teens to create their own education by becoming part of a field they care about (rather than studying it from the outside) and I’m showing them how to surround themselves with mentors who have made a life and living within that field. Like you, I’ve been trying to find my contribution after feeling lost and unfulfilled for a long while. This feels so right. You’ll find yours too. I know it.

    • Hi Leah,
      I really appreciate your support. It’s encouraging to hear how you were able to develop your own teaching platform free from the traditional constraints of the classroom. And wonderful that you are helping students take charge of their learning while preparing them for fulfilling careers. This is the sort of stuff that gets me excited again and thinking, “What if?” Thanks so much.

      • Hey, “what if?” is my favorite question 🙂 One day people in charge might see the value of teachers who work best virtually, like me. At 16 I wanted to challenge myself, but was so brain-dead all I could think of doing was an extra A-Level (UK high school qualification) via a distance learning course. I paid for the course from my shop work and babysitting money and loved the freedom to work when I wanted and the personal feedback via email from a real tutor who cares so deeply about her subject. If I’d known then what I know now, I’d be way ahead of myself and would never have been as lost as I was in my late teens and early 20’s. If you want to talk about some of your ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out. You have my website address. Lx

      • Thanks so much for the offer! I’m still in the beginning stages of figuring out what’s next, but your stories are helping me think about ways to create opportunities rather than ask for them.

  4. #1 – That’s interesting, I eat less. All the running around teaching made me so hungry I’d want to snack all day long. I’d stress eat and was bloated all the time. I agree that less stress overall will trump the 6 hours of sitting in terms of health.

    #2 – That’s because you’re a good person who has a sense of empathy. I’m the same way. It’s the selfish, narcissistic bitches whose confidence remains intact. We’re people pleasers. Sometimes, unfortunately, it works against us. I’ve tried so many times to “be this way or that way” as a teacher and ultimately I just need to be myself. And who I am deep down, doesn’t always mesh with the teaching profession.

    #3 – Trust me people who’ve seen you move on to your writing job see you as “powerful.” I think you’re doubting yourself because of the nobility of the profession. I’d personally rather sit in my office!

    #4 – I’ve been talking about this non-stop. The energy I have now for friends and family is priceless. I go out on “school nights,” I’m not grumpy when I pick up my son (and he noticed), and I enjoy cooking leisurely dinners again. I just spent a weekend away in the mountains with my family and sister’s family and didn’t spend the whole weekend whining about what I’m going to do with my life or how miserable my new director is making me. I simply enjoyed the moments. Wow! Priceless!

    #5 – You’re two years in, I’m only two months in so I can’t say that I’ll be as thrilled as I am now about my office gig down the line. But, the good news is you’re in control. If you were strong and competent enough to go from teaching to a writing job at an office, you’ll be just as savvy when it comes to moving onto the next gig. You can do anything you want.

    • Hi Lilly,

      I loved reading about how each aspect of your post-teaching experience compares. Thank you for sharing and for being so supportive.

      Glad you were able to enjoy your family vacation fully, and that you’ve been able to share more of your best self with your son. I remember the days of constantly venting about work — while being sick of hearing myself talk about it — all too well. Good riddance!

      And I love the time to cook, too. Weekends are so much nicer spent obsessing about food instead of work.

      Even though you’re only two months in, it sounds like you’re taking full advantage of life after teaching.

      Thanks again for your encouragement and all the best to you!

      • Hi. I am in my second year of teaching in a UK primary school. I came into teaching at the age of 45, full of high hopes. Although only my second year, I can already feel myself losing confidence and feeling anxious, tired and grumpy with my family and lack of social life, for all the same reasons mentioned in this blog . I promised myself I would go into teaching with my eyes open and would not let these things happen. My mindset has always been strong and as as a person with a psychology background, I have practiced mindful thinking and living in the moment, but despite this I have felt myself change. I am now going to leave teaching, very sadly and feeling a bit of a failure, when I find an alternative. I have found these posts inspirational and real. Good luck to everyone making brave decisions. Life is too short for regrets.

      • Please don’t feel like a failure! Though (as I mention in this post) I’m guilty of it too, we’ve still got to show ourselves the compassion that we would show a friend in our circumstance.

        I think we also need to fight to maintain connections to the people we care about, even on the most draining days of teaching. I now know this would’ve helped me a great deal.

        Thanks for sharing and for your kind words. I wish you all the best for your Life after Teaching!

      • Wow you are all so right, teaching does sap your confidence. All that negativity from students, parents, other colleagues and the administration. especially in Australia – teaching is so looked down upon and everyone criticises teaching. I’ve done it for 10 years, am trying to leave and feel so unsure of myself. Yet I know that I could shine if I put the same amount of effort I did in teaching into another job.

      • Theresa,
        I’m glad you can relate, but of course, I hope that the negativity doesn’t get the best of you! It sounds like you’re off to a good start — you already know that if you’ve made it through 10 years of teaching, you can succeed in other fields. Carry that sense of accomplishment proudly — it’ll help you land, and thrive at, your next job.

