You are here

9 Reasons To Quit Teaching (And 10 Reasons To Stick)

Life as a teacher can be awfully challenging. While the challenges change as we gain experience, there are always new ones. It can be an awfully lonely time for many teachers. This article looks at 9 reasons to quit teaching and also raises 10 reasons to stick with teaching.


Think of the many reasons you have to quit teaching

  1. Bad students
  2. Bad administrators
  3. Bad curriculum
  4. Too much paperwork
  5. Too much negativity
  6. Too much responsibility
  7. Not enough time
  8. Not enough credit
  9. Not enough PAY

Face it, you are not as good of a teacher as you could be. You’re not living up to your potential. Nobody is.

Where am I?

Seth Godin says that you are in The Dip (What’s The Dip?). This is that place where it feels like nothing you do matters. Things were going so well until you hit The Dip. It’s when you get to that point where you realize that indeed, the honeymoon is over. When the tide has turned and things are not as easy as they once were? The Dip is where both champions and quitters are proven. The picture shows you where The Dip is.

I wrote about The Dip previously, but never really sat down and applied it to education directly. I was thinking about this today and realized that it would be a great thing to address.

So just how does The Dip apply to teaching?

Many teachers spend their entire career in The Dip. They say that most teachers quit before their sixth year of teaching. Those who quit felt that they were either in a Cliff or a Cul-de-sac, as demonstrated in this picture.

I would suggest that most people who begin teaching are in The Dip. The question you must ask yourself is, Am I ready to get through this thing? If you are, then there’s some good news!

You can get through it. It simply takes hard work, great classroom management skills, and a desire to be the best teacher in the world. Look around this site for some ideas of how to push through to success. I suggest going to The Total Teacher Transformation or Questions That Will Save Your Career.

So why should we keep teaching anyway?

  1. Because children are worth it
  2. Because you are passionate about your subject matter
  3. Because there is more personal satisfaction in this field than any other
  4. Because giving of yourself is truly living
  5. Because you have something valuable to share
  6. Because you enjoy learning
  7. Because you need to make a difference in lives
  8. Because there are too many teachers who don’t want to be teaching
    If you’re one of them, then maybe you should reread the list at the top and find a new profession that won’t allow you to make a negative difference in lives
  9. Christmas Break
  10. Summer Vacation
See also  Whitespace

Has this article helped you to decide to stick with teaching? Please leave a comment below and let me know? Has it helped you decide to quit teaching? Also comment and let me know.

Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

79 thoughts on “9 Reasons To Quit Teaching (And 10 Reasons To Stick)

  1. There is no doubt that I am currently in the dip (as opposed to actually BEING the dip…). I could be a much better teacher. I’m still trying to figure out exactly HOW to go about implementing that, but I know I’m nowhere near the ceiling.

    On another note, I dropped your book in the mail today, and you should have it within the year. :)

  2. Joel, this is a really good post. Sometimes, I do wonder if I’m making the right decision going into teaching. But I just can’t see myself doing anything else.

  3. Shanti, you rock! I am so glad to read that from you! You probably don’t realize it, but you really just made my year.

  4. You should also add “part time job at full pay wages”. Thats a huge benefit, how about you take one year off from teaching and work in the real world, where you would make less money, only receive one week paid vacation, you wouldn’t be given ‘planning days’ every other week, and you would have to work on most holidays.

    I think if teachers were forced to do this, they would run back to taching and thank God they have the opportunity to teach.

    1. What on earth are you talkin about??? I work 60 plus hours a week during the school year! I’ve never had a planning day!

  5. Mr. Frap,
    In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “You sir, are an idiot.”
    I worked in the “real world” for 4 years before I entered teaching, and so I know the ins and outs of both careers. To call teaching a “part-time job” and to say that we get planning days every other week just shows a lack of knowledge on your part.
    Sure, there are pros and cons to both career paths, but in my experience, I find that teaching is a MUCH more time-consuming, stressful, physically draining job than my old corporate job. Aside from the summer vacation, I got most of the same holidays off that I do now, I got a relaxed, 1 hour+ lunch every day, and I wasn’t on my feet, in the spotlight, being watched all the time, every day.
    For all the people who think teaching is just an 8 to 3 job, with 3 months paid vacation, I would invite YOU to try truly teaching for a year. And then to rip off your eloquent ending, Mr. Frap (if that truly IS your real name), you would run back to your job in the “real world” and thank God that you didn’t have to be a teacher.
    Hallelujah — holy crap. Where’s the Tylenol?

  6. The 9 numbered list scared me. But, the 10 numbered list brought me back!
    I’m in the credential program now.

    The news, and all the bad stuff scares me. But the faces of kids, and their antics; teen-agers’ smiles, laughter, etc., etc., brings me back….and yes, I DO love my subject matter (English Lit).

    I’m gonna keep going and see what happens, God willing: I’ll make it over the dip sooner or later! (btw: I LOVE that movie, “The Mission.”)

  7. @Joel – Yup, Shanti rocks and so does this list. It’s important to frame why we are doing what we do and I think this post can help do just that.

    I’ve been teaching for 12 years. 2 years ago I completed an MA in Human Systems Intervention and left the classroom to become a consultant. That lasted a year. I’m going to begin my 2nd year at a public high school near Montreal in August. In fact, today I am going to meet with the head teacher of the alternative school that is housed within the walls of the high school and hopefully move over there, working with students in their last 2 years of high school who are struggling academically and behaviourally. I’m psyched and hope I fit in there!

    There is NOTHING that beats the relationships you build in a classroom and in a school.

  8. Great posts. Love the part when you talked about the dip. I see that everyday. Have you heard of Rafe Esquith, another great. Check him out when you get a chance.

  9. This post touched me.

    I’m in my first year teaching 6th grade self-contained Special Education in a poor Baltimore city middle school that hasn’t made AYP in several years. I’m 21 and I moved down here from the Western hills of Massachusetts to work in the city. A lot of culture shock. I’ve worked with “urban youth” for the past four years in college in after-school programs I created and as a teacher’s assistant in a 3rd grade classroom, but nothing has been like this. NOTHING.

    “You think you know, but you don’t.”

