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Valid Reasons Teachers Quit

For another look at quitting teaching, see my article 9 Reasons To Quit Teaching (And 10 Reasons To Stick).

1131446_red_check_sign_in_3dOne of the most popular search queries that has sent people to my blog lately has been “why do teachers quit?” Doing a quick search of my site tells me that I have a number of articles that reference this idea, but have not yet explored exactly why it is that many teachers choose to quit teaching. This weekend, I will write two articles on that very topic. Today, we’ll consider the question Why Do Teachers Quit? and explore some valid reasons they do so. Yesterday, we considered the same question and explored some of the invalid reasons for quitting. Next weekend, we will consider How Do We Keep Teachers From Quitting? which should be a great follow-up.At the outset, I would like to ask for as much audience participation as possible. This is a key issue that I think all educators should approach with great passion. You who are reading this — YES YOU — have thoughts on the issue. Share them. Just leave a comment below and let this be a conversation among professionals. With that out of the way, here we go.Why Do Teachers Quit Teaching?
Now some of you will consider this sacrilegious for me to say that there are circumstances when it is acceptable to quit teaching. But that is not what I am saying. I am saying that there are circumstances where leaving the teaching profession is the best course of action. I think everyone should be lifelong teachers, whether they are employed as such or not. When I wrote Finding Excellent Educators to Emulate, I made it very clear that some of the best educators are not employed in school districts. Most successful nonfiction authors are teachers at heart, as are most successful pastors, coaches, church choir conductors, politicians, and game show hosts. I mean, teachers are everywhere, as well they should be.


When should I quit teaching? (Valid reasons to quit teaching)

  1. Pregnancy/children
    This, of course, does not mean that if you are pregnant or have children, you MUST get out of the teaching business. But if your heart is there, then by all means, do it as quickly as is financially possible for you. Once kids have grown up, they have grown up. If we miss out on childhood, we miss out on it. This is an issue of priorities here. Every person has a different set of priorities and ranks them differently also. I think if this is where your heart is, it is perfectly acceptable to leave the teaching population. Be a teach inside your own home!
  2. You become an administrator
    Some would argue that teachers should NEVER become administrators, because administrators are the enemy. Others would argue that administrators should never stop teaching. I interviewed at a school once where the superintendent came in from mowing the football field to meet m, and then he went back. Both he and the principal taught classes because they didn’t want to get out of touch. In smaller districts, that’s fine, but as districts grow, administrators really need to focus on the administrative tasks at hand. If this is your goal, and it works out for you, then go for it. Be the best, most teacher-centered administrator you can possibly be!
  3. Health Concerns
    Nobody will say that you have given up if you quit teaching because of either disability, stress, or disease. This is often a temporary change, but sometimes it becomes permanent. Either way, it is definitely a valid reason to quit teaching.
  4. You’re not cut out to be a teacher
    These are those people who enter the teaching profession and think it will somehow be different than it is. These are the people who complain about low pay and low credit being given to them. This is one of the biggest causes of complaints. We’ve all seen those people who are teaching, but really seem out of place and don’t seem to belong. That’s because they don’t belong there! This is not to be rude, but some people really are out of place when educating children. This happens often with coaches who enter the business so that they can make a name for themselves or music teachers who want to conduct a professional symphony. I know countless music majors who major in education as a “fall back” in case their performing dreams don’t flesh out. These people are prime candidates for a valid reason to drop out of teaching! The education of children is too important to leave to people who don’t want to do it.
  5. You’re no longer cut out to be a teacher
    As far as those who are no longer cut out for teaching, I honestly think many teachers allow the promise of full retirement benefits to keep them from quitting when they should. Some people are so in love with teaching that they continue teaching many years after they could easily retire. Now, I know I am stepping on toes here, but if I’m stepping on your toes, maybe it’s because we’re dancing too close! These people love teaching, but they don’t necessarily love being a teacher any longer. They love teaching children, but they don’t like teaching classes of children. It’s hard to admit defeat, and sometimes that is what this feels like. To me, this is the saddest of all reasons to quit teaching, usually because the reason is so obvious to most other people, but these people continue teaching. If you cannot wake up most mornings and eagerly look forward to going to work, then perhaps you should seriously consider either taking a break, or calling it quits entirely.
See also  Sometimes Quitting Is The Best Thing You Can Do!

Next weekend, we look the question How Do We Keep Teachers From Quitting?

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.