  5. Thanks for continuing to update us! It’s always interesting to see your reflections. I am now in the midst of nostalgia as my mind and body know that it’s time to be setting up a classroom, at least it’s the beginning of the school year where I am. I have decided to join a temp agency to gain experience and experience the work world outside of education. I’m currently waiting to be connected with a job.

    As I had to leave my teaching position due to targeting, instead of on my own terms, I am having huge self-doubts about transitioning out of education and whether I want to go back to teaching by trying a different district. But the thought of applying for another teaching job makes me doubt my effectiveness as a teacher. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. At the same time, I’m also wondering if I can make it outside of education. I was wondering about this way before all the drama went down last school year too, so now seems like the appropriate time to try.

    I do relate to your thoughts about being socially responsible though. I feel like I’m being really selfish. But at the same time, I wonder about how I’ve narrowed down being socially responsible to holding a public servant job. There are many different ways to be socially responsible. I’ve thought about volunteering in schools or at the library for read alouds or something once I’ve pulled my life together again. Or trying to get involved in different social awareness issues besides education altogether.

    Apologies for my long-windedness.

    • Hi Michelle, it’s Leah, you may have seen my reply earlier in this thread. Your nerves are natural but I promise you can make it outside of education because, when you’ve found something you know you care about, the world is really friendly and supportive! It was a surprise to me too! As well as a virtual after-school club for teens that I’m running, I’m also using my my recruitment experience (international, multi-discipline, multi-client roles) to offer CV editing on the side from here: http://leahkstewart.com/cvediting/ CV editing, application guidance and interview coaching are things I’ve professional experience in and am good at so, while I’m finding my feet on my own terms, this is a side service I’ve got on the go for people who might need some professional backup. It’s there for you if you need it. All the best Michelle.

    • Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for reading and thanks for sharing this thoughtful reflection.

      Whatever you would like to do, go for it. I know this isn’t easy: as I mentioned in this post, teaching *still* does a number on my self-confidence, but I’ve tried to push myself to take action despite that. It’s what helped me reach life after teaching, one tiny step at a time. Your inner critic may always be there, but that doesn’t mean you should listen to her.

      And I’m right there with you in wanting to broaden my thinking about social responsibility. The ideas you mention sound great. Please keep us posted on where you land!

  6. Pingback: Life After Teaching, Part Six: Five Things I Learned in Year Two | Those Who Teach

  7. From the perspective of a male who left teaching for a higher paying job in the tech industry as an iOS software engineer. One year in.

    Negatives:
    1) As as teacher, I didn’t have / want a sit down desk of my own. I stood all day and walked around the class as I taught. Now I’m stationary as I work.
    2) Less community. I miss my teacher friends.

    Small Positives:
    1) I don’t buy stuff for work.
    2) Getting paid bonuses for meeting / exceeding targets is great.
    3) I can afford to take real vacations. No more teaching summer school, working odd jobs during ‘breaks.’
    4) Its easier to schedule time off. Not all of my friends’ weddings happen in the summer.
    5) No dress code. This is a quirk of my employer. Shorts / t-shirts in the summer, jeans / hoodies in the winter. All the low quality teacher clothes have been sold / trashed.

    Life Changing Positives:
    6) Women find me more interesting to talk to. Dating as a single male teacher wasn’t as good an experience as it could have been. No longer a concern for me, but when you’re a single straight male, this is a huge quality of life factor.

    7) Less Dogma. If I disagree with how something is being done in a software project, I can back up my arguments with hard data, and when you’re building an app, logic wins. Teaching was full of dogmatic practices that the school staff would recite at the beginning of the year, then see little to no change in end results. Yes, there’s dogma in many fields, even software engineering (hello there, Agile/Scrum), but its not as bad as teaching.

    8) More control over my work. As a teacher I felt that I was being held responsible for too many factors that were out of my control. But when I’m working on an iPhone app, everything the app does is under my control, and the end product is a direct reflection of how much skill and effort went into it. That’s incredibly satisfying.

    • Hi TK,
      Thanks for sharing. I also miss my old colleagues but appreciate the greater freedom to dress, take time off and complete work as I wish. Sadly, I’m not that surprised that you’re getting more female attention as a software engineer — it’s a “hot” job that pays so much better than teaching does. At the same time, I know from friends’ experiences that these initial “pluses” quickly lose their value if the social skills that many teachers have — such as empathy and being a good listener — aren’t there.

      • Hi there, I’m currently a first year teacher and having thoughts of leaving. I know that most people will tell me to give it a few more years to get into the groove and find my place. But I can’t help but think about what other career paths I could take. Is it completely irresponsible to change jobs after one year? I’d love you get some advice!

      • Hi R,
        No, I don’t think it’s “completely irresponsible” to change after one year — sometimes you know right away that a career isn’t a good fit. Start researching new careers and networking with people who have jobs that interest you. Here’s a post that can help you get started:

        How Informational Interviews Helped Me Find a Job After Teaching

        In the meantime, you may want to apply for a new teaching job and/or stick it out at your current school…That way, you can still pay the bills while you keep working on your Life After Teaching, but be ready to leave once you land a new gig.

        Hope this helps and best of luck!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!! Your posts helped me survive an exhausting 4th year of teaching and helped me find the energy to look for another career. I was happy to find a great job in public service right away, but as I sit here in my quiet cubicle, I’ve been
    wondering why I still feel so beat up.

