This week is bittersweet for me as I make the decision to throw in the towel as a teacher. While I will miss the relationships I developed with colleagues, parents, and most importantly students, it’s time for me to say goodbye to that career. I came to realize that I can’t be a good mom and a great teacher simultaneously, so I choose what’s most important, motherhood.
As I hemmed and hawed this year, there were really three reasons in my mind why I am leaving teaching. As I talk to more and more “former teachers,” I realize I’m not alone in these reasons:
Three Reasons for Leaving Teaching
- Lack of Pay! It’s not surprising that this would be a factor in leaving the profession. No teacher ever went into teaching expecting to be making the big bucks. However, I don’t think when you’re in the midst of college or student teaching, that you realize the weight of that statement. Many teachers I know have second or even third jobs to make ends meet. Notice I said “make ends meet” and not “have luxurious lives.” I’m lucky enough to be part of a dual-income home. However when we analyzed my paycheck after taking out daycare for two kids, there was less than 1/3 remaining. I’m able to make that 1/3 working a few small part-time jobs AND my kids don’t have to go to daycare themselves.
- Overloaded with Work! Teaching isn’t like we remember it as children. Kids don’t do cutsey crafts projects and color all day. Parents expect lessons to meet their children no matter what level they are at. As a parent I understand and want that for my kids too. However, if you flip the lens and look at that from a teaching perspective, that’s about 12 lessons I was developing on a daily basis! This doesn’t include grading papers, parent communication, or state mandated work that needs to be completed. While working during Tyler’s first year, I found I was often pacifying him in a bouncy swing so I could finish something school related. I was heading to school before he even woke to finish work and during the two hours I spent with him each day, many times I was doing something school related during those hours. I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around how to care for two kids and all that work at the same time.
- Diminishing Respect! This was the least influential factor in my decision making, but still had begun to bother me. The lack of respect that upset me most wasn’t from parents or students, but from the state! When I was in the business sector of employment, I had an annual review. We’d talk about my work in a few categories, set a goal together, and I’d be on my way…small incremental raise in tow. That’s not how things have gone in the educational sector of work. Now, the state mandates that teachers have to set two yearly goals: one in professional practice and one for students. That part I agree with as I regularly set goals for myself in hopes of improvement. The part that feels wrong is that I must now prove I met these goals with evidence. I must upload to a website artifacts that PROVE I met the goal. Remember #2? I’m already overloaded with work helping my students excel. Now I have to prove to someone that I’m doing it. I feel like the state doesn’t trust teachers to do their jobs. In any other area of work, a degree and credentials means you’re an expert. However, in teaching I feel questioned whether I can do my job. This doesn’t even include the 24 part evaluation teachers have to fill out every three years. Or how many school districts are tying success in these goals and evaluations to pay. For those of us with kids, how much control do we parents really have over our children’s motivation? Now teachers are basing their livelihood and raises on the motivations and productivity of a room of little tikes. Teachers are motivators, but not miracle workers!
So in the end, I realize teaching is not in the cards for me at this time. I really enjoy teaching and couldn’t imagine myself as anything other than a teacher. I hope my silent prayers are answered by the time I re-enter the workplace and some of these issues are resolved in our system. More importantly, I hope there’s resolution before my little berries are schooled in an age of overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated teachers!