    Your posts remind me that I want to be a teacher. I just have messed up so much this year already, in so many ways (but especially classroom management-wise) that I don’t know if I’ll be able to fix things. I’m really sick and haven’t been able to go to the doctor because of my stupid schedule… I have been working til 10pm each night on lesson plans that never get enacted because of fights and then passing out still in my clothes and glasses, only to dream about my kids some more.

    I suck at teaching. But I know that there’s a good teacher somewhere inside of me. And even if I lost my job this year, I will find a way to get another one and try again, because your last list of 10 is completely 100% true.


  10. I am currently an elementary general music teacher and I do not like the details of my job. I have too many students, 25 per class plus mainstreamed deaf/hearing impaired students + 4-8 extra students, I have each class for 30 minutes (well, once they get seated I’ve got 25 left, I have to stop 5 minutes early to line them up, so I’ve got a 20 minute class), I have a lunch break per day and a 30 minute catch-my-breath period, but I also have two 3-hour time blocks that I can’t go to the restroom, 11 classes a day.

    If students act up, the rules say I cannot send students to the office for misbehavior until I have called home and spoken to the parents…which is done afterschool, on my own time. I was recently accused of child abuse because I offered a piece of tape to a first grader to apply to his mouth because he couldn’t be quiet; since I wasn’t allowed to send him to the office, I was trying creative ways to handle discipline on my own. The dad talked the mom out of any charges. It is crazy because I am so not abusive to these kids

    Even after going through college, investing all this time and finally having tenure after 4 years in my school district, I am thinking about finding another job/career. It’s not about the money so much as it is the stress of trying to get a normal amount of work done….on my own time when I still want to have a family, and continue to train for Ironman triathlons.

    If you want to be a teacher, be prepared not to have a life, be prepared to take payment in the form of “satisfaction” because you will not be paid monetarily for the extra hours you put in. I’m paid for 35 hours a week, but I work about 50-55 hours weekly. Schools are crawling with germs, the common cold, the flu, lice, chicken pox, strep throat, pink eye…etc. Don’t get behind on sleep or you’ll get these illnesses, and then won’t be able to recover because they’ll be reintroduced every day. Oh, and if you want a sub, then you have to do all your work the day ahead of time so that the sub can execute your plans on the day you want to rest. But, if the sub doesn’t complete the plans, or is unsuccessful, you have to do twice the work when you go back. If you want to take a week vacation over that long Jan – June stretch, well, you’re not going to get paid for some of those days because you only get 3 paid-days off per year.

    I do like to teach, but I can’t get a break. If I want to go to a conference, I have to pay for it out of pocket. Conference fees can be upwards of $500 plus food, plus accomodation! If I need any supplies for my classroom, guess where that money comes from. I’m required to join the PTA for $10, this and that committee for $25 each and then I’m required to buy a school spirit shirt that I’m required to wear every Friday.

    Is this the dip? Maybe I’m there. Teaching is the one profession that makes everything else possible. Why would anyone shaft the teachers? We should be celebrities. We are all these things in the eyes of anyone who does not have to pay us, the children, the parents, the communities. We, the teachers, are such a part of these children’s lives, and the future, why aren’t there more of us? Why isn’t this a sought-after place to be? Since it is so important, and no one can dispute that, why can’t we make it more desireable and less like a sweat shop?

    I’m not surprised at all that people don’t teach more than 5 or 6 years. The conditions are horrible. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why we can’t meet AYP; it’s because there aren’t teachers to teach each kid. How does a kid get individual attention when there are 25 or 30 other kids in the room also needing individual attention?

    When most parents talk to me or other teachers, they say, “thank you for the effort that you took to do this for my child” or “That was such a great production, I can’t believe these kids can do that!” If only parents could decide paychecks or working conditions…

    Ok, I’m done.

    1. i appreciate your brutal honest. I think a lot of teacher like to gloss over reality in favor of idealism, but hang in there!

  11. I @Janel
    I suck at teaching too (2nd year), but I, also, think there is a good teacher inside of me. I hope she comes out of hiding soon!

    1. and i thought i was the only teacher who felt i wasn’t all the great at teacher. we are all greatly gifted. we take the good with the bad. we are not the job. it is something we do with great gusto, love, passion, and compassion. our noble profession is a good one. no it will not always be perfect, but everyday, we get a little better.

  12. @Kona Goodrich

    I know what you mean. I teach elementary general music plus four different bands in my school. It’s a mid sized Christian school in Texas. You’re right about not having a life outside of your students’. It is hard to pace yourself so you can have some “ME” time.

    I’m in my second year of teaching full time and it wasn’t until last week, that I decided I need some ME time, too. So, I left school on Friday with nothing but my purse. I vegged out in front of the TV, slept until noon on Saturday and never looked back. Sometimes, you just have to!

    As a music teacher, we get off a little easier than the classroom teachers because our grades don’t hold as much weight. Luckily, I have my grades done for the quarter so I can pretty much wait until next quarter and do some fun stuff that I wouldn’t normally teach in a unit.

    As for the time thing: I used to have problems not getting everything done in one class period and running over time all the time. This year, I have a timer and I choose one student from each class to be the “Time Keeper” for the month. It signals when there are 10 minutes and 5 minutes left. Like your classes, mine are also 30 minutes. I always set the timer for 25 just in case. It just seems to work out better that way. We get things done and there’s very little dead time. Joel mentioned that when there’s excessive dead time, the kids panic and that’s when everyone gets restless and starts doing things they shouldn’t. My classes range in size from about 15-21. My classes were MUCH bigger last year and I am thankful for the change! I did have a handful of ADHD kids and that did cause some of the delays in my classes. Thankfully, most of those kids transferred out to another school in the district or were promoted to middle school where general music class turns into a first year band class and most do not choose that as an elective.

    One thing I’ve found to be the underlying source of strength through all this is: just love the kids. That’s what they really want anyway. Once you master this, everything else should fall into place, especially with the younger set. They know when you like them and they will respond accordingly. You’d be surprised at what a sticker says to a kid who’s having a bad day! :o)

  13. @Emily – You struck on the key point with your last paragraph there. It’s so hard, but loving the kids will ultimately make things work smoother. Sometimes they don’t understand that discipline and a loud voice is love…

  14. @Joel – I just call that a perk! Thank goodness I took voice lessons or I’d be straining it on many an occasion!