    After all, it’s been 3 months! :). I so appreciate your insight into how we lose confidence after time in education. After only four years in teaching, I feel like I lost so much of my joy, my energy, my health, and my confidence. I guess it’s going to take awhile to get that back.
    Many thanks to you; your candor and authenticity have been a calm touchstone for me.

    • Hi Kathy,

      Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. Knowing that the blog has helped you and that you can relate to my experience mean a lot to me.

      Yes — three months in, I was marveling at how different not-teaching was — in a good way — but still thinking about teaching every day. So give yourself at least a year to recover, and enjoy the time for quiet reflection in your cubicle and outside of work! Your new job in public service could be a great way to rebuild your confidence and tap into your strengths from teaching.

      Thanks again and all the best to you!

  9. I just found this blog today and it was just what I needed. I am in my fourth year of teaching. I haven’t been very happy with it since my second year. My admin moved me to grade I did not want this year and offered no support. I feel like I’m drowning. After an ugly meeting with my admin on Friday, I thought about my future and how i do not enjoy teaching anymore. This blog has given me hope that one day I can be happy again with my job, a job outside of teaching.

    • Hi Lillie,

      I’m so glad the blog has helped you — thanks for sharing!

      Hope things have gotten better since the meeting with your admin. I know from personal experience how upsetting those kinds of meetings can be. Devoting more energy to figuring out life after teaching helped me move forward, as did focusing more on the kids.

    • HI. I also just found this blog today and have devoured every word. I am just finishing the semester of my 13th year (since 1987). I own my own business and have worked both in the spring and fall off and on for what seems like forever. I keep leaving the profession, then going back then leaving again. Like I have read several times here, I too LOVE being around the teens. They are spontaneous and full of visions for the future. I learn so much from them. They keep me young. BUT, the system itself (in Indiana US) has really deteriorated. Although the pay is good and there are bennies, all the new buzzwords have killed the passion inside me (standards, data everything, aligning, mapping, learning targets, SLO’s, testing of everything all the time…). I am a really good teacher (I teach secondary Spanish) and my kids are always well prepared for the next level. I push them and challenge them every day. We use every opportunity there is to strengthen and amplify their vocab. For Christmas they counted and they learned nearly 100 words, the preterite tense and reflexive, as well as what was in the book of Spanish gospel (textbook of frequently useless and boring words). Yet when the brand new admin (her first yr) comes in to evaluate me, she marks me NEEDS IMPROVEMENT on many things, because I don’t fit the mold of the new teacher model. Oh well, I come from the old school. The kids told me yesterday that I am their absolute favorite teacher because I am real and honest, and make it fun for them.

      Sadly, after exams next week, I am thinking of leaving again. I am just not happy. Love most of the kids and what I do, but I no longer look forward to getting dressed and coming to school. I no longer want to create or decorate, or all those other fun things I always LIVED to do. I always will have my business, but teaching and running the biz gave me that break from both. Thank you sooo much for all the insights on this blog and for the comments that have also made me think again. My decision will come in two weeks (after I go to Mexico to recharge my batteries). I just wanted to say to the beginning teachers, teaching is a great profession and you never know the impact you will have until years later. I still keep in touch with many students (including back in ’87 when I started). They tell me what an influence I was to them. It makes me cry.

  10. Hi everyone. I have previously posted on here and since I left my position I have felt a huge weight lift off. It would without a doubt, the right decision. Right now I am subbing till I find something else, it is not a long term plan. I am finding some of my old feelings coming back. It seems every second day I am faced with completely out of control behaviour and although the work load is of course much better I still find myself coming home feel very sad. I feel like the days are not efficient when behaviour is so severe, far more severe than anything I saw in my positions and the satisfaction for me is really low on these days. The economy is so terrible right now, and I want to be happy but am worried about money. I feel useless when I go in and deal with completely wild behaviour and do my best to manage it but find I feel I am wasting my time, the kids time, the universe’s time. I guess I just have different issues right now but feel so unhappy. I need advice.

    • Hey Sarah,

      I’ve been following your story. I agree that you made the right choice in leaving teaching. You’re not wasting your time or anyone else’s time. In fact, you and the rest of the community here have inspired me to take the plunge and leave teaching soon. I know exactly how you feel because I’m in the same boat. It is scary not knowing if you’re going to find something better or find anything at all I absolutely get it. I’m worried about money as well. But I think you’re very strong and brave. I know that you’ll find something that will be a better fit for you. As with the out of control behavior, that’s one of the reasons why I’m leaving. Everything has changed- the parents, the students, our profession, etc. I’m so glad that you’ve shared your story. It makes me feel much better that I’m not the only one who feels this way. We’ll make it out alive. =)

      • You have helped me so much. Thanks for being so honest. The behavior is so bad. Today I came home and cried. Again. I want to move on. After 21 years, I just don’t have.it in me anymore. All I ever wanted to do was to help studenrs learn and love math. I need courage to leave so thank you!

