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On The Brink Of Quitting

342109_windowsilLisa writes:

I googled “bitter about teaching” and came up with your blog.  I was recently let go from a school I busted my a$$ in for a whole year (my first year) – constant criticism, cattiness, and pointing out and embellishing the negative things I had done while minimizing the positive (all the while they were telling me to stay positive!).

She concludes her email:

I just wanted to let you know that your blog picked me up a little bit.  I still have a lot of healing to do, but I’m glad that I’m not the only person that this has happened to.

What an awesome thing! In case you missed the story, here are a few articles that address the situation:

My response to her email was pretty straight-forward. I’m sure that she is not the only one who has come to my blog because she is burned out of teaching. In fact, 100% of the people who have come to my site using the keywords “quitting teaching” or “quit teaching” tend to be among the most popular that bring people to my site. I think my reply to her can be instructive to a lot of people, so I’m going to include it here.

Here is my response in its entirety, for anyone else in similar circumstances.

Hey Lisa,

Thanks for writing. I’m glad my blog will hopefully be one of many things that help you decide to continue on the teaching track. Just because one school gave you a bad experience doesn’t mean that every school will. And just because SCHOOL gives you a bad experience teaching, there are plenty of other opportunities for you to continue doing the teaching thing without actually staying in a school.

I would commit to another year (or even better two) in a new district. Look for a job, find one (districts get desperate at the end of the year and will hire anyone who has a piece of paper that might even look like almost a teaching certificate), and go into it a smarter, wiser, braver soul than you were before.

Read my blog and a few others. Start your own blog and talk about your successes and failures. Go back and reread the successes. Look for positives every single day — even if that means you celebrate because you almost hit the trash can when you threw away the copy of the incorrect paper that they stuck in your mailbox even though three of the secretaries and one counselor already emailed the corrected memo to the entire school already. :)

Hang on, set up a blog, and get ready to learn this year!

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.

10 thoughts on “On The Brink Of Quitting

  1. I, too, was not extended a contract to come back to a very small private school for gifted children. It seems that ‘the board’ (husband and wife – I taught two of their children) and two other members who never visit the school) decided my fate. This was my fifth year teaching; first in private and first in Texas. I know I am an excellent teacher, I am bad at playing politics. I will not educate your child any different if you are the queen of Prussia. I will provide to her or him what I deem is necessary for their educational and emotional growth while providing for the other 14 students equally.

    I was additionally responsible for providing language arts and social studies for 16 other junior high students as well. No curriculum was provided for either group. I had to learn about the ancient world, create lesson plans, teach it, and assess it all on my own. Most teachers would die for this opportunity. Do this without having a planning time during the week! There was minimal budget, no cafeteria and really no professional support from administration. However, the parental support was great and my coworkers were awesome. And by mid-year, the students began to trust me. (Teaching gifted children in quite different than teaching on level children.

    My first year teaching was difficult also. I had a student and a parent that made it miserable. They had already built a reputation for being difficult before they got to me. If I was not a parent with nearly grown children, and had not volunteered extensively throughout their education, I would have quit teaching altogether! My three other years teaching were awesome!

    Give it another shot. Try a different grade level. Try a different district. As for me, I will probably get out of the field of teaching gifted. Texas is the origination of NCLB and gifted here has suffered. What I had was the closest to what Louisiana (St. Tammany Paris) was providing for their gifted students (on a regular basis.) I’m thinking of going back for a Masters in Educational Technology and then going back into the educational field.

    Good luck with whatever you choose in your future. Teaching is a noble profession and a difficult one in today’s world.

  2. @Angie – Wow, thanks for the encouraging support! I’m glad things have worked out for you despite a bad beginning. It’s awesome to hear success stories like that.

  3. “…even if that means you celebrate because you almost hit the trash can when you threw away the copy of the incorrect paper that they stuck in your mailbox even though three of the secretaries and one counselor already emailed the corrected memo to the entire school already. :)”

    ROFLMBO!!! And here I thought that only happened in MY school!!!

  4. In Decemeber I will be graduating and getting ready to go out into the “real world,” or so they say. I’m not sure if I should be scared after reading these blogs or if I should take them as good forewarning as to what I might be facing in a matter of months. I come from a family of educators and when I told them what I had decided that I was going to do they quickly asked, “Are you sure?” I wonder what it is about education that so many people warn you from going into yet, yet the people who are warning you are not doing anything to get out of it. =) I’m excited and nervous about my first time in my own classroom. I know as a fresh-graduate I seem to think I know all the new strategies and the new ways to get students learn; however, I will go ahead and admit, I realized the first time I was in an actual classroom that it is nothing like you thought it would be. Still, I have high hopes that I will hold on to what made me want to be a teacher in the first place, to have the opportunity daily to change the lives of children. Any words of wisdon…send them my way!

    Thanks for your blog and especially your honesty!

  5. @Brittany – Awesome! Don’t be scared. Be cautious. Be careful and make sure you plan for some of the things that kids (and administrators) can do to make things more difficult for you. :)

    @Lesley – I’m excited for you! Your life experience will make things much much easier for you.

    I’m glad both of you found the site!

  6. @Brittany – Me too! I have been reading here for a while and I am about to begin my first year of teaching this August. I feel like I have prepared as much as I can and the rest is going to come through experience, but I still feel overwhelmed alot.

    Thanks for the blog – it has helped me alot!

  7. I recently discovered that this article was featured on Teacher Magazine’s Blogboard. I read their review and then looked at the comments.

    There was an outstanding comment by someone who goes by 26 years. I post it here because it is super helpful! The comment in its entirety is:

    First year is always bad. Even when a teacher is experienced the first year is rough in a new system because there is a lot more to the job than teaching the kids. You have to learn about the expectations, the climate, the politics, whether your co-workers are friends or foes and whether or not your principal is a decent human being, a sexually harrassing moron, a politically placed incompetent, or a genuine professional. Then you act accordingly.

    The first year is very rough. It is a good reason to stay around for another year if you are not let go of. AFter a couple years you will begin to figure out what you do best, the kinds of kids you like to work with and where you can fit in. Some of us never fit in. We just have to become good at what we do and hope for respect, if not love.

    Just because a system has all the bells and whistles does not mean it is a good system for you. I know a highly rated suburban sytem in Louisiana that has very few retirees. They don’t last that long because of the unnecessarily high demands placed on them for paperwork. It has great facilities and more computers than students and pays among the best in the state and the average teacher is probably 26. The special education Lead got an ulcer, lost most of her stomach and almost died from it. A mean, hateful (to both staff and students) alternately certified paper pusher who does not teach is the principal’s pet and runs off her co-workers. Some schools are like flipped houses. All the beauty is cosmetic.

    Look for a system where you are needed. Look for a principal that seems genuinely friendly. Don’t compete for the suburban schools if you don’t have solid experience. Middle class parents with money, time and high expectations are much harder to deal with than poor parents who just want their kids to learn to read and write. A mentally retarded mother can be your best room mother because she wants to help and all she craves is respect and a little attention. A bunch of little urchins on free lunch who love you like their mama can be a very rewarding class. A ragged building with an approachable, genuine principal who keeps the self centered egotists at bay sends flowers if your grandma dies and is not afraid of helping out when needed is a delight to teach in even if they have to have a fence so the drug addicts can’t sleep there at night.

    But don’t quit. Go inner city if you have heart and can love unconditionally. Give your career 5 years. By the third you will know your job and then you have two to do it well. If you don’t like it then, do something else.

  8. I feel like a lot of the bloggers here do, but I’ve been in the teaching game since 1996- this is a long time considering the constant burnouts and turnovers. Well, I have recently established a part-time business on the side that allows my creative energy to run rampant, and not be put on metaphorical sedatives, when I am at school. It’s close to never that the students are the issue, it’s administration. Standardized testing in inner city schools and half the student population is special education(diagnosed and undiagnosed), and everyone wants the standardized tests and all subtests to be the governing factor of whether or not you are actually teaching a student in your class. Well, after all this time, I’ve had enough. I am leaving the teaching profession, but not the educational profession. I quit as a public school teacher, as of the end of this year, and I am very excited about this. I hope my business begins to pick up a little speed, and I will venture out into other consulting opportunities. It’s a shame that although teachers are professionals, they are treated as if they are illiterate embiciles. Pity. Wish me luck (smile).

  9. Well Tanya, I hope things work out for you. Sounds like you struggled through making this decision. I’m sure if you change your mind, you know you can always come back into the teaching world. Plus, you’ll have some cool stories to tell you students!

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