    That’s one thing I have accomplished in spite of all the other little management issues. I just love on them and get so many rewards money couldn’t buy even if they could afford to pay me that much. Just seeing the kids smile because they get it means “My job here is finished” and I can move on. when I had my evaluation meeting last week that was one of the first things they noticed is that I care about the kids more than anything. The parents notice this, too and tell me that they appreciate that I actually TEACH their kids music and not some fluff like previous music teachers.

    I worked in a couple before and after school programs prior to this job, along with teaching a kindergarten program in a public school. It was more than day care, it was a life experience. I know I was teaching practical life skills that the kids could relate to and even tweak to make them their own. Just seeing their reactions and delight told me that they had learned the skill and were excited to practice it on their own.

    That’s why I love teaching. I just know the delight will come back to me ten-fold – even in my moments of “crisis” such as my 7th & 8th grade band. I have hope and a sturdy set of Classroom Procedures all fired up and ready to be implemented. Wish me luck- here’s goes nothing!!!

  15. @Emily – Good deal. I went in today happy. I was going to have fun whether I liked it or not. You know what? It worked! I look for positives. I’ll write more about that and what I do in the morning…

  16. @Joel – Well, I’m on the second day of recapturing my band class. you know what? They’re kinda mad at me right now, but I’m not taking to heart. I think they realized I mean business this time and they’ve lost the control factor. I told them it wasn’t personal but in order for this work, I have to be “grouchy” for about a week. I let them know I still love them but right now, I have to be strict about a lot things. Ya, know by the end of the period and few getting written up, we had some success and they played like they meant it.

  17. @Emily – Keep it up! Stay consistent. Be a benevolent dictator in the classroom. Love is not always permissive. It often comes in the form of a paddle. Being strict (or “having high expectations”) is a great thing. I enjoy hearing how things are going.

  18. @Joel – I had to turn in quarter grades this weekend. Many of the kids haven’t turned in a practice chart or homework at all. I gave them grace but still haven’t received any work from several students. These same students come in day after day and give their best during rehearsals. They’re attentive and always bring their instruments but have yet to do much outside the classroom. I have spoken with my principal about this and she said it’s fine to put “zeros” in the book for those who have not turned in any written assignment. I’m ready to get some nasty emails and phone calls but in the end, I DIDN’T GRADE the kids – they graded themselves. On the report cards, it will have a nice big “U” after Band. I hope they don’t take it as I hate their child. I, of course, don’t but what are you gonna do???

    Am I right to have Practice charts worth 40% of their overall grade? I think I have that right as long as they are under my direction. Being prepared and participating in the class are always good things but they don’t weigh as much in the grading process. I also have an Extra Credit section for things they participate in outside of school. And finally, the Assignments section. Of course because we’re in band, I don’t make them write long term papers or anything. Once in a while, if I think they’re missing the point of a piece, I will have them do some research and write a well-thought-out paragraph explaining their interpretation the song. for those who have done what I asked them to, the music was performed with a higher quality than before and the audience fell in love with the band and started asking us to play more often in public.

    Anyway, thank you for taking them time to help me with this. I don’t really feel guilty but I want the kids to know that they can’t give up on themselves and that band is not a free ride!

    1. Joel,
      I’ve just happened upon these posts via a link from the MENC website, and while I know it was posted a while ago, I thought I’d share.

      Our practice records are considered homework and by our middle school policies, homework cannot count more than 10% of the quarter grade. I don’t know that I would count practice records as high as 40%, simply due to the nature of the home life a lot of my kids have. But that percentage is up to you, as long as you have admin. approval. You are right that the kids earned the grade on their report card; I give that lecture every time I deal with grades with the kids. If you have a bunch of complaints from parents, I would suggest including this philosophy in a handbook next year, that gets approved by the principal, so you have it in writing and the parents are informed ahead of time. That is my plan for next year, because there were too many unknowns this year that kids acted surprised about. I do allow them to make up any playing test grades by the end of the quarter and so a couple of weeks before the end of the quarter I give them a slip of paper with things they can make up including the grade they currently have in the grade book. Unless I forsee a day where we would have time to make-up those tests in class, they have to come afterschool to make up their test.

      I hope your year has gone well, and thanks for these articles/posts. I’m in the make-it-or-break-it fifth year, headed to my sixth and treading water in the dip. At some point I’ll be standing again.

  19. I hit the dip sometime last year – dealing with the loss of my dad & helping my mum get back on her feet, teaching a Kinder class with 13/22 students NESB / First Phase language learners, one not toilet trained and with eating issues, one with serious behaviour issues (behaviour support team were clueless as to how to deal), one who had major heart surgery 2 weeks before the start of the school year, one whose own dad died halfway thru the year – she stopped talking for three months, one whose parents were going thru a messy divorce with abduction threats on both sides, another whose baby sister died at 3days old, plus coaching the senior choir, leading the maths team and taking responsibility for the kinder math program. It was all too much. This year I took leave without pay and headed off overseas to see the world, take some time out and have some much needed ME time. I’m back at work at the moment substituting and having a great time. In January ’09 I’ll go back full time on a year two class, and while it means I’ll hook up with some of last years kids I’m feeling excited about having my own class again, a change of scenery and a new curriculum to teach. I’ve also got a fresh perspective on life as a non-language speaker after experiences in other countries and had some time to see what goes on in other schools / classrooms and get a different perspective on what went on in my room last year (things I could have changed, things that I couldn’t change and things I’m proud of).

  20. Emily: Do you have a recent update? How’s everything turning around for you and your class? Is it as easy as you thought? Harder?

  21. becka_kate: I am so glad to hear that things are looking more positive for you! What would you say was the most important thing that you did to help turn the situation around? Was it getting out of that setting and getting some alone time or something else?