  11. Thank goodness I found your blog. I do not feel so alone. I am nearing my 25th year of teaching in January and I only have 6 years left to retirement, but I don’t think I can do it any more. I don’t know what is out there for an almost 49 year old, damaged and derailed teacher. I often wonder if I had channelled all of my boundless energy into a more forgiving profession, I may not be in the place I am today.

    No one at work would ever know or see that I am so torn down, but when people mention confidence, I totally understand. I think for me, when I was younger, I could carry off anything. Huge celebrations of learning, amazing parent nights, cool projects, awesome clubs and now that I am tiring, I am unable to keep up and the expectations on teachers continue to build and build and build. Everything just gets piled on more and more, despite the fact that teacher’s age like everyone else and will naturally have to slow down at some point, if not for anything but for health. It gets to the point where you feel you can’t breath.

    I am relieved to see that IT IS possible to breath again and I am proud of those of you who took steps and had the foresight to leave earlier, when you felt your life energy draining from you. It isn’t the kids. It is definitely the workload and the expectations of districts, admin and parents. It is so difficult to please everyone when, really, the focus is not them it is the teaching/learning/the kids in the classroom- the relationships.

    I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I keep thinking if I just ‘pull myself together’ I can keep up and do this. If I just work harder, smarter, I’ll be able to pull through and make it to retirement. Deep down though, I know it is something extraneous. No matter how hard I work, this job is never done. That is the bottom line. The reality of teaching. This is why 6 more years at this point seems so impossible.

    • Fritzy,

      You can do this. I am in nearly the same boat. I teach in NC, a state which deeply disrespects their teachers. I have been teaching for over 20 years in three states, most of my time in NC. I understand. I have loved teaching, and it has been all I have felt I wanted to do since I was young. My Mom and Dad were both teachers. The profession has left me, I am not trying to leave it, did not want to, but I feel that my departure is coming soon.

      Tothosewhoteach, you have done such a tremendous service to those of us who needed to hear this, and needed a place to express ourselves, I cannot thank you enough!

      I work so hard. I am an innovator, a well known presenter with a teacher organization, I have presented more than 40 seminars to teachers from all over the US and other countries, but this year I am feeling so beaten down and unappreciated, and especially unsupported that I feel no confidence in myself and my own judgement. Teachers contact me from all over the globe asking questions, seeking advice, and I have always given it. Now I feel I can’t give it anymore since the be all and end all of testing makes administration think I am a bad teacher and shakes my confidence.

      When I look at my EVAAS scores it is no surprise. The kids who gave me effort and tried to learn did so. The kids who did not give a damn about doing well in class, whose families gave no support, who did not try, who felt a “D” was good enough, did not. Somehow this is supposed to be my fault. I have a meeting next week to explain to the principal what I am going to do differently to change this for next year.

      It does not matter that the students gush over how much they learned in my class, and how much they miss me. It does not matter that all the science teachers who my classes feed into tell me that my kids, whether high academically or low academically, know their science better than any kids they have ever had.

      All that matters is that kids who did not try, or kids who are unable to do well on the sorts of tests we have to give had low test scores. The kids have no accountability. If they do well they are heroes, just them, no input from me is acknowledged. If they do poorly it is all my fault regardless of how much or how little effort, or how able they are to understand these sorts of tests.

      I am ready to move on to something else. I do not know what it will be. I am very anxious about that. I have a wife and 3 daughters to take care of. Even though with a Master’s and 20+ years in the classroom I make less than $50K, there are not that many jobs in this area that make that either, and I need to stay at least at that level. My wife and I have elderly parents so moving to a state with better opportunities is not really an option. I am just praying I can make the transition. I want to be all that I can be, to be confident and respected again. Teacher can no longer to that for me. I am hoping and praying I can find something that can do that.

      I know I will miss my kids, but I will not miss what the administrative stupidity and pressure are doing to my life. I never imagined that I would be unhappy teaching, but now I cannot remember what it was like to be happy doing this job.

      I apologize for the length of this missive, but it felt good to be able to unload to an audience made up of the only other people on the planet who can truly understand.

      Thanks.

      • OMG thank you SOOO much for putting into exact words what I feel at this moment. You mailed it TO A TEE! I think we should all get together and start a REAL school… free from gov intervention and testing and restrictions and evaluations…. just close the door and TEACH!

      • Jeff,

        Fritzy here. Well, I finally left teaching. It took a desperate attempt to leave this world to make me realize that something was terribly wrong. I have no idea what will come of all of this, but I had taken out every other variable from my life that may be interfering with my ability to handle this job- one by one…. my physical activities, my social life, my friends, my family, holidays, etc… and when I got my ‘letter’ thanking me for 25 years of service it finally hit me that it was the ‘job’ that was the only variable interfering with my ability to handle ‘life’. I know I held on so long out of love for the kids. I don’t have kids of my own, so I am certain this is why.

        Just wanted you to know that ‘I did it!’. It feels good but scary. I just read your words today after checking in for the first time since leaving the classroom in December. Your post says exactly how I feel. I know, with the successes you’ve experienced thus far, you will have no problem flourishing in whatever you choose to do. It just takes one step. After that, the world is yours. I wish you and your family all the best.