34 thoughts on “Valid Reasons Teachers Quit

  1. I think we should do away with TRS. I have worked with too many people who are literally counting the days, even though there may be three years worth of them. My colleague, Mr. Sir, decided to teach one more year because it gets him $350 more a month for the rest of his life. Neither he nor I think he should be there.

  2. I love your article. As far as the heading of “You aren’t cut out to be a teacher,” it spells me to a T. I went through college never thinking about changing my major from music education, despite the fact I hated my instructional classes, did a lousy job in student teaching, and was not offered a contract after only teaching 5 months in a Title I Elementary School where they had four music teachers in three years. A guy with my pedegree and talent, I thought, would be a shoe-in. Needless to say, I’m stressed out, I don’t enjoy it, and have squelched any notion I will be some amazing choral director I thought I could have been in high school. The kids hate me, the staff thinks I’m an egomaniac and dillusional. This was my first, and LAST year of teaching. And I have a lot of respect for you educators. My mom’s a twice-winning teacher of the year that goes into work at 6:30 and doesn’t leave ’till 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I just don’t have the commitment, don’t have the passion and (after dealing with a string of behavior problems) don’t have the patience to teach. Best of luck. Now just time to find out what you can do with a master’s degree in music ed. “Would you like fries with that?” Why didn’t I take communication….?

  3. Joe:

    I would consider trying another year or two in another district. Get a change of venue. Find great teachers who will work with you. Give it another go around. You don’t sound to me like someone who isn’t cut out for teaching as much as someone who isn’t cut out for your current job.

    Spend some time reading through the archives here. Ask questions. You can IM me or contact me any number of ways on the Contact page. You say she is a great teacher, have you talked with your mom about the situation?

  4. I am up past my usual time and I just decided to go on the web. I came across this. I have been teaching for seventeen years. Maybe you can help. Every morning I dread the thought of going to my job. This has been the worst year ever. I don’t have the desire to ever teach another child. Last year a child brought a knife to school-told his friends he was going to kill me. This year I seem to have the class from hell. I love to teach-but not children any longer. I am sitting here practically in tears bbecause I feel as though I am about to have a nervous breakdown from the stress of disruptive children and non supportive parents. I believe that I have nothing else to give. I believe that this is my last year, I don’t care about the money. I think it is unhealthy for me and for the children. I try to give it my all, but I am so discouraged until there are days I have nothing to give my own family. I am bitter and disgruntle by the time I make it home. Today was another rough day. I have rewarded, discipline, encouraged, ask for parental support, administrative support (“All I can tell you, hon, is I don’t know” response). I feel like I should leave the field because I have nothing left to give- I have more bad days than good days. I think that summer, weekends, holidays are no long worth my staying. I don’t mean to sound like a selfish teacher. I do my job-it’s just a fight every single day. I don’t sleep on the job, nor play around-I am accountable to someone else other than my principal. I know how to do the job, and I do it well. I think that since my heart is so far away-it is time to leave…

  5. Jackie: Wow. You have clearly tried a lot of things. The problem doesn’t seem to be with you, as much as with your fit in the current school.

    My first recommendation would be to move to a different district (easy for me to say as an unmarried man with no children). Perhaps in the same community, but a different actual school.

    As I read your comment, I can sense that you love teaching. At least you love the concept of being a teacher. I honestly think it’s just a bad fit for you now.

    I always spend the summer planning how I’ll do things different and am able to attach the new year with a different mindset. Basically reinventing myself each school year in one way or the other. In fact, I made a lot of changes this year as a result of having my blog and having the outlet for introspection. I’d write something, read it and realize how stupid I sounded. Then I’d delete it, reevaluate my actions, and start over.

    If you can’t stand the thought of teaching, maybe it’s a time for a break…or an entirely new career. There’s plenty of road ahead of you. Most millionaires don’t make their first million until they are in their 60s or 70s. If you change careers and find that your heart yearns to teach, then go back to teaching.

    Of course, teaching doesn’t always have to come in the form of formal education. With as heavily as schools focus on testing these days, there is high demand for qualified tutors. You could set up a math tutoring service somehow (possibly even through your current school system) and get the teachers to refer their students to you. You could find that you end up making more money and sleeping better at nights with that route.

    These are just as few suggestions. I’m sure the readers will come in and send you tons of more ideas, encouragements, and suggestions.

