After working as a teacher for 16 years, the time has come to hang up my backpack. Both in a literal and symbolic sense. I’ve decided to leave teaching, like so many others, at least for now. What made me decide to leave teaching?
I’ve worked as a teacher since I was 24. Leaving the profession was not a decision I made in a hurry. It’s not that I haven’t thought about leaving before, I have for sure. Mostly during maternity leave when I had some distance from the chaos that working in education means. The question is, what changed?
Why I Leave Teaching
To be honest, I’m not sure it was anything specific that made me think of leaving my teacher job – and for something completely different at that! It’s more a series of events over time. I’ve had new colleagues making an impact on me, pushing me to grow before they left themselves. One reason, for sure, is the feeling of an increase in workload and not enough time to do a good job anymore. I miss time to prepare and follow up on lessons, and the fact that students and teachers seem to be just numbers to fit into an economic model doesn’t help at all.
This is something I believe many in the profession can relate to, and it seems to be a worldwide phenomenon as well. When I mentally decided to start to look for another job, it wasn’t an easy decision. The one thing I knew for sure was this: I wasn’t going to trade one teacher job for another. It would probably be the same but with the drawback of being the new teacher on the block.
Feelings Around Leaving the Profession
There are also the feelings involved, not just about leaving colleagues and students behind but also a sense of having wasted so many years. No, wasted is incorrect but when you leave a profession you studied for 4-5 years at a university and then leave? It’s not without a small feeling of defeat. I can’t explain it better than that. Previously that’s also part of what held me back. I mean, I studied hard to work as a teacher, now what? What else do I know and what do I want to do instead?
This quote from Teachercareeroach.com sums it up pretty well:
After finally deciding to leave at the end of that year, I remember panicking. I realized I had no idea where to even start with figuring out my next move. I could barely picture what life after teaching would look like. After all, I had dedicated years of my life preparing to become a teacher, assuming it would all work out. I assumed I would love it. They don’t prepare you for what to do if you don’t.
For so many years, I enjoyed teaching and all that came with it, until I didn’t anymore. The problem was I didn’t know what to do instead. That held me back, well that and needing a steady income to provide for myself and my kids.
What Did I Do?
It’s going to sound easy because in a way it is. Start the process by listening to yourself, really listen. Ask yourself, if you didn’t work as a teacher what would you do instead? It might take some time for the answers to come, and that’s okay. For me, I had decided that if I was going to change I wouldn’t start teaching at another school – I’d change my career completely! So I started looking for jobs listed in fields where I thought I might use skills I have, as well as things I think come easy to me. Some things mentioned in this article can provide clues about skills you probably have but don’t think about when working as a teacher: time management, leadership, communication, and decision-making.
The type of jobs I started to look at was some admin jobs in schools for sure, but also different positions within IT. The thing is when I was a teenager myself and in upper secondary high school, I wanted to work in IT. I didn’t have a clue which part of the field but that was the plan. Then I stumbled upon teaching during my last semester and decided that this might be a career for me. Did I lose my interest in IT? No, and I’ve never completely stopped learning new skills in that field either. The last two years I feel like I was more or less forced to learn new things in that field since I started teaching courses in IT at my last school.
Fears and Hopes for the Future
As I write this, I’m in the middle of the last autumn break at least for the foreseeable future. On Monday I will start working with something I’ve never done before. I’m going to start working as a 1st line support at a company in the town where I live. It’s scary to say the least, switching to something completely different at the age of 40, but perhaps it’s a good time to make the switch as well.
Of course, there are pros and cons to this, but some of the pros that I look forward to trying out are:
- Shorter commute, 9 minutes by bus instead of 35-40 minutes one way by car.
- There is no need to put together lesson plans late on a Sunday evening.
- No papers to grade! Do I need to say more?
- An opportunity to learn and grow in a field where I’ve wanted to work, but never dared to try before.
- More time for my projects and hobbies? I hope so, but it’s too early to tell!
Right now, it’s too early to tell if this decision of mine is a good one or not. I’ll have to monitor my finances a bit more closely in the coming months since I did take a pay cut. However, I hope that for my own sake and the sake of spending more time with my family and my projects, this was a good move. The decision to leave teaching wasn’t easy. I hope that at the end of 2023, I’ll see a positive change in my mental state, being more hopeful and having more energy to do things I want to and love doing. It is the end of an era, but I feel slightly optimistic about what the future holds.
I know I’m not the only teacher who has left the profession, but what about you? What are your thoughts on the state of working in education today? Have you had thoughts of leaving the teacher profession? What would you do if you didn’t work in a classroom?