  22. Hi –
    I think for me it was getting out of the situation and having some time on my own without the day to day pressures to reflect on the situation and realise that with the one particular child who was giving me the most grief there was really nothing more I could have done to help her. Without having that time, and still being in a situation where I would have seen her everyday (and believe me, if I do a day’s sub-teaching at that school she locks to my location on with a radar beam!) I don’t know that it would have worked out.
    It also helps that I know I’m going onto a Grade Two class next year, even though it means I will get some of last years kids again. I’ve been assured by the powers that be that “that” child won’t be in my room so that’s a relief too.

  23. Life in my classroom has not been easy. I’ve instituted the “letter of the Law? with new set of Classroom Procedures about two and half weeks ago. That gave us a good direction to go in. Of course, that was right before the 8th graders (who were most of the problem) went to Washington SC for a week-long field trip. During that week, it was so peaceful, you could hear a pin drop and I had my kids back! It helped to see the real potential in the group that I hadn’t since these kids were in sixth grade last year. I knew I had trained them right! The dynamic in this particular group is just crazy. it’s like mixing a spoonful of sugar into ice cold water and stirring REALLY hard: some of it will melt and most of it won’t! That’s to say some of them get along great and others, well, you can’t please everyone all the time.

    But the as reluctant as the kids are to the rules, they’re starting to see that following them consistently is paying off, even when we have set backs, like we did today. We’re getting more done during the period and even the principal is noticing the change in the decibels coming the room. I make them clean up and line up before I let them leave the room. I can’t even open the door unless they’re quiet. Some of them complain they’re late for the next class (which is often not true) but they also know I won’t write them a pass either and that it’s on their head if they’re not quiet. Two can play at that game.

    I’m not saying it’s a piece of cake because it’s far from it, but I see little changes everyday as the kids are getting used the fact I’m not going to let down and have even gone as far to call parents and let them in on what’s going on.

    When the 8th graders got back, I gave a quiz on the Classroom Procedures. Interestingly, they all got an 85 or above which tells me, even if they didn’t read all of it, they got the point I was after and they know better. I may give a few more like that and start quizzing them on basic music theory that all of them should be familiar. After all, band’s a class just like English and they elected to be there and not drama, although, you wouldn’t know it!

  24. becka_kate: How exciting! I’m glad that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train. :) Thanks again for your comments and encouragement for other readers.

    Emily: I always find that great classroom management takes more work in the beginning, and it requires you to stay on your toes. The trade-off is that you go home each night and can actually see the progress you made in the class, rather than being frustrated that you couldn’t get anything done.

  25. One thing I can definitely see a difference as far as improvements go: they now come in, get their instrument and music and have a seat before class actually starts!! Yay! It’s almost like clockwork.

    We’re working on our schedule during the class period, they seem to know what comes next without too much prompting but for some reason they can’t stop talking. I’ve tried counting to five, giving special attention to those who are doing what I asked them. nothing seems to work. There is a mark system in tact throughout the middle school where if a student “earns” five marks in a week, they get a detention with the principal. In some ways, this seems extreme for talking. However, I do give out marks when necessary. Sometimes, it stops them in their tracks and other times, not so much.

    I’ve considered handing out reinforcement by having the chatterboxes write sentences during class. Is this a good idea? Just trying to think of somethings I know they really don’t like doing but isn’t to the extreme of detention.

  26. Emily: Have you called home? Have you had the students call home? Especially in a private school setting, the parents would love to know that their children are not allowing you to teach or the other students to learn. Something about wasting money seems to go a long way.

    Calling home works really well even for public school. When they call home, they explain that they were talking and they explain that they have detention either that same day or the next day (your call on that one).

    Check out Calling Home for further info…

  27. We had a wonderful day in band today. things are really starting to look good and even sound good. I made a step further towards organization and gave each of my percussionists their own binder filled with EVERY percussion for each song we’re playing. You know, this solved a lot of the confusion that we’ve been experiencing. I’ve decided from now on, this will be the way it is for ANY percussionist that comes through the door. I tried this last year and it worked really well.

    I had a conversation with the middle school principal and she’s noticed things are a lot better in my class since I’ve been coming on here for advice. I’m also taking a graduate class on how to teach different learning styles. I think I’m right when I say that we’re on the road to mending this classroom management problem. I know I don’t want to travel down that wrong path again. It kinda blew up in my face.

    today, the kids sounded like a real band for first time in a while. We actually played through two pieces without stopping and I even had a “commercial break” in between to sing some silly camp songs with them. I found that if I give a little, they give a TON. And even better, they completely cleaned up the room after practice and were QUIET when they left! I’m still shaking my head in disbelief that this is that same class that had zillions of issues two weeks ago. I’m praying that tomorrow is just as much of a breeze as it was today. In fact, they’re doing so well that I may give them one more piece to learn for the Christmas concert next month.

  28. I thought this was an interesting article and I thought the various links to click were informative and interesting.

  29. Well, we’re in the homestretch of concert season. As the only music teacher at my school, I am officially responsible for EVERYTHING: from preparing the music to writing introductions and the programs. nothing short of handing them out as well.

    I’ve found this year to be particularly difficult since I don’t have any help and I don’t feel appreciated nearly as much as I did last year at this time. Today, I realized exactly how back-burnered I am at this school or at least the program itself. My band kids had to not only set up the stage for a fifteen minute dress rehearsal but also clean it up completely right after, get to class and hopefully, be on time. We had to take everything down and stash it in a closet because we couldn’t leave it up there due to chapel tomorrow morning. There won’t be any further rehearsals on the stage and their concert is tomorrow night! I’m furious and very stressed out. I don’t remember it being like this at all last year (my first year) I’m feeling REALLY dumped on. And what’s worse, my email privileges have been all but stripped from me and I have to get ALL correspondence approved before I send it out. That stresses me out because I can’t just send home emails letting parents know what’s going on in my own words like I did before. What now????

    It’s almost like they just want me to leave and move on.I’m not liking that vibe at all. On top of all this my quarterly evaluation is coming up and I’m scared that they won’t renew my contract for next year.

    I don’t think I’m a bad teacher. The kids love me and I know they’re learning because their work and their smiles prove it. I think I need a sticker…..

  30. part of my reason for burn out: other teachers

    sort of what was said earlier about negativity…it’s not even negativity, it’s more like apathy!!

    sorry if this posts a million times, but i kept hitting the submit button

  31. Apathy. I think you hit the nail on the head there. Apathetic students are to be expected. Apathetic teachers ought to be relocated!