  6. For Jackie:
    As much as I would like to paint a rosy picture and tell you everything is going to be alright, the truth is that may be unrealistic and improbable. Everything may not get better next year.
    Teaching may not be right for you (in a school setting, as you say). I’ve certainly met teachers who had no business being in this profession, and maybe you’re a well-meaning person who fits into that category. Teaching is not for everyone.
    I went through a dark time in my career which may have been similar to yours, but admittedly not as intense or life-threatening. Talking with my wife and some colleagues helped me to realize that although there were a handful of kids who really bothered me, the majority were either tolerable or enjoyable to teach. Might this be the case for you?
    Another question to consider: Are you teaching the subject(s) and grade levels which are best for you? If you are teaching upper grades, consider elementary; those students tend to be easier to redirect onto the right path in life. If you are teaching elementary, consider high school where you may be able to specialize in a subject you are excited about.
    A final thought: Although we have ambitions of saving the world with our teaching, we can’t make up for every failure of the school system, of bad parenting, and of disrespectful students. Teachers are often given unrealistic expectations and insufficient resources, and sometimes it is in fact impossible to accomplish all our goals. At some point, we have to shake the dust off our feet, bandage our wounds, go home, put the day behind us, and enjoy our personal lives, knowing we did our part.

  7. @MissD – The best advice I can give you for taking over someone else’s program is to be patient. Any time you come in as a new director, you will have to contend with but the person before you was so much better!

    Even if they were terrible and the ensemble received straight 5s at contest, they were still better. Why? People don’t like change. Undoubtedly you do things differently than they are used to. This applies to how the administrators and parents deal with you as well.

    I think you will find that your second year in a district is much easier than the first. Partly because you know the system a little better. Partly because you are more comfortable teaching. Partly because the kids have begun to get used to the way you operate. Partly because you know what you totally screwed up last year and at least come at it the second year with an idea of how to fix one or two of those mistakes.

    With time, you will learn to choose your battles and know which ones are essential and which ones can slip by this time. On the essentials, do not back down. For instance, when kids argue with you. Hang in there!

  8. So what if no one likes you? I have been in 5 schools. I am a damn good teacher and I love it but I can not find my niche. I moved out of state for an opportunity to teach what I actually am degreed in, and I just can’t find out how to belong. I am not on pharmacuticals to help my outlook, but I don’t know if I can go one more place. And it’s never that I am not a good teacher.

    There really should be classes in politics for incoming teachers. I have found that often times, some biddy teacher that has been out there for too long resents the young and vibrant people coming in. They then complain consistently about that teacher and get them fired because they have tenure and run the school.

    How are you to comnbat that, and is it valid to quit the profession as a whole if no one likes you. (But you are getting success).

  9. Awesome blog (must be the awesome name)… I like the phrase “cut out for teaching” — almost like great teachers, no matter where you find them, are born to have that positive impact. And if you don’t have it, can’t feel it, ain’t seeing evidence of it in your students, it’s time to find what else you are cut out to do…
    And if great teachers are “cut out” where/who’s the pattern?

  10. i am up way past hours myself – have been reading all of this great info. I think it is too late for me. In my 2nd year of teaching 5th grade – first year barely made it and this year is worse. I definitely have some helth issues that have just sucked away my creativity this year. I always struggled with lesson plans and being an engaging teacher. This year nothing is working and worst of all I did not get a good review this year. It is obvious the handwriting is on the wall. That would make me sad because when it did work, it was the best feeling in the world. If I had a second chance, things would be different, but I don’t think it will happen. I need a game plan to get through the next 8 weeks with an out of control class, an admin that is after me. Any advice?

  11. Joel, an excellent topic. And from the looks of the comments, many are in anguish about their positions. I started in 1973, left in 1975 after a horrible two years and went into other areas of developmental disability services. I was lucky to make a decent living, until I got into a political situation at a higher level job and was shown the door, so to speak. So I went back to a school district, older wiser and more aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and that was 20 years ago. This time was not without some hairy moments, and some soul-searching as to why I came back. But for the most part it worked out. I can retire any day now, but will keep up the good fight as long as it still works.
    For those who feel that they are not made for this job, there is ABSOLUTELY no shame in looking elsewhere. In fact, it is a good thing, to know yourself, and to know that there are other areas one can succeed with the skills gained in the experience.
    So I would encourage those who feel they can’t take another day in this biz to take the step away from it. It will be for their betterment emotionally and physically, and for those around them, such as family. It takes courage to take this step, but in almost every circumstance, it works out. Look at me… left, and came back. And this happens more often than one would imagine.
    Tom Anselm, teacher and author

  12. Joel, after reading the comments from the summer post I submitted. I am back again, and nothing has changed…I just try to stay positive. I am happy to say that I have accepted the fact that after 18 years, I know it is time to come out of the classroom. I have found my niche’ which I truly love. I love teaching the Word of God. I have taught it for many years, but my passion grows stronger by the day. Currently, I teach classes at my local church, and I teach outside of church. I am in the process of making a transition to something different. No longer will I allow myself to be so stressed out from this job. The public school system has change. I am finding that standards are being lowered day by day. There are more demands on teachers and administrators that they will never ever be able to meet. Until we (education profession) realize that we can not reach these children unless their emotional demands are met, they will not learn and be productive citizens. You know the stories behind this. It is evident in my area that the needs are not being met-at home, at school, in society. When students continue to: disobey, bring weapons to harm, become suicidal, and increase in criminal activities in the schools—-they will not get a proper education. (Just venting) We can not allow the “powers that be” to continue to dummy down the educational system and pass the children on to the next grade. Yes, I do believe that we can make a difference. My hats off to those hard working teachers who dedicate their lives to the profession. I know that I have made a difference in some of the children lives-only because I did not follow the rules. Many times I did not teach the books because the needs were overwhelming. How do you teach a child math who sleeps in the car? How do you teach a little 4th grader when her uncle has molested her over and over? How do you teach a child whose father just beat the child’s mother the night before? WE CAN NOT MEET THE DISTRICTS AND THE FEDERAL DEMANDS OF HIGHER EDUCATION if we do not meet our children’s needs. I will not begin to talk about homes and society. I can not be on page 300 by January if this is happening in my children’s life. I just believe at this point in my life…my season is up for something better. I do plan to use the skills and knowledge I have gained to help someone else-especially new teachers. We do need great teachers. We need teachers whose heart is in it. Too many people, like myself, have gone into this profession blindly. You really have to a heart and a passion to make a difference in children’s lives. This should never be a paycheck and vacation issue. I know that my time is up inside the class, therefore my efforts will be concentrated in other areas of need. This is an awesome site.

  13. I feel quite disappointed about teaching.

    Even though I hold a degree in language teaching and have several years of experience now. I started teaching when I was 17, I love kids and the times I’ve worked with adults made me miss kids a lot. I am currently a self contained teacher in 3rd grade and well, even though my students can crack anyone’s nerves, they are lovely. I have always taught English as a foreign and second language, I also taught social studies too but never tried science or math; this is my first time teaching those subjects. I am new to the school where I work and to the city where I live.

    Even though I am not from this town, I felt nice and comfortable with the staff and the whole school environment. I thought I was walking on the right path until I received a document from my boss that states his concerns about my professional performance, which really surprised me a lot since I did not think I was doing that wrong.

    The document says that there are concerns about certain aspects like teamwork , coherent planning, besides that, empathy with students and parents.

    I am terribly shocked with such comments and well, I hate those parents who are double sided face and do not approach you, they just talk to your boss to complain about you. I think that at this point it is difficult to gain empathy with my students or with parents since it is almost the end of the school year. Anyway, I do not think I am a witch or a perfect teacher, we all make mistakes, but I consider myself very cheerful and kind to them.

    I consider myself a people person and I live working and cooperating with others, so it is hard for me to hear that I need to improve that. I just know that I have a difficult co worker out of the tens of people that work there. We are supossed to work together as a team, but in several ocassions she has been mean to me and even though I had tried to be as polite as I could and tried to show openness, it has not worked that much. Even my boss knows about this…

    Planning? oh Lord! My boss knows this has been my first year teaching math and science. I had taught language arts before (and I enjoy reading stories to my students and helping them with their writing process) but from a different perspective. In spite of that, I had been working hard to learn and I was happy to apply new methods and strategies to allow my students work in a more dynamic way on literacy and reading. Regarding social studies, I had been teaching contents about a city that is new to me, even though I am in the same country, I knew little about it but was trying hard to work with those contents and I managed to teach that on my own.

    My bitter colleague is the one who plans science and math class since we both have the same grade A and B. I just follow her lessons plans and adapt them to my needs. They also told me to diminish ludic activities as if I spent a class period playing with them.

    There’s a looooot of work to do and many things to take charge of at the same time when teaching and that is one of the most difficult things for me. Besides, working with parents who just like to complain about you but do not try to work things out, it is something really unpleasant.

    Having your boss tell you almost at the end of the school year that they are concerned about the academic progress of the group you are in charge of and the way you do classroom management can be also very devastating. I guess that was the worst part of it.

    Then I ask myself… what’s next? it is not the first time I get in a similar situation, but this one has gone over the top.

    1. Scarlett: Never froget; You a are a great teacher! Great teachers have learned to listen…with their mind, body and soul and are able to do some introspection. You seem to be one of those. However you must learn to listen without giving power to people who judge your teaching or who you are. Any jobs is a special journey to learn to create no separation with ourselves and that is the bottom line to feel free, happy and to embrace life. The only thing I can encourage you to do is to read A New Earth, Awakening to your life’s purpose by Eckhart Tolle…from this reading whatever I do, hear, is a way to blossom. Teaching is the journey I chose to learn “Who am I”.

  14. Scarlett: I am so sorry that you are having to go through this type of situation. From an outsider’s perspective I would just say keep your head up, it literally has happened to everyone in whatever career they have chosen. And if you think and know that you are a good teacher, then continue to do your best and show them that. Don’t lose hope with teaching because of this. And my suggestion with your boss is to continue to make things as comfortable as possible and prove them wrong!

  15. Thanks Kaitlyn for your advice!

    Well, I guess these kinds of situation can discourage people easily. It is hard to keep your head up when you have tried your best, when you thought you had support and then all your work is questioned and criticized in such way… There are 2 months left before summer vacation and believe me, it is going to be hard to motivate myself, anyway I’ll do it for my students. What concerns me now is that I’m thinking I’ll have my boss breathing on my neck now… not that pleasant!

    1. Scarlett: That can definitely be stressful. Hang in there, realize they won’t fire you at this point in the year, and keep on keeping on.

      It might be a great time to begin applying for jobs and seeking a different school district to work with…

  16. Scarlett, everyone’s advice is sound. I can’t improve on any of it. One thing you could do is to use it as a motivator to “show” them you are deserving and in fact the good teacher that they seem to be missing.
    You seem to have the interests of the kids at heart, and that is a very solid foundation upon which to build.
    I have had a few bumps that caused me to go in different directions in this business. In retrospect, the bumps did me a favor by moving me into other areas. Call it Divine Guidance, maybe?
    Take care… the end is near.
    Tom Anselm

  17. Kudos to you for addressing reasons teachers leave the profession!

    This is one of those hush-hush issues that we aren’t supposed to talk about, but which needs to be frankly addressed.

    I have worked in numerous schools of all types, and can attest to the fact that there are vast differences between them. One might be perfect for teachers who love team teaching, while another might be perfect for those who enjoy going it alone. Don’t be afraid to try another school.

    An interesting option is to try subbing the first year out of college, or while in college if your state allows it, The pay is lower than regular teaching, but within the first few weeks you will know which schools you like and which you don’t. Since you’ll already be “in the system,” you’ll enjoy first crack at openings.

    Don’t judge a book by its cover, or a school by its reputation/architecture/whatever. Although I’ve sent my kids to suburban schools, I like working in the innercity. Some people prefer private to public schools. Basically, don’t base your love or hatred of the profession on a single school.

    If you’ve exhausted your options and decided teaching isn’t for you, don’t brand yourself a failure. Lots of people–maybe even the majority–go through numerous career changes in life.

  18. I am barely surviving student teaching and want to quit already. I know I haven’t started yet. I’m getting anxiety attacks and have to see a therapist to get through this. I realized that I’m not strong enough emotionally to be a teacher. I have a high amount of respect for those who teach and continue to do so.

    Also my teacher prep program was not the best. All I learned was the idealistic teaching philosophies and ideas and no real-life classroom issues addressed. I had conversations with other Ed students and all agree that Education programs need to also change.

    I may be one of those people who are not cut out to be a teacher. I wish I discovered this earlier. Since I’m halfway through student teaching I decided to do everything to finish the last weeks. I felt like a total failure and terrible because being a type-A and overacheiver, this was the first time that I “failed” at something. I felt terrible.

    Now I realize that this is not a bad thing. at least I know what teachers go through and will support my kids teachers.

  19. Newbie, don’t be hard on yourself. Failure is such a strong word to use in this context. You clearly are not a failure if you finished your teacher prep, student teaching, got your degree and walk across that stage.
    That is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, as they said in the olden days, by totally bagging on the career. Maybe analyze the student teaching experience before choosing to not pursue the classroom.
    Was it a bad experience? We all have those. Bad kids? Ditto. Not a very good supervising teacher? Double ditto. Maybe you can take a short break from the biz and come back later. Try some other work, and see if those white dry-erase boards are still calling out to you in the night.
    Still, if you do decide to go elsewhere, that degree will open doors.
    Good luck.
    Tom Anselm

  20. Well, my supervising teacher was an unpleasant person to work with. Yes my kids tested me and i had some tough kids but they weren’t the worst. I’d say they are typical teenagers.

    It’s the work load and other pressures that I’m not prepared to handle. I dont have the energy and I feel that I’m not emotionally strong to handle the daily things teachers do.

    Yes, failure may be strong. I am proud of getting my degree and walking across the stage. I just feel very unsatisfied because i feel that i put in a lot of work to get my degree and then starting to discover that maybe teaching isnt for me. And the job market is terrible where I am and moving out is not an option for now. I dont know what else to do with my life.

    I’m thinking of gradually easing into teaching such as working as a substitute next year- at least i dont have grading or work to take home. Then I ca decide whether teaching is for me or not.

  21. One question to all — What else can you do with a BA in Secondary English Education?

  22. There’s actually quite a bit you can do with that degree, Newbie. If you wish to stay in education, then you can shoot for private schools, or you can do some tutoring. Otherwise, with the English content prep that you must have received, consider advertising, marketing, or even law school. We’re all making this up as we go along, you know. :) Just do a little soul searching and decide where you really want to be.

  23. In my 31 years as a full time high school teacher in a large, suburban school district and the last 4 years as a part time adjunct faculty member at a community college, I have seen many teachers come and go. I trained too many student teachers to count and mentored many more colleagues who were new to the profession.

    Because I developed such an intimate professional relationship wifh so many of my colleagues, I was often the trusted confidant when they wanted to discuss their doubts as to whether or not teaching was the right profession for them. I always began our discussions with their reasons for wanting to teach in the first place. Why they were so miserable and what could be done to make teaching the positive experience and fulfilling profession they thought it would be? When it was a matter of learning some classroom management techniques or teaching skills, we worked on that. However, that was not the answer for all of them.

    With this exposure to teachers of every description, I can say without hesitation that there are no invalid reasons for leaving the profession – if the reasons are real for the individual. Sure, perhaps a change of schools, a new start next fall, better organizational skills etc. might make a difference for those who really belong in the classroom (and they owe it to themselves to find out if they do or don’t) but there are many whose physical and/or emotional reactions to the demands of the career are real, and good enough reasons to look elsewhere. This is not a sign of weakness or failure, just a sign that it is time to move on to a new career path. With the great majority of people changing careers on the average of 2 to 3 times during their lifetimes, this is more the norm than the exception.

    Having worked in private industry before entering teaching, and now a self employed career coach as my “retirement” job I can tell you that there are many wonderful non teaching careers available for those with teaching credentials, experience and the desire to feel you are “contributing something” to the world. Nowhere is it written that the only place a good teacher can teach is in front of a classroom in a school. For those who have done the introspection and still dread the idea of continuing a career in the classroom you owe it to yourself, your family and your students to explore all the options available to you. Unhappiness in one’s career always finds a way to carry over into his or her personal life. You and your loved ones deserve better than that.

  24. First of all: great blog. I have been a HS math teacher for 6 years now. Last year I was being let go for whatever blurry reason. It definitely affected my self esteem since I thought I was doing a good job. In my current high school teaching is tough. Very tough. The kids are smart but, as said by other teachers in this blog, they have other serious issues going on outside the classroom. Therefor their performance is not the best. I feel so insecure that I will be let go again just because the overall performance of my class. Being a teacher for a while now I realized there is no ideal strategy that will change a classroom environment drastically. I’ve seen many other teachers just passing students to save their own reputation. So I’ve seen many students move from grade to grade, probably eventually graduading without proper reading skills and/or calculating skills. The most important things for me to quit teaching are: unrealistic teaching standards, unrealistic/ too complicated curriculum and lack of support from parents. It’s too bad because I think many teachers, like me, would stay in their profession if the demands are more achieveable. To any teacher: Have you ever read your state standards/goals? Only super(wo)man can do that…
    And I hate the feeling of not being able to meet those standards. I do feel like a failure when I come home everyday and it was another full day of students say how much they hate me and not being exactly on track with expectations. My question to former math teachers is what are they doing now? Because I am looking around but I don’t know where to look exactly. Thanks.