        With every good wish,

        Fritzy

  12. Oh goodness, I so connect with you Fritzy. I’m in my 28th year of teaching. I’m in a fairly supportive school, though management seem to being more and more dogmatic, and behaviour isn’t too bad. But I’ve had enough. I can’t do 8am to 6pm in school and 7pm to 2am at home any more. I feel I deserve more, and I regret not spending more time with my family when they were younger. Now I’m not responsible for them anymore I am looking for other opportunities and seeing it as a positive, not a negative.
    I may well go back – even in a different capacity, but not at the moment. Give yourself a break. I’m lucky to have a supportive family and friends.. not one person has suggested I stay, and suggestions of supply/private sector have all been shot down in flames as I tend to turn to jelly and cry when I think about facing a teaching environment without the friends and colleagues I currently work with.
    Fritzy.. you’ve given enough to the system.. I’m sure there’s something out there for me, there must be for others too!

    • Alison, thank you so much for your supportive words of hope and encouragement. As I mentioned to Jeff above, I finally made the decision to leave and at this point it feels good but scary. You are right, with some transition support, there will be something out there for both of us. It might be something we have to make happen ourselves too, but we have to remember that, being teachers, we’ve been resourceful all these years, so why stop now, hey? Just have to creatively apply it in different ways. I am so glad that you’ve kept your friends and family close. I will re-establish those connections and regain those supports I am certain. That is my first step. My heart is with you, Alison!

      Fritzy

  13. I’m so glad I saw your post! I’ve been teaching 9 years now and agree 100% with everything you’ve said! I’ve been toying with the idea of finding a job outside of the realm of education, but have no idea where to begin. I love working with children, but am tired of being an “indentured servant” who works for free on nights & weekends. Any tips on places that might hire former teachers? 🙂

  14. Thank you to all of you as you have made me realize I am not alone. I think there should also be a support group for spouses or partners of teachers and how neglected they feel. I have taught for ten years, all different age groups and will leave it behind in the next few months. Just trying to get up the courage to write my letter of resignation and build up resilience to the guilt I will inevitably feel leaving the students. Hats off to the teachers who can make it all the way! I am looking forward to cleaning out my home office from all of the paper clutter from work that follows me home.

    • Roberta,

      You should feel proud of your ten years of service and the hundreds of students you’ve helped. And, though you are leaving the classroom, you can still find a way to teach e.g. through volunteering or continuing ed classes.

      Dumping years of papers was so satisfying — hope you enjoy the process, too, and let it help you move forward!

  15. Thank you so much for writing these entries! As we already know, teachers are forced to put on a happy face all day, even when we’re feeling disrespected, under-appreciated, and burnt out. It’s such a comfort to hear that I’m not the only one and that leaving teaching is a realistic possibility. I’ve been teaching high school art for 8 years and I’m preparing to leave after I’m “vested” in the pension system (2 more years to go!) to both start a family and begin my own business. My husband and other non-teacher friends keep reminding me about the summers off and how much I’ll miss them, but all the ex-teachers I know say that they no longer need the summers off once they’re satisfied with their daily lives. I’m so glad I came across your blog!

  16. I am so grateful for your blog! I have read many of your posts and feel that I can identify with so much of what you write. This post in particular resonated with me. I left the classroom a few years ago after 16 years of teaching, but due to a combination of circumstances, I found myself back in the classroom again this year. It has been a very difficult year for me, but the up side is that I am now 100% convinced that I need to leave the classroom for good. The cost is too great; it has and is taking a tremendous toll on my physical and mental health. I’m not sure where to go from here, but I am at peace with my decision to leave for good. Please keep writing; your blog is empowering many teachers like me, and that is a noble thing.

    • Ana, I’m grateful for your readership and your kind encouragement. Knowing that the blog has helped you definitely motivates me.

      I’m sorry for the tough year you’ve had and hope things have gotten better. That you are now at peace with leaving should make the time you have left easier to bear and help you plan your next step.

      Wishing you health and happiness in the New Year!

  17. Pingback: “I Hate Teaching”: My Most Popular Search Term in 2015 | Those Who Teach

  18. I’ve just read all 7 blogs about having left teaching. It was very helpful and engaging. Thanks so much. I’ve been a secondary school teacher for 16 years and much if what you have said has resonated with me. I live in the UK and it is a well paid job over here. I’m just about ready with savings to manage a lesser paid job and get out. Jen.

  19. Thank you for this post. I can totally see myself feeling exactly in the same way as you do after two years of leaving if I I leave this profession. I am so ready to leave, as I am just so drained and burnt out. I am always doubting myself, and have never been sure of myself since I started teaching. At the same time, I am not really sure how to make my exit plan. I am also very surprised to see that many teachers are feeling in a similar way as I am.

  20. I recently left teaching after almost 8 years. I taught primary grades in a highly competitive district without a union.

    Each year I struggled with my love of teaching the students and my intense dislike of an impossible job with little to no work life balance. After having a son, the balance became more noticeable and I realized I was not able to be the mom my child needed.

    I watched people turn on each other in teams due to a constant stream of negative input that fostered deep feelings of insecurity. I would watch as these teams formed cliques like in Junior High and choose who their bully victim would be. When I would stand up against it, I was going against the status quo and had to combat being the outsider. This happened each year.

