Why I quit my teaching job mid-year

November 22, 2012

in rants and reflections

A good read for anyone who is burned out and thinking about quitting, or is feeling guilty about leaving their studentsI debated on whether I should do a nice Thanksgiving Day post as I’ve done in the past (I still love this one.) But this year, I thought I would write a post for those of you who have barely made it through the October slump, and are so dreading the return to school next week that you can’t even enjoy your time off. The idea of going back to that place just makes you sick to your stomach. I get it. I have been in your shoes. And I’ll share with you what happened when I quit my teaching position at exactly this point in the school year almost ten years ago.

Quitting was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. My administrators were blindsided by the decision–after all, I was an experienced teacher with multiple years in urban schools, and I had a good handle on my classroom. My students were learning, and their benchmark test scores showed strong gains. The kids liked me, their parents liked me. Things seemed to be fine. But what people didn’t know was that it took EVERYTHING out of me to keep it that way.

I had just moved to the state and had no idea what to expect in my new school. I was disappointed to learn that most of my second graders were reading on a late kindergarten level, and the pressure to get them up to speed was weighing heavily on me. We had no windows in our classroom, and were not allowed to have recess or any break at all during the day (per district mandate), so I was stuck in a tiny, dark classroom with a large class of energetic seven-year-olds and zero outlet for all their energy.

Beyond our four walls, the school’s atmosphere was in total chaos. We couldn’t send students to the bathroom alone, as there had been instances of both girls and boys being raped there by other students. One of my kids found a knife on the ground on our way to lunch. An off-duty police officer and a drill sargent were hired to help control the students in the cafeteria: one of them would bend over and scream in the children’s faces while the other marched up and down the center aisle, yelling into a microphone as the kids threw food around his head.

Not exactly a fun working and learning environment.

Things were quite a bit calmer in my classroom, but student behaviors still posed a huge problem. Getting students to respond appropriately to even the smallest request took Herculean, first-day-of-school efforts from me. It was like the movie Groundhog Day. We practiced the same basic routines and procedures over and over, and three quarters of the class just wasn’t internalizing anything.

I remember the exact breaking point. I hadn’t used our social studies books yet but there was a particular passage I wanted the kids to read as an intro to our activity. I said to the class, “Okay, when you hear the magic signal, you’re going to take out your social studies books and turn to page 35.” At the mention of the word social studies, one student burst into tears and crawled under desk so he could bang his head against the floor. (Apparently this was a behavior he’d started in first grade and his previous teacher had no idea why.) Another boy murmured something under his breath, causing all the children in his vicinity to say, “Awwww! Ms. Powell! Andre called you a B word!”

Simultaneously, another child took out his social studies book but accidentally dropped it on the floor, causing the children around him to laugh. “What’chu laughin’ at, punk? Shut the F up!” and then punched the kid nearest him in the arm. The child who was punched did the same thing right back. The two of them sat there glaring at each other, and the children around them were either frozen in anticipation or egging them on to a fight.

Almost every child in the classroom was now either disrupting the lesson or distracted by the disrupters. One child had her hand up asking to go the bathroom. Another had his hand up and was pointing at the child next to him, who was gleefully ripping out pages of the social studies book. Yet another child was tapping me on my arm and asking me to repeat the page number.

As I took a deep breath and made a decision about which fire to put out first, I heard a scuffle outside the door and a voice come over the intercom. “Lockdown, code 3. Lockdown, code 3.” That meant the police were pursuing a suspect in the neighborhood, and I had to cover the small window on our door and move the class away from it.

It was in that moment that I knew my job was not worth the energy expenditure I had to put out everyday. I realized that I was up against too many obstacles, and most of them were insurmountable. Things were not going to improve significantly and I was going to go home exhausted every day for the entire year. It wasn’t that I was incapable of handling it. That day, I could have had the class back on task within a minute or two after all those interruptions. But those things happened all day long, every day. I was managing the classroom, I was maintaining some sense of order, but I wasn’t teaching.

I wanted to have deep conversations with my students about current events. I wanted to delve into books with them and watch their eyes light up when they made connections between the text and their own lives. I wanted to see them develop a sense of curiosity and wonder about the world through investigations in science. I wanted to teach. But after seven weeks of school–almost the entire first quarter–the kids still weren’t anywhere near ready for those things. And so I was still spending the entire day disciplining students and teaching them basic work habits and socio-emotional skills.

The worst part? All teachers who were new to the district were required to stay in the same school for THREE YEARS. Sticking it out until June wouldn’t have done me any good, because I would have had no choice but to return to the same situation again in the fall. And again the following fall. I was trapped in that level of stress for another two and a half years, and the thought of going in for even one more day after the long weekend passed was enough to make me physically ill.

And yet the guilt I felt over even thinking about quitting was indescribable. Was I really willing to abandon such a needy group of children in the middle of the school year? What kind of person would give up on those kids and look for an easier job just so her own life could be more comfortable? I felt selfish. I felt like a hypocrite. I felt like a failure as a teacher.

But I had to do it. My principal was shocked and furious, vowing that I’d never work in the district again (Not for a million dollars, lady!, I wanted to yell.) Even worse was the unexpected reaction of my students. Most of them barely blinked when I told them Friday would be my last day. Part of their nonchalance was because of their young age, but I realized with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that they were so used to losing teachers and other important adults in their lives on just a moment’s notice that this was par for the course. I got hugs and letters and a few tears on the last day, but the majority of the class was so wrapped up in their own issues that they weren’t even thinking about me. Five minutes before the final bell rang, two of my toughest kids got in a physