When Is It Time To Relocate?

754370_a_little_farmOn the one hand, I love my job. I absolutely love the kids I work with and am on pretty good terms with the rest of the band staff.

On the other hand, my life is pretty boring. I have never been a crazy partier or anything (I don’t drink alcohol or much caffeine for that matter). I don’t go out to clubs and can’t stand the bar environment. But in a relatively small town (less than 50,000 people) that is over an hour from the next closest reasonably sized town, life can get to feeling pretty isolated.

A question I have for those of you out there who have been in this type of situation: When did you feel that it was time to quit teaching in one district and move to another?

A follow-up question: When you quit teaching and moved to greener pastures, did you regret doing so? Why or why not?

This has been something that has weighed on me pretty constantly for the past year and a half, which probably explains a little bit about why I am so undisciplined with the blog lately.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
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.

18 Comments on When Is It Time To Relocate?

  1. I think the first question you need to ask yourself is: What do YOU want?

    It’s not a selfish question to ask every now and then. Let me give you a little insight into my own situation. I’m a trumpet player. Through and through. I went to all the right schools, studied with the best teachers, played professionally on the circuit of orchestras and brass bands, and all before I was 27. My wife and I moved around quite a bit during this time. We also made a lot of close friendships during that nomadic period. I’ve been in the classroom for 2 years getting my license in an alternative certification program. I thoroughly love teaching, but I get the itch on a regular basis to move on and see what else is out there. For me, I don’t see a move as any real big thing and I’ll tell you why. First, I don’t make the mistake, as so many do, by defining myself by my job.

    I’m not a teacher. I’m a human being that happens to teach.

    Whatever path God has set up for me is where I go. I certainly don’t think in terms of greener pastures. In my travels, I have found that does not exist. What I do have on my mind is my life in a much more broad perspective. This way, I’m not boxed in to any location. I may find teaching at the secondary level is not for me, or I may bounce around from district to district for a number of years. Who knows? I DO know that the constant in my life is MUSIC.

    I have been reading your blog for some time now, and we have spoke on one occasion over the email, when you helped me with some teaching concepts. I appreciate that. However, if I may return the favor, here is what I think. Dedication to any one thing needs to be big. Band is too small and specific…The district you are in is too small and specific….I dare to say even teaching is too small and specific…So what’s left? That is for you to discover.

    If I were you, I would step back and ask again: What do YOU want? You may be surprised at the answer. Those districts will still exist and life will go on. Just make and keep your friends for a lifetime.

    Young and driven people like us often have a “maturity gap,” when it comes to understanding the larger picture. Who knows where we will be in 2 years, 5 years, and so on. If you ask yourself where you will be and the first answer is, TEACHING!, every single time, you may way to reexamine your answer into a more nuanced package. Teaching what? Where? At what level? Do you play anymore? Write these things down in a journal and get online and examine locations that fit your ambitions.

    Then life will do its thing. Oh, and don’t forget to practice. The better you get, the better your students get. :-)))

    Sorry for the long comments. I’m young in years, but a very old soul who’s probably seen too much.

  2. Thanks, Dan. I appreciate your comments. I began playing in a mariachi about a year ago and am in the best trumpet-playing shape of my life. I’m not as good at horn now as I was in college, but my trumpet chops are much improved.

    I don’t limit my view to teaching (in the formal sense). It’s something I do pretty well and thoroughly love doing, but I am by no means limiting myself to a sort of teaching box.

    There are definitely many nuances and specifics that go into the whole decision-making process, and part of that is seeking out advice from others. That’s part of where this post comes into play. Needless to say, I have some major decisions to be made (no decision is a decision) in the next few months. Whatever happens, I know it’ll be a fun ride, and that God will see me through the end of it one way or another…

  3. Holy Cow! With all the teachers in danger of being laid off, now is not the time to switch jobs. You might end up on the low end of the totem and get laid off too. Hang on to your job until things turn around and then go for it.

  4. Don’t want to be a party pooper, Linda, but I’m a little bummed out exactly when that time may be. At this rate, Joel and I will be 75 by the time things look “right”, lol. Linda, you have an EXTREMELY valid point, but sometimes the risk is what pays off.

    Here’s an example. I teach in a small rural community. My daily commute one direction is 84 miles. I teach both band and choir to all grade levels 5-12. Plus on top of all that, I’m in one of the most intensive alternative certification programs in the country. There is LOTS of paperwork, tests and assignments. Needless to say, I’m a bit tired and it’s starting to affect my health and my finances.

    There are a couple of jobs open around where I live. I have applied to them and my administration fully understands my ordeal. Here’s the risk.

    I have until a certain date to let my school know if I’m leaving. There is no guarantee that the other school will hire me. Should I go ahead and resign without a definite job lined up? I’m not sure. However here’s my point.

    I’m VERY sure I don’t want to repeat another year of this extreme assignment. My car can’t take it. My gas budget can’t take it, and my health can’t take it. So the economy is the absolute last thing I’m thinking about. Jobs will be around. I’m very nervous about the risk, but at this point I think I’m willing to take it.

    Being in between a rock and a hard place is no fun, but hopefully something will happen here in the next few weeks.

    All in all, I’m very proud of what I have accomplished. Only special folks like us teachers are tough enough to do things like this.

  5. my ‘when did I know’ moment happened at Christmas break. It was pure financial outrage that drove me to it. I work in private ed, not public, and for so much less money that a co-worker & I have to rent an apartment together because neither of us makes enough at work to make it on our own. (I do have health/dental/vision, which is worth the cost) My anger increased when I discovered on some job boards that many hourly administrative assistant jobs were paying nearly DOUBLE my current salary! (and they have benefits!) I enjoy teaching very much and am starting to do many things right, but I also am gifted in office administration and enjoy the challenge of making an office run smoothly and a boss look good. Right now, I’m standing on the hill, looking over all the fences for the pasture that not only has plenty of green grass, but also some shade trees, and a good creek running through it. Everything looks green in the spring, but the bits with some trees and a creek have substance that outlasts the summer heat. I’ve just in the last year come to the realization that Dan and Joel both said they already have in not limiting self-definition to “teacher/teaching.” I’m dangerously close to 40, and can’t afford to make mistakes anymore. For the first time, I have only my efforts to survive on, and noble dreams don’t pay the student loan nor the increased fee for my teaching license. (or the future student loan when I go back to finish that degree finally)
    I turned in an intent to return, but it isn’t binding on me just as it isn’t an offer of employment from them. I am actively seeking alternate employment, and hope to find it before contracts for next year are offered. This would give a youth pastor’s wife or one of the teacher-moms of our preschoolers (with generously compensated husbands) a shot a my job, since for them, it will be a luxury they can afford.
    Joel, I can’t answer the ‘regret’ part of the query, but I would say that in a long-winded way, my answer for ‘when’ involves your level of dissatisfaction and how bad the imbalance between what you give and what you receive is (like an equal & opposite reaction thing.) Your motivation seems to involve quality-of-life issues, which is just as important as working conditions and what’s in the pay envelope (or direct-deposit entry.) Dissatisfaction off school property will eventually lead to dissatisfaction on school property and nobody likes what happens when that happens. You might be able to compartmentalize for a while, but eventually the compartment walls will be breached. Relocation may or may not restore balance, it may merely knock it askew in another plane or angle.
    May you emerge from this wrestling match victorious! Great questions – you’ve made me clarify the thoughts I’ve been chasing most of this year. Love the picture – I stared at it quite a while, looks like some of the pastures where I live. Small towns aren’t that bad – go outside and look at the stars – can’t see them in the bright lights of the big city, y’know.

  6. If you’ve been thinking about this for the last year and a half, you need to stop thinking and jut move already!! I was in a very similar situation. I was in a rural district, which was a good district, but it got pretty boring. I was a 3 hour drive from any friends or family. Part of me dreaded the thought of moving because I felt comfortable where I was and a little bit afraid of the unknown.

    But this year, I moved to a suburb of a major metropolitan area and the only thing I regret is not doing it sooner. It looks a bit scary from the outside, but once you’ve moved, you’ll wonder why you waited so long, what kept holding you back.

  7. I think moving to new schools is important to keep teachers from getting stale. I did move a few times from bad situations (where I was asked by principals to lie and that is so against my values that I couldn’t work there any longer) and each move was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. Each move enabled me to learn new skills and strategies from new teachers I met. New principals encouraged me to take more leadership responsibilities. I think moving to new schools is an important part of professional growth. When you move is dependent upon your situation but if you have been thinking about it, it is time to move.

  8. I’ve moved a few times. Sometimes it was a good choice, sometimes it wasn’t.

    The best part of moving has been the opportunity to get some perspective. I’ve seen enough schools to put the problems in them into perspective. I’ve gotten a lot of perspective on my own self: what problems do I keep having, how am I always successful? I’ve also gotten a lot of perspective on what I want in a town and a school.

    If you’re thinking of moving on, think about why you want to move. When I look back, I made one move that made me very happy (current placement), one I regretted almost instantly (previous school), and one I was fairly ambivalent about (school before that). All told, that’s 4 schools in North Dakota, and 2 in Pennsylvania that were only temporary.

    I’m a much better teacher because I moved so often. I also know that one school caused me to take many steps back. It’s only this year that I finally feel like I’m moving forward again.

    Be really careful you don’t get yourself into a situation like that.

  9. Okay, so I was wrong. Not the first time. Won’t be the last. Make the decision that is right for you. I know about old cars and such, I had to buy a new one at Christmas. My old car was 12 years old and starting to fail. I drive 35 miles one way every day so I totally understand the car thing. May God speed you on your way and help you find the job you need.