  25. This was a nice article to read. I quit teaching 1 month from getting my credential, right in the middle of student teaching and all that jazz. I was great with my students (ha for the most part… was called a few swear words when I taugh high school), but the teachers I met hated me. They did all they could to make me quit and tell me how awful I was doing, even threatened to take the class away from me. (While my Universtiy advisor was telling me that I was amazing and would be a super great teacher etc) I am a strong person and have got my self through many terrible situations, but this broke me. I have a BS in Biology and I was willing to teach middle school science, but NO I wasn’t wanted. Ha, Obama wants to PAY for the schooling now for people like me! Sorry, but I was not going to spend my youth being degraded untill I was old enough to be of worth. So.. I QUIT! I felt like a HUGE failure and I continue to feel like that when people ask about my career goals etc (I am back in school now studying Computer Science). I am 25 years old and I yet to have a REAL job, its feels terrible since I am a TYPE-A person to the extreme! But it wasn’t right for me. I dreamed of being a teacher since I was young and never expected it to be the way it truly was. I am really loving the idea of getting my CS degree and working in a professional environement were if I am harassed I have people to help me, and I will never have to raise my voice! Good luck all!

  26. I think that new teachers need to be supported more. I mean real hands-on support with classroom management and lesson planning. I think the first classes for a new teacher should be team taught. It would help a lot!

    Also, It doesn’t do much good to give a brand-new teacher only negative comments about performance without some good comments as well as support and encouragement. Also, administrators and supporting teachers need to help with supplied lesson plans and books. New teachers should not have to come up with new lessons every day with no help. Most new teachers don’t know to ask about those kinds of things, plus working phones in the classroom, working heaters or air conditioners, etc.

    Plus, new teachers should not have to do extra-curricular work in their first year of teaching. Many are already working hours and hours after school just to keep up with paperwork and assignments. Adding other responsibilities to an already more than full-time schedule can make for disaster.

    Teaching takes skill and time to acclimate to the school culture, parents, and kids, especially for brand-new teachers. School systems need to help them. Also, nobody brand-new should have to have a class with super-challenging students who are not working up to class level and who also have unmet emotional challenges and special education needs.

    But, even though this is the way of things at some schools, there is hope.

    Here is a website that I have found that show how teachers can get support while learning about teaching. Here it is:
    (about induction programs),000%20to%20Replace%20Each%20Teacher.htm

    New teachers, make sure you ask your new school the questions that Harry Wong suggests and you will find you stand a much better chance of success, because the school and the whole School Team will be supporting you and standing by you all the way.

    Teachers who feel that they are unfairly harrassed or unsupported can check out the NAPTA site here: They also have a Facebook page here:!/group.php?gid=19422198732&ref=ts

  27. Teaching may start out great, but the administrators hired can make the teacher’s life a living hell. This may be coupled with terrible co-workers that want to succeed by stabbing good teachers in the back. The workload is insane with nights and weekends and abusive days. If you get into teaching for the money (LOL) or the idea that you will get off summers and holidays, then seek another career because you may find out that teaching is nothing short of a concentration camp.

  28. I am from Germany and I am a teacher as well as a vice principal (yes – administrators in Germany still teach a lot of classes!) and I have encountered similar situations with new staff at our school and I also remember my own first years of teaching. Here’s some advice that has proven useful for Newbies:

    In your first year:

    1. If you plan lessons, make sure that you plan one or two lessons a week meticulously to make them a good teaching experience. For the rest 75% quality is just fine. You will be amazed how well your lessons go if you are relaxed. The 75% planning might very often result in 100% lessons. No student will benefit from a teacher who is permanently stressed out.

    2. Make sure you keep good records of your lesson plans and take 10 minutes a day to just note what went well and what didn’t. The following year you can fall back onto what you already have and just improve it.

    3. Make sure that your lesson plans always include phases where students work and you just go round to help here and there. This, however, involves assignments that are absolutely clear to the students and leave no room for interpretation. This way you can give your voice a break.

    4. Planning is important, but good classroom management is the core of good teaching. Be consistent – say what you will do and then do what you say.