  32. Joel, would you explain more about what you mean by cliffs and cul-de-sacs?

    I have just become (this year) a support provider / mentor to beginning teachers (California’s induction program, BTSA, requires new teachers to complete certain classroom-based tasks before they can receive their Clear Credential), and this idea could be very useful for me in this context. How do you recognize a cliff, and how do you recognize a cul-de-sac?

  33. These reasons are very insightful. I have been at it in one way or another since 1971, and have gone through the dip and the culdesac and the failure and the reward and the success, and now as I reach the end years of the career I can take a look back and say, yeah, it was a good run. There were times when I thought I was nuts, and times when I really was, but there also were times when I looked at a kid leaving school on the last day and thought that without me here this year he may not have made it. So, yeah.

    I have written a novel about a veteran middle school teacher in a suburban school. It is called “You’re Never Too Old For Space Camp.” The first chapter can be viewed on my website A press release is available at Click on “Education”.
    The book will be available in April, 2009.
    Thanks for the site. It is very informative and entertaining.

  34. I am severely in the dip. This is a result of taking my craft (teaching) too seriously. With everything I do, I put my heart and soul to a point of disappointment. The students I currently teach do not reciprocate all of the motivation, passion, and care for receiving the privilege of education. I often contend with blatant disrespect, being called out of one’s name, threatened physically, etc. I talk with colleague and friends in the profession and it appears as if the Boards of Education do not care. I am disillusioned about my career choice. Why should I continue to care when the students and their parents are not fully vested in public education?

  35. Tom, sounds good. I’m excited for you for getting your first (maybe?) book out.

    Eric, I think your frustration is common for most of us. When we first realize that other people don’t care about our passion quite as much as we do, it’s disheartening. That doesn’t make what you’re doing any less valuable.

    When I was in high school, I would get upset about how many people left the football stands while the band was playing at halftime. I thought how disrespectful they were being to us, and how rude it seemed. But then I realized they were there to socialize, or watch the football game, or get away from their parents for a while or whatever else. Their reason for being there was not the same as mine. But even so, I was doing something useful by marching. I was building character, my love for music was growing, and I was experiencing teamwork beyond what anyone up there getting nachos was.

    The bottom line: Do what you know is right for you to be doing. Don’t look to other people for validation. If the time comes when you have something better (not easier) to do with your life, then pursue that with equal or greater passion. Hang in as long as is reasonably and logically possible…

  36. This is a great post that helps me stay with the field of education. I had a principal tell me yesterday that we do not teach a subject matter, we teach kids. This was a great thing for me to hear as a practicing teacher. I really like the last two which are summer vacation and Christmas vacation, but this is not the reason to become a teacher. In today’s world, the teachers that believe this are the ones who hate going to work everyday. As educators, we should love teaching everyday.

  37. I really enjoy reading articles like these. I am in my junior year of teacher education and I still find myself asking questions like, “Is this what I really want to do?” and “Am I cut out for this?” It helps a great deal to look into the blunt and true realities of the field of education. It’s great when the facts are laid out on the line, like so, so I can better organize my thoughts and feelings, without being totally overwhelmed!

  38. Tyler, you are right that breaks aren’t the best thing about teaching. I won’t deny that they are perks of the job, but definitely not THE reason to go into teaching. I honestly don’t think anyone goes into education just so that they can get a couple of months off each year. At least I desperately hope they don’t! :)

  39. I hit the dip this year. Hard.

    Ive been kind of warming up to it over the past year or so…last year I felt like I was stagnating a bit. This year, it feels like I can do nothing right. Which, of course, is patently untrue, and fortunately some of my parent conferences earlier in the year were very positive, with most parents being pleased about how things were going for their children.

    Fortunately, the great teacher network I’ve built online has me excited about teaching in a way I haven’t been in some time. Even if the mix of students that I have this year doesn’t seem to work well, I totally geek out about lots of stuff I see people doing and desperately want to try them out. Not always a reality, unfortunately, but the very ideas themselves are exciting.

  40. Dan,

    I’ve had years like that. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? I think anyone who has been teaching for more than a handful of hours can probably relate!

    It’s amazing what online support networks can do, especially if you happen to be teaching far away from where you grew up and don’t have too many friends. It definitely gives us an outlet and something (productive) to do with our free time! Good for you. :)

  41. It’s been a while since I posted anything on here. so here goes….

    We’ve just entered the fourth quarter and I think I finally figured out what makes my middle bands tick. I don’t to admit this but it’s the solid truth of the matter: kids like normal classrooms with straight rows and away from people that annoy them. So, I have “mainstreamed” all of my bands and conformed them to two straight rows and one stand for every kid UNLESS it’s obvious they get along. In some ways, this has come as a relief to me and the kids.So, why on earth did it take me most of the school year to figure this out???

    Well,I think I have an answer. Kids need discipline and even if band isn’t a “regular” class, setting it up this way provides the structure needed to maintain a class setting for learners who aren’t always on top of their game. The result? The kids are happier, I’m happier and they’re playing more as an ensemble than just a bunch of chaotic noise.

    I’m currently taking a grad class that deals specifically with learning differences. But most of the strategies introduced can and do work for those who don’t have learning differences such as dyslexia or another issue. It has made house into a climate made for learning, playing and evaluating.

    I think every teacher, regardless of how many years they’ve been in the classroom, needs to have a “Things to Do Differently Next Year” book with them at all times to pick out things that need to be changed for the next time. My middle school has one and has all of us middle school teachers using them. Comes in handy when faculty meetings happen, too.

    Thank goodness for Spring Break next week!

    1. Emily, I love your idea re having a “Things To Do Differently” book. I’m in my 8th year, and I have a lot of things that can go in that book for my 9th year!

    2. the Middle School principal at my school helped me to start one at the beginning of this year.She’s been keeping one since the beginning of her tenure at the school over 10 years ago.

      I won’t be able to use this book this next year because I will no longer be working at this school. In fact, I’m returning to college to complete my state certification. I’m sorta sad about that.

      After successfully starting an elementary band program, the admins have pulled the entire band program school wide which means I’m out of a job for now.

  42. I really enjoy your blog, and especially this article. I am just about to begin my student teaching to complete my undergraduate degree in elementary education. Teaching has been the only profession I have ever thought about doing, but of course it will not be perfect. I know I will have bad students, bad administrators, and some years will be much harder than others. The only thing that caught me off guard was numbers 9 and 10 in the “reasons to stay”. I feel that too many teachers consider staying in their profession because of winter and summer breaks. If you are teaching, you are there for the students, not for the time off. It hurts me to think that students look up to their teachers so much, and some teachers are always counting down for the weekend or the next break.

  43. My teacher agrees to all of the things to stop teaching and only one reason to stop teaching. I sure hopes she stops!!!!!! She is the worst teacher in the history of horrible teachers!!!

    1. Jessica, what is it that makes your teacher, in your opinion, an ineffective teacher?

      You mentioned that she agrees with all of the reasons to stop teaching…did you talk to her about it? If so, can you politely share with her some of the things she does that make it difficult for you to learn?

      For example, you could say, “Ms. X, when we do _________, it’s hard for me to learn. Could we do __________ instead?”

      The fact that you read an educational blog suggests that you’re a thoughtful student. I value all of my students’ opinions, but especially the ones that come from thoughtful students. I also really appreciate it when students have an alternative plan–instead of just saying, “I don’t like this,” it’s helpful if they say, “This isn’t working for me, but _____________ would be better for me.” I wonder if talking to your teacher about your frustrations in this way might help both of you?

  44. Hey!!!

    I am so exhausted and so dramatically discouraged of this career that I really feel like quiting…

    I am a teacher who is specialized in languages. I teach in Elementary level and well, it is hard to be teaching 4 different subjects and having extreme amounts of paper work to do all at the same time… I confess it is my first time teaching the 4 main subjects and well, I guess I am going through the hardest time ever in my teaching career. My job at this school is going to end up soon and I honestly do not know what to do next…

  45. Joel:

    You are to be commended for providing a wealth of excellent and very valid information on this site. You not only offer great inspiration to those educators who may be temporarily struggling yet want to become the best teachers they can be, but you also let them know that it is OK to leave the profession if the circumstances warrent it (“Valid reasons to quit”.)

    Of course, sometimes the circumstances are thrust upon the teachers in the form of cutbacks, excessing, etc. As devastating as that is, if these professionals cannot find another suitable teaching position, there are many other personally satisfying careers they can enter. Though it may not be their first choice, often teachers who change professions find themselves very satisfied in their new careers if they select wisely. You are absolutely correct in your statement that great teachers are everywhere, not only in the classroom.

    Just about every teacher that I have worked with who was looking to change careers still wanted to do something that utilized his or her teaching skills and passion-just not in a classroom situation. Careers that utilize the many skills and passions that teachers possess are out there. Who says that the only place a teacher can find fulfilling work is in a classroom?

  46. Money makes the world go round, and I imagine that your nineth point is one of the major factors in all teacher's decisions. It might be fun, rewarding and enjoyable but if the pay ain't what it should be that reward means nothing!

  47. Thank you for publishing this! I have been teaching since september, and i graduated university approximately 3 months before hand. I always dreamed of being a teacher…at university..not at my current age level which is 16-19 year olds. I know people may not agree with me and will encourage me to persevere however, this has greatly helped me to see that I need to get out of this profession. I teach in the UK and like many other countries, we are bogged down with rules, regulations and paperwork that stop me doing what i wanted to do which is inspire students. I got into the role through an ex teacher of mine and although I loved it up until december, since then I have been becoming more and more disillusioned with my job of choice. Not only is my health suffering due to stress but i find that I am now much more emotional than i used to be (i will cry over nothing because I am so drained and unhappy), I have no time for a social life so my friendships are deteriorating, my fiance is increasingly troubled over my own emotional state and has himself gained a few health problems of his own (which i would definately put down to him being stressed over me being stressed) and I feel so underappreciated in my job role which as an idealistic graduate a year ago is not where i imagined myself to be. I appreciate the reasons for staying in the job but I would have to agree with sally above, for me they are just not enough to keep in a role where i dread everyday and feel like I am losing an integral part of who I am. So thank you for this refreshing take on teaching and the reasons to stay or leave. You have given me the validation i needed and the strength to not be ashamed of my decision to search for pastures new but to instead feel free and that I can actually leave without any guilt and the knowledge that I “tried my best”
    P.S Sorry for such a long post!

  48. Thanks for this post! The list of why you should stick to teaching really describes how I feel about teaching. I have always had this passion for teaching. I was a personal trainer for years, one of those years was for a corporate gym and I hated the gym and left, but never stopped training. That was what kept me sane. I enjoyed helping people meet their fitness goals and also educate them about health and fitness. There is another subject I am VERY passionate about and that is chemistry. I am currently on my way to start teaching chemistry at a HS level. I know that there are ideal and non-ideal students and am willing to truck it on through the good and bad and hopefully make a difference with these kids. Teaching is real hard work and I’m willing and ready!

  49. I just finished my first year in a public school… I’m exhausted, disheartened, and frustrated – with the kids, the department, the school, the district, the state. Based on your list, it would seem that I too should leave the profession. I won’t, because I understand that the first 3 years are the toughest (and because I have several years of very positive experiences in private education, thank God, that tell me this experience is not representative of all teaching situations), but in terms of this writing bringing hope…to be honest, I feel more inadequate now than I did when I came here. I think those who already feel comfortable will find validation here. But, as one on the verge of giving up, I don’t see hope here. I feel like I’m being told to quit, to get out.

    Based on the opening remarks, my stress is my problem: poor classroom management, not focusing on teaching, too much TV time (which is interesting, since mine is covered in dust from non-use…and no time to clean), etc. I’m sorry, but I think the system has issues too. I’ve seen a lot of good teachers this year, veteran teachers with many years under their belts, throwing-in the towel and proclaiming this one of the worst years they’ve seen. That’s not one teacher who ‘needs to get out’, that’s a system that needs improvement. Compare US education to other countries, our system has issues. Teachers/students from other countries are shocked by some of the education practices in the US. Sometimes, especially for a new teacher, it’s hard to distinguish between individual inadequacies and those of the larger system.