    • I understand where you’re both coming from, but honestly, I don’t see how “the economy” plays into education in any way.

      I think I’ll go write a little bit about this more in depth…

  10. I wouldn’t worry about the economy, if there are jobs in your field go for it. There is nothing better than being a teacher and loving what you do, but Joel and Dan need to go somewhere where music in school and out is readily available.

    BUT…let me give you a tip that at your age you don’t consider.

    As you begin to think about retirement (potentially as early as 55ish) you will love the fact that you have a retirement plan. I know that seems a million years away but if you keep changing jobs–especially in different states–you won’t end up with a retirement plan. . I know that sounds so fuddy duddy—but changing jobs now to find the perfect fit will pay off in the long run.

    • Oh, of course. I’m not relying on the government to take care of me at retirement. I’m getting rid of debt and saving money like crazy. Great points!

  11. In my opinion, enjoying what you’re working on would be as important as gaining satisfying economic rewards, especially if you really have a retirement plan this early…. However, in some places, or maybe most… both sides don’t come along together…. so, maybe you need to browse for more idea of ‘teaching’… Redefining the role or WHAT you want with your teaching, maybe through a seminar or teachers gathering…. I am a teacher myself for over 10 years now… and I never find teaching as a boring line of work since I keep on finding there’s a lot to be done… there’s more to know and to discover about my students, especially the special needs or gifted students…. I find it satisfying to see my students could and able to understand whatever I’m trying to ‘teach them”….It is, quite boring if you get your self stuck on the ‘teaching materials’… but somehow with the development of theories and shift of education mindset nowadays… I feel like I still need to proof lots of things and wish that I’ll have enough time to apply new things I’ve learned …. And for hanging out and stuff… I find myself more comfortable with those who knows a little bit of my line of work and understands how I view things in life…

  12. The economy shouldn’t play any part in your decision. I think that’s obvious, so I’ll refrain from elaborating.

    I’m actually in the same situation myself. I live in a small, rural community on the US-Mexico border. Being originally from Chicago, this is a huge struggle. I am also an hour drive to the airport, then 2 connecting flights from any relatives.

    I hesitate because it’s so difficult for my district to find science teachers and I have no idea who (if anyone) would fill my position if I left. But at the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself and make yourself happy first. Always. Because if your home life is stressful or difficult, whether due to a long commute or lack of social outlets or distance from family, that will reflect directly into the classroom.

    • I think perhaps I live in a slightly less small, slightly less rural community on the US-Mexico border. If it weren’t for tacos and salsa, I’d say I feel you pain. :)

  13. The building I was in was getting out of control. I was on the union committee, and we were asking the principal to deal with the hallways. He would claim there was nothing he could do (which I expected), but my colleagues let him off the hook. People were being injured, not from violent incidents, but from the level of pushing and shoving that came, as a matter of course, from an overall lack of control.

    I made up my mind. I helped my best friend, who I’d help get a job with me, transfer out. And then I did. Took me a year and a half, beginning to end, decision to new job. I moved carefully. But once I decided, I set a timeline, I set myself on course, and I never looked back.

  14. I have moved throughout my whole life, 30 times in less than 30 years. My wife has experienced the same nomadic lifestyle. Recently I found myself in a job situation that was very hard to deal with. The company began closing facilities, co-workers and peers were let go, and relocation offers started being passed around to consolidate personnel within facilities. I looked at both an external and internal job offer. It seemed like the right thing to do given the situation. You know, get off of the sinking ship before she goes under. After searching around, I was offered both an external and internal job! After struggling through the decision, I rejected the external job. Then later on, I rejected the other offer. Am I crazy? Maybe. But for me, to relocate, or move on, was a bigger question than the immediate work scenario. Here is why I decided to stay put in a very bad situation.

    First, I am not a prophet. Do I really know if the ship is sinking?
    Second, tenure. 4 years is not much, but it is enough to merit hanging on at a company for a bit longer
    Third, my outside work life. I have a lot of friends and good co-workers that I am not ready to say goodbye to
    Fourth, history: Too many moves in my past. I need to plant roots. Oak Trees have roots, tumbleweeds move a around. I would rather be a tree.
    Fifth, my mortgage, my church, and my kid’s school. They are not fifth in priority; it’s just the fifth thing that I listed. I did not want to upset the other institutions that I am a part of.
    Sixth, Unemployment insurance and severance packages. If the ship does sink, the company has a nice severance package (then my resume is clean…no I QUIT on my resume). Let’s see who goes first, me or the “ship.”

    Well, to each his own. Maybe I will regret staying around. But, sometimes the life that you have outside of work is worth riding out a job that might not be the best (until you find something else locally).

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