    5. Work together with other teachers at your school. Plan lessons together. Share worksheets, quizzes, etc. Offer your work to colleages, very often they are grateful, even if they have suggestions for improvement. This way they feel cooperation is not a one-way-street.

    6. Always be aware of the fact that just because more experienced teachers don’t talk about problems in their classes means they don’t have any. Don’t think all the others are wonderful and you are not.

    7. Look for a good teachers’ network on the web. I am sure that in the US there are loads of good quality discussion groups where people also share lesson plans. But beware: while it is a good thing to discuss school issues with other professionals make sure you don’t start joining the general whinge-fest.

    8. There will be lots of things that go badly. or will even be desastrous. Analyze them, ask yourself or a colleague what you can do better next time, then MOVE ON.

    9. Be careful with extra curricular activities! As a general rule, every second time you feel compulsed to volunteer for something – DON’T. Organizing something every now and then is just fine and it adds spice to teaching, but you have enough on your hand as it is. If you do it, make sure you are part of a team. Don’t let administrators and experienced slackers at your school cajole you into something you cannot handle.

    10. Suggest that the staff in your school write a sort of “teachers’ manual” for the school. All the little things which have never been written down but are common proceedings in your school, all the important lists, phone numbers, unwritten rules, etc. should be written down. At my school I made one of those and at asked the new teachers to add what was missing as they went through the school year. This manual is already 80 pages thick and new teachers find it very helpful.

    11. Ask for help.

    12. Ask for help.

    13. Ask for help.

    As a newbie be aware that you need at least 4 years to be able to handle all the challenges at school.
    The first year is just work work work.
    The second and third year lacks all the excitement of the new experience but it also still lacks the professional routine, so these years are the worst.
    In year four you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  29. apparently you don’t read the published studies or the newspapers and magazines. Teachers leave because of administration related issues. It is the #1 reason. Administrators as enemies???
    Administration includes those department heads and other viewed as “administration”.

  30. I came into teaching as a second career, and I brought subject-related work experience with me. I did great in the teaching program, enjoyed student teaching, picked up a long-term sub position right after student teaching and got a job in the school where I student taught. I liked the people I worked with and enjoyed working with the kids. I had good relations with the parents and administration, and our test scores went up both years I was there. And I quit. Why? Because I was so stressed out by the hours required to do everything required, to manage every kids' individual requirements (one class had so many kids with mandated first-row seating that there was no way to physically make a front row that large), dealing with so many special ed kids when I had only one special ed course, the persecution of society that blames teachers for not being miracle workers (I cannot lay my hands on your 90 IQ kid and make him a genius, I'm sorry), the absurdity of the system that now focuses on testing, testing, testing at the expense of instruction and that same system that throws all resources into trying to bring up the lowest kids while the best and brightest get nothing… Well, I could go on, obviously. But I could no longer be part of something I didn't believe in. Since I quit, I've gone on in a different job that I love; the stress is gone, the nagging feeling that I'm never going to be good enough is gone. My friends who are still teaching continue to deal with anxiety and insomnia. A pat on the back for those of you who soldier on, but trust me, there is a life to be had outside of teaching. Good luck.

  31. I hear what you are saying. Maybe I can speak for the rest of us by saying that you get into teaching because you want to see a kid's face light up, or you like a subject and you want to share the love. Me? I love to read so I assumed if I jumped up and down in the front of my classroom waving To Kil a Mockingbird around, that they would like it too. By the end? I wanted to take the butt of Atticus's rifle and turn it my way…But, why do I stay? Why does anyone stay…for the same reason. We just dont' give up. Maybe I'm used to falling down on my couch after a school day feeling like I didn't reach my aim , or goal. But I keep going. I just want to see the end of it and I believe that somehow I can find a way to make a difference. The more you stay, the longer you teach, the more you know!

  32. I am in a teaching program, half way through and I just completed my first to "teaching" classes. Now I have this hugh feeling I've made a BIG mistake and that teaching isn't what I thought it was or that I'm not cut out for it. Not to mention the outlook for finding a job looks bleak. Seems like the writing is on the wall… Problem is I have been a stay at home mom for 13 years and don't know what else I could do? I really do not want to finish the program because I feel I am wasting my time, my money and my heart isn't in it anymore. I have always wanted to help people and I thought teching would be perfect for that need and for my family, but I am really doubting it now. Any advice?

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