    Personally, I wanted to teach…not dodge objects being thrown by students who were referred to the office and returned to class…not withstand blatant disrespect and personal threats as though it’s all just fun and games. This isn’t teaching. This is something else. And it’s this “something else” that I may, indeed, not be cut-out to do.

    For those who are in my shoes, new to the field and on the verge of quitting, I offer this bit of advice: give it one more year and get involved in everything: discipline community, curriculum committee, any committee that is available. At my old school, I was in the middle of almost everything. As a result, I had influence on policy, I had no surprises when new initiatives came ‘down the pike’, I understood the rationale behind some of the decisions and was better able to manage/teach students as a result. My position at that school was VERY fulfilling. Then again, a documentary was made about that school, holding it as an excellent model for education. I was spoiled. But, I believe that there is no reason that my current school shouldn’t mirror that private school.

    To fulfill my own vision, I plan to get involved next year. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try a new school or new district or apply for positions at the state level (where so many decisions are made). Just because a person thinks they don’t fit teaching, doesn’t mean that they don’t. It means that somewhere there is a poor match and it could be as simple as finding a new school that is more in line with your teaching philosophy. Sometimes the ones who are most frustrated are the very ones who need to stay, because they are the ones who care the most.

    In closing, there are 2 lines in particular that I find perplexing/offensive. In reference to “You’re not living up to your potential, nobody is”, are you asking that we take comfort in imperfection? Maybe therein lies the crux, I just can’t do that. I am used to success. And, secondly, the quote, “find a profession that won’t allow you to make a negative difference in lives” is a bit derogatory. Every person affects every other person, whether they sell fries or do life saving surgery. Your quote implies that teachers are the only ones who can make a positive/negative difference and that anyone who has doubts is unworthy of a helping profession (and should leave). Perhaps this is best left out of the pep talk.

  50. Lori, I’m glad to hear that you’re going to fight through the desire to give up. I agree with you that “Sometimes the ones who are most frustrated are the very ones who need to stay, because they are the ones who care the most.”

    I didn’t intend in any way to point anyone reading this article toward quitting teaching or sticking with it. And I assure you it’s not intended to be a “pep talk” or anything of that nature. I have come to believe that it is absolutely impossible to motivate another person to do anything. Encouragement goes a long way, but as the old saying goes, Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.

    This whole article is aimed at getting people to think perhaps a little more logically and less emotionally about their gut reaction to want to quit teaching. Thanks for your comments!

  51. There were times when I used to run through these kinds of lists in my head. I don’t any more. Maybe I have gotten through the dip. Every job has pros and cons. Many quit because they think that the grass will be greener somewhere else, and maybe sometimes it is. In other cases, some choose to focus on the negative.

  52. Oh how I tried! Having read a variety of posts, I have found familiarity in so many of the experiences and emotions expressed, good and bad.
    My story is: I am a solo parent of a five year old. I was doing great in my dip ed coursework (many alnighters of course). But my prac…where to start? Well, my students were lovely, albeit typical boisterous, edgy teenagers. My little son was an angel and was coping with me working at home every night and weekends. My colleagues were an interesting and talented group of teachers, most with many years of experience and dedication for the most part.
    But my mentor? Well, I have nothing to compare her with. She is a brilliant teacher, and I appreciate observing her work, and her feedback about my work. But I am overwrought with tiredness, stress, tears and so overcome with the general, pervasive negativity in the office. Within my first two weeks of my prac, I was basically told that everything I did was wrong (i.e. standing in silence untill students stopped talking) even when it worked and the ideas originated from our university teachers or other educators advising prac teachers.
    I just needed time to adjust, and I was learning so much, but I have quit halfway through. I can’t believe it. But I believe I will cope, even though I have NEVER quit anything in my 40 years before. I can’t afford to accumulate any more hecs debt when I might not pass, and I really need a full-time 5 day a week job to catch up on bills. I know I may have passed, but subsequent to that, I am not sure I would have ever built the resilience or tough persona that is aparently required by teachers. I am a non-assuming, gentle woman and was being criticised for being who I am – ‘does not have the authorative demeanour of a teacher’.
    For myself, I believe I made the right decision; better a poor parent than a mom who has suffered a stroke scenario.
    One thing this experience has reinforced is that good/dedicated teachers are the most noble of people, and that these same teachers are burdened down by unrealistic curriculum time-frames and paperwork. And sadly, I saw first-hand how this constant rush of assessment demands on students themselves, left very little hope of their truly gaining ‘the love of lifelong learning’ which teachers would so dearly love to instill.

  53. I liked your article and I will be thiinking more about it. I’m only just a student teacher but I feel disillusioned. It’s the first time I have felt that I don’t want to be a teacher. I have had some hard times before but I just kept going. I use to think , “I can barely cope with the workload but I am going to get through it.” But today and yesterday I have been thinking, ” I can’t cope, I don’t want to do this anymore.”

  54. Sonia, I was in the exact same position a few years back and feel the same about myself. I had already completed a Bachelor of Arts and was competing a bachelor of Teaching – primary school – my first few pracs were great with really supportive mentors but my last one was so hard and not what i expected. I think it was to do with 1. the age of the students (grade 5) 2. the disorganisation of the classroom teacher and 3. my home environment (stressful abusive partner).
    Since having a break and quitting the course due to incompletion I realised that my personality suits younger children better so I have gone back to a Cert. III in children's services and I am working in a preschool. Although i feel I wasted a lot of time in finding out the hard way where I needed to be Im glad I stuck with teaching. Its true that it is a rewarding and creative job and I feel that i have a klot more freedom than I would in other occupations.

  55. 9 reasons to quit and 10 to stay?!?! I think that teachers are the most important people in the life of a child aside from parents, and to have the heart and drive to be a teacher takes a special person, sure we are underpaid and under appreciated, but the reward comes when you see the successes that child has taken under your direction, nothing beats that feeling!

  56. So true. But sometimes the way to get out of the dip is to have a break. Either from teaching completely or simply to move schools. A change can be as good as a rest and it can rekindle your passion while also allowing you to see how things are different in a different environment.

