Leaving teaching is a decision that many educators struggle with over the course of their careers.
Often, teachers who feel burnt out debate whether they should return to teaching in the fall or leave the profession to do something else. Leaving teaching may seem like the only solution, but you may just need some time to step back and recoup. Here are some tips on how to assess your place in the profession:
Some dedicated reflection on why you became a teacher may change your mind about leaving teaching. It can be tempting to start over when a job becomes toxic, but maybe a change of work environment is more necessary than a total career change. Honestly reflect on whether you are making a difference in the lives of your students. Are there are things you are doing that are making teaching more difficult for you? Do you take criticism too personally? Do you need to learn to say no when colleagues or parents are asking too much of you? Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher and shed new light on the best career path for you.
Honestly evaluate the parts of teaching that are different from your initial expectations. What were your long-term goals when you first started out in the field? What is holding you back from meeting those goals? Are those obstacles truly so insurmountable that leaving teaching is the only answer? If your goals are still achievable, make a realistic plan to reach them. If they aren’t, that doesn’t mean that you’re a failure as a teacher. Consider setting new goals and think about how others can support you in reaching them.
Assess your five greatest challenges and victories during your teaching career. Were you able to overcome the challenges? Could the victories have happened without you at the helm? Does the good outweigh the bad? Think about the pros and cons of being a teacher. Add to the list whenever you’re feeling especially proud or upset.
Also spend some time thinking about what you would choose to do with upwards of 50 hours every week if money and health insurance were not necessities. What would you replace teaching with, if you could chose any profession? The answer might give you some insight into what’s missing in your current career and how to remedy it without leaving teaching – or give you a head start in the next chapter in your life if teaching is no longer right for you.
Once you have a list together of the things that have lead you to consider leaving teaching, try to make a plan for how you might overcome those pain points. Even if you can’t fix everything that bothers you about a job, there might be a few smaller issues that make a big difference. Breaking the problems down and putting them to paper can make them seem a lot less intimidating.
Ask For Advice
If you know a veteran teacher who has been in the field for many years, ask them if they’ve ever considered leaving teaching and if so, what stopped them. Likewise, if you have an acquaintance who has left the field, question them about their experience and what they miss the most about the job, as well as what they were glad to leave behind.
Take some time to carefully consider leaving teaching before you take the leap, but realize it’s ultimately an individual decision that only you can make. If you’re still up in the air, read these tips on how to avoid teacher burnout and see whether they can help you get back on track.