    I don’t know if I would have had the courage to finally leave if my own health hadn’t taken a drastic turn for the worse. In a way, I think it was a message to leave. I’ve only been out a month and a half (I left mid year) but I can already see “myself” coming back. My complexion is better, my relationships all around are better, especially the one with my son. I’ve also seen my health and energy return already.

    In one week I start my new job in an office and I can’t wait. I know that I will miss encouraging little brains to think deeper and more critically, but I have one little mind that deserves me more. To be honest, I deserve me more.

    Here’s to walking away from teaching in 2016 and never regretting it.

    • Thanks for sharing, I recently resigned from teaching 3rd grade. I have taught since 1998. There’s a lot of things I liked but much that I didn’t. I also had health challenges and school aged children. Currently, I’ve been a little frustrated and depressed about where to go to next. I believe I have skills that will transfer somewhere else, but where is the question. This decision to leave was difficult, but I felt a since of relief and peace,after I did it. I’m new to this blog and hoping some of the discussions and experiences will guide me towards what directions I should take next. I welcome any suggestions. This isn’t easy!

      • I failed to mention, I always felt guilty about leaving teaching after earning 2 degrees that aren’t paid for yet? I felt as though I’m failing myself in some way and sending the wrong messages for my children that letting go after investing so much is okay. Again this decision wasn’t easy.

      • Hi Toya, I’ve felt a similar guilt about not paying down my student loan (from the UK so is slightly less here) but instead saving the money to leave the corporate job I’d fallen into and figure things out myself. Someone close to me saw my guilt and said, truthfully, it’s the government who wanted me to go to uni (got a 1st class MSci) hence why the lone was available to me and if that path was not where I needed to go (it wasn’t) then I’m perfectly within my right to keep my savings (that I’d worked so hard for) to create my own path. This is what I’ve done and I’m now building up a portfolio career (this is getting more common for people like me in their 20’s) in which I never have to squish myself into a job contract again. Part of this is teaching (always wanted to be a teacher, but I saw how stressed my teachers were when I was a student so am doing what I can outside of school environments) and am currently offering a free ecourse based on the content of the recent politics in education summit (which sparked an enquiry by the UK Government into the ‘purpose’ of education) – very fun! The content is UK focused, but there are international examples and comparisons which may interest others – more info from here http://leahkstewart.com/welcome/ and happy to answer qus.

        In a nutshell; don’t worry about the message you send to students by following your heart because, right now, I believe being an example of someone following their own heart (and protecting their own well being) is the best example students can have. Take care of yourself and you’ll figure this out.

      • I’m sorry I’m just now seeing this a year later! It’s been a year and boy am I still happy with my choice.

        My advice to you or anyone that is looking to leave is to ask your non working friends for connections, use them as networks. You might have to start at entry level, but it’s a start.

        Also, educational technology, research, customer service (experience teachers have nerves of steel and extreme patience) are some starts. I’ve been doing educational software sales and my skillset transferred smoothly over. You are worth more than you realize and I wish you all the best!

  21. Thank you so much for this blog, I feel hope for the first time in a long while. I’ve been in education for 25 years, the last four in an FE college in the UK. I was excited to be teaching in my field when I moved back but I’ve been worn down further and further and I feel as if I have nothing left. I have to leave teaching for my own health but after being effectively “institutionalised” after so long in and around education I’m scared. I’m lucky to have a wonderful supportive wife and I know I was a good teacher, I cared, We have observations here and I was graded outstanding twice and good once. I used to get something back from my students, we enjoyed each other, learned so much from each other but now they don’t want to learn, can’t be bothered to think, don’t bother even trying to submit work. its just a warm place to be. I have long white hair now and a beard to match and while I know this sometimes causes comment, I can’t walk anywhere in my college without hearing the whispered giggles, Santa / Dumbledore..etc etc comments. I know I shouldn’t be so sensitive, and if its once in a while you learn to ignore it, but when its 20 times a day every day, its like so many tiny knives. The institution makes us do more and more with less and less, I’m in class 9 to 515 three days a week and for at least 4 hours each of the other days, having time to mark and prepare is a distant dream and I’m not prepared to neglect my family anymore for an institution that demand this and students who couldn’t care less. Even if I don’t mark at home, teaching is there constantly in the back of your mind, everything you do is done with that little eye looking for how you can use it in the classroom.

    I’m sorry for the rant, but I just want to say thankyou.. reading your blog has lifted my spirits, but I have to go, back to class

    • Hi Graham, I know many readers can relate to your story, including the feeling of being worn down yet scared to move on. So glad that the blog has lifted your spirits, and hope that you’re feeling even better as the end of the school year draws near. This summer will be a prime opportunity for you to restore your energy and figure out your next step. Hang in there!

  22. Thank you for this blog. I have not yet made a decision whether or not to pursue another career and leave teaching, but your posts help me feel much less lonely in my decision making. I am in my 3rd year of teaching 4th grade at a high-poverty school. I have received high praise by all administration for my high-energy, student engagement, and innovation. There are so many things I love about my job, but it breaks my heart and my spirit every day. I feel as if the educational system is set up in a way that makes it impossible to do my job the way I know it needs to be/ should be done. It is so frustrating to feel ultimately helpless when working with something so important: kids. This job is so important, and that’s kind of the problem I have. I feel I may not be morally or emotionally able to be a part of a broken, twisted system that in many ways hurts children who need the most healing. I come home physically and emotionally exhausted every day. I have also been married 3 years (we’ve been together for 10) and know that my exhaustion is taking a toll on my otherwise wonderful relationship with my husband.

    Some of the kids are amazing. Helping them grow and learn is sometimes humbling, rewarding, and awe-inspiring. I have literally cried with joy and skipped down the school halls with happiness on occasion. But the demoralization from parents, disrespectful, often violent students, the heavy workload, the pressures of testing, and the politics involved are sickening.

    What to do next? I’m stumped. The limbo of not knowing is perhaps the worst of all.

    • Hi Danae, glad you are feeling less alone! Just as many of us share your physical and emotional exhaustion from teaching, so too have we felt the deep satisfaction and joy that you describe. I think that’s part of what makes it so hard to leave, and I think that kind of gratification is hard to find in many other jobs. Still, it may be worthwhile to take time this summer to research other ways you can make an impact. Best of luck, whatever you decide!

  23. I’m so glad I found this (after googling something about what to do other than teaching) I agree with everything- especially about losing “confidence.” I’ve always been a confident person, but after 14 years of teaching, I am doubting myself constantly and feeling guilty about everything. Guilty that I am so grumpy- grumpy ALL the time, grumpy to my students, grumpy to my two small children. I can’t believe I’m still saying this, but I just can’t leave because of the “benefits.” Ugh… summers off, and health insurance for me and my children- I just can’t do without it. After 14 years and a Master’s degree I make decent money too, so I feel “trapped.” And I also feel like I have no one to talk to about it, so it has been nice reading this and the comments. I don’t feel so alone anymore.

    • Hi Holly, your story helped me feel less alone, too — I also used to feel guilty about feeling grumpy all the time, and trapped by the job benefits. I’m lucky that my health benefits now are actually better than before. And I’ve found that I don’t miss summers off since I get a true break from work every night and weekend. I understand that your calculation might be slightly different with children, not to mention your current salary, but keep in mind that a job with comparable benefits may be less elusive than you think!

  24. I taught in LAUSD for a couple of years. I saw how demoralizing it was to be a teacher. I love teaching but you just don’t get to do much of it these days in a public school. I hope that you will consider other places to teach. Right now, I teach at a private school and it is AMAZING. The administration is so supportive, the kids are so well behaved, and the parents are truly partners. The curriculum is set so there is no extra planning on weekends, and it really works – and students are really learning. I have 13 students in my class – I teach elementary. I am so glad to be where I am and even though I feel like I’ve “sold out” – I love that I can teach and have my sanity and time for my family when I get home.

    • Your current position sounds wonderful! Congrats on finding a way to keep what you love about teaching and forget the rest. Thanks for sharing — your story gives me good food for thought.

  25. I can tell just by the way that you thoughtfully express yourself that you are so much happier. I recently returned to the classroom, my second year back in it, after being home for 14 years with my children. I taught for 11 years prior to that. I hated it then and I hate it now. I am miserable and stressed, and I no longer care for myself or my family. I have gained 35 pounds in 19 months. I am definitely quitting at the end of this year. I will wait tables if I have to until I can find something else. I am amazed at anyone who can actually retire from this profession.

    • I’m sorry that your second round of teaching has taken such a toll on you and your family, and hope things have gotten better. I know it’s tough to find the time — or energy — but I encourage you to fight for your well-being during these last few months. That includes scheduling medical appointments, making plans with friends and family, and carving out time to just relax by yourself. Again, I know this is much easier said than done, especially when you have children. But when I think back to my own worst moments from teaching, I realize taking better care of myself would’ve helped immensely. Wishing you the best. Life after teaching is just a few months away!

  26. Thank you so much for this post. I was a public school teacher for 5 years. By the end I hated every second and felt like such a failure. I got a boring office job for a little bit but hated it too. I’m now an adjunct professor at a local community college and I love it! It’s a low-stress part-time gig (so it’s definitely not paying the bills) but it has all the positives of teaching with 1% of the discipline issues and 5% of the administrative BS

  27. Hello, I’m actually an Elementary Education major. I have one semester left before I graduate, but started having doubts about becoming a teacher because so many teachers have been telling me to turn back now before its too late. I was started to get nervous to about high expectations, high stress, my health, and the pay as well in the long run when it is no longer myself. I really need some advice. I would love it from somebody who has been on both sides. Thank you!

    • Hi Stephanie, I worked in the world of finance but decided to leave because I didn’t find it a challenge and wanted more of a career that interested me. I left 10 years ago and completed a 3 year degree followed by a one year pgce. I have now left teaching. I don’t regret turning my hand to teaching, but I hate the way it affected me and my life. I would spend many a night poured over my laptop at midnight still preparing for the next day of teaching wishing I could go back to the 9-5 world of finance. I too was told not to do it – even by my mum and sister who had already done it and resigned – but felt it would be different for me as I felt I would be able to manage the stress etc. My advice is if you have a husband/partner or kids then pursue an alternative career, but if you can fully dedicate your life to teaching then it can be very rewarding. See my post below…

  28. Hi, I left my secure and permanent Primary Teaching job after my request to transfer to part time or a job share was refused by my new Head Teacher. By that time I was so burnt out that I had no fight left in me and left for a period of ‘recovery’.