  57. I have just had to make a decision:
    Am I leaving teaching because I don't want to be a teacher?
    Am I leaving teaching because I can't get full-time work where I am?

    Thanks for your help. (I have realised that it is because I can't get full-time work – because of your page)

  58. I LOVE this blog!! :) Although, the reasons why NOT to be a teacher can sometimes seem overwhelming… the reasons WHY to be a teacher should always way MORE! Excellent Post! And very much enjoyed! :)

  59. I need help. I 've been teaching in NYC alternative high school for 9 years. I can't get my act together. I can't plan lessons, it just seems like such torture. my mentor(thank you uft) keeps telling me to keep the objective in mind…well, I can't seem to do it, am I in the Dip or am i just a dip? I don't know where I would go if I didnt teach, but how can I get 20 lesson plans written each sunday? I can't keep it straight, any suggestions?

  60. Hey! I loved this post..It really reflects my own inner struggle..deciding whether I want to teach or not. I've started and like it but is it really what I want to do of my life?? euhhmmm ..still haven't decided but getting there!
    Thanks for the read!

  61. Heya Amélia,

    I really do hope you'll stick with it for a little while longer. You have made it through the hard part already (college) and now you're struggling with figuring out how the system works. But soon you'll be to the place where it's second-nature for you…if you continue working and thinking about it. You're on the right path…stay the course!

  62. I am in my ninth year of teaching and quite seriously considering hanging up the towel. I am currently teaching high school literature and speech. I absolutely despise high school. I prefer middle school, but I wasn't endorsed. I am now, so if I can possibly make it through the year I will try to get back to middle school. It doesn't help that I'm in a city I do not like either.

    I'm just tired of students not coming prepared for class and "forgetting" books, assignments, etc. They have no problem remembering cell phones, what they're doing on the weekend, etc. However, when they fail it always the teacher's fault. No one ever holds these students accountable. I can only do so much without going to their homes and packing their backpacks. Maybe I should get a cell phone dedicated to school only. Then I'll send text message reminders!

    Oh yeah, forgot to mention the no contact/no stalking order I have to get against a student who wants to kill me. I love teaching!

    I did enjoy reading the reasons to quit and the reasons to stay. Still deciding on what to do…

  63. I love this site. Reading all the comments is great therapy. Right now I believe I'm in the midst of burnout. I have been a teacher of first graders at my current school for 6 years. I have taught K-2 students for a total of 10; 1 year in my native Australia, three in the UK and the past 6 in America. I don't know what has happened to me over the past few years. Teaching is my heart; I know I'm good at it and in essence I love it, but I have gotten to where I dread going to school. A few years ago I was a master of classroom management – my principal at the time said I was a model manager and had other teachers come observe me. Then, something happened………. I was forced to resign at the end of my second year in the States while I worked out visa issues (I had originally planned to stay for 2 years and then met my wonderful husband.) After sorting out the visa, I was offered a job at the same school after the school year began in the same grade level. A new class was created for me due to high numbers. My wonderful co-workers hand picked the kids I would have – most of whom they were happy to get rid of. The resulting class was a mass of behavior issues, with a child who tried to stab another child in the face with scissors and told me he would come to my house in the middle of the night and kill my family (1st grade!) sitting like a cherry on top. My confidence in my own abilities was rocked. There was no taking advantage of the honeymoon period at the very beginning to lay out and practice rules and expectations – they had already been in school for two weeks and looked upon me as a substitute. I became reactive rather than proactive as I became increasingly frustrated. I became a teacher I did not like. I was not mean and nasty, just saddened and overwhelmed by thoughts of what my class had looked like in the past and how things flipped seemingly overnight due to circumstances I could not control.

    The worst part was, after this difficult year, I couldn't seem to get myself back on track. I became timid, even frightened to enforce expectations for fear of tantrums and parent complaints. For the last four years, it has been a battle. I am constantly frustrated with myself as I know that I am the one who sets the tone in the room and I just can't make things like they used to be. Every summer I have enthusiastically prepared my room, looked forward to meeting my students, and told myself things will be different this year, to no avail.

    Right now I am at the point of resignation. I have the most difficult class I have had to date. There are 5 students who feed off of each other in the worst way, and when one starts, they all start. I am ignored completely – I may as well not even be in the room. They have no respect for me or the other students, stand up and walk over to one another in the middle of a lesson and just starting chatting or fighting, yell out constantly and are scared of no one. Administration has not been a whole lot of help. I have another child who is my 'cherry on top' – he was returned to class 30 minutes after calling me an 'expletive punk expletive' which did not make a good impression on the other students, meaning it is now ok seemingly to call me whatever you feel like. Parents have not blamed me, but all of them are either apathetic or, if they are enforcing consequences at home, the consequences seem to be ineffective. In the middle of it all is me, a defeated, hurt, depressed little mess. I have tried 'incentives/rewards' but this sticks in my craw because if you strip away the PC language it is really just bribery. I find it hard to 'bribe' the students into submission when I know that if I were on my game they would be walking the chalk line. In all of this, I blame myself.

    Today I left school early. I was sick with a sinus infection, but part of it was a need to just run to avoid a meltdown in front of the students (which I have been dangerously close to 3 times this year.) Although money would be tight, my husband is fully supportive of me leaving my current position and hopefully finding some tutoring or classroom assistant work for the remainder of the year while I try to get my head together. As a type A personality, it is sooooooooo hard for me to admit that I just can't do this right now. On the other side, I feel like I should take the initiative and step away to try and salvage my love of teaching as it is definitely still there.

    Teaching is such an odd world – it can often be hard to talk to colleagues, although they are the ones who understand the most. There is this unspoken culture of 'you can handle it or you can't handle it' and if you can't handle it you are quietly looked down on by the ones that do as someone who just doesn't understand or 'get' the art of teaching. I do get it! But I can't work it! I would so appreciate hearing from some folks who have had similar experiences!

  64. To add to my previous comment, I have a two year old daughter who is my world. I took the minimal time off when she was born, mostly for financial reasons. How do others with young children cope with the stresses of the job in addition to family responsibilities? Obviously what I'm doing is not working…………

Comments are closed.