    After just a month I felt like the old me was beginning to emerge. I am still trying to repair all my broken relationships from years of my ignorance. I am grateful that my parents are still around so I still have the chance to do this. I feel unbelievable love towards my husband who has stuck by me and I will always remember his comment when I made the final decision to resign: “I love you and I’ll be so glad to get my wife back”. I feel deep sadness that I am about to pack my eldest daughter off to university, and wish I could have the last 5 years with her back. Tears are welling up in my eyes just writing this.

    After the years dedicating myself to others via the profession, costing me these relationships, I was saddened to receive not one birthday card last week from anyone but my family. Lesson learnt: I have lost contact with my old friends who quite simply gave up trying to contact me and I have already been forgotten by those friends who I now realise were colleagues. I am determined to put this wrong right.

    After a couple of months post teaching, I felt renewed enough to apply for new non-teaching jobs. I am proud of the fact that I only applied for 4 jobs and got an interview for them all. I love my new job – it is sooooo different! I am a wedding registrar with the local council. I get to travel around different wedding venues and marry people. It feels like a dream job. I feel so lucky each time I arrive at work. It feels right.

    So why do I feel a sadness today as my colleagues return to work for the new term? Why am I being drawn to considering going on Supply on a Monday and Tuesday to support my Registrar work through the leaner winter months? This blog has helped me remember how I felt at the point I left. I have made so much progress since then. I will not become that person 6 months again – I must stay away for my own health – physically, mentally and emotionally. I just hope life will be as good to me now as it has been recently and open me a new pathway to follow for a supplementary job.

  29. I love your blog! It makes me feel like my opinion about leaving the teaching fields actually matters. I’m in no position to leave the field until my husband’s career is stable, but I’m hoping that soon there will be options for me. I feel like the guilt will kill me more than anything to leave kids and parents who actually appreciate the work I do. Sometimes, appreciation doesn’t pay the bills or keep me stress free from all of the politics!

    Keep your head up too, it seems like you have made the right decision!

  30. I’m trying to leave teaching this year after my sixth year of teaching and I’m scared. But I know it’s the right thing to do. Your blog posts have helped me and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t read them more than once 🙂

  31. Thank you for sharing your experience. I taught elementary education for 13 years. June 2015 was my final goodbye to being a full time classroom teacher. I knew it was time for me to walk away in order to keep my sanity. I love working with children. However, the politics of the profession and the lack of support and resources by administrators were too much to bear. I am content with my decision.

  32. “Years of answering to hundreds of people — be they students, parents, or administrators — often made me question my judgment. In fact, the longer I taught, the less confident I felt in what I was doing. As my old colleague used to say, “’Teaching makes me feel bad about myself every day.’”

    This. Just this. I’m in my 13th year of teaching and my depression and anxiety are at an all-time high because of dealing with unreasonable parents and knowing that my administrator will likely not have my back. I have a Master’s degree and am National Board certified. I used to think of myself as smart and capable, and now every time I have to justify a decision, I feel less smart and less capable. I’m ready to leave teaching, but I can’t leave until I have something else lined up. If I can’t find something in spring or early summer, I either have to teach another full year or pay a hefty fee to break my contract. I feel trapped.

    Thank you for this website. I really needed it today and am sure I will come back to it almost daily until I find a way out.

    • When I left teaching, I was incredibly scared, but I didn’t exactly have a choice. I was in a situation where as a new teacher, I was not nurtured or supported. Everyone saw the manipulation set for me to fail so I’d leave. But at the same time, I also saw experienced teachers having to justify their decisions. These were teachers that were actively updating themselves on curriculum and strategies. The types that you want to keep at a disadvantaged school. In the end, we left and now the school is considered hard to staff.

      For myself, I went on to pay a career coach to help me figure myself out and rewrite my resume. I started this process in January because I could see the writing on the wall and knew what my admin was planning. Then I went to temping for a while with an agency that was smaller and had more connections with non-profits. I am now working at a non-profit and earning the same salary as I was when I was teaching. Strangely enough, I’ve been utilizing some teaching strategies to train new staff that we’ve hired.

      My former co-worker now has left the school I was at to work at school closer to her home but the salary is $10,000 less. She was getting run into the ground before so the change was intensely needed even with less pay.

      I hope you’ve found something by the time you read this. If not, it does take time and the patience needed while trying to find something else is understandably excruciating. Don’t lose hope because that’s when the fight to move forward ends.

      • Thanks for your comments, Michelle. I haven’t found anything else yet but am still looking and asking friends in other industries to let me know of openings I’d be a fit for. My back-up plan is to work as many side jobs as possible so I can retire in 12 years when I’m 55. I’m glad you were able to get out and find some else you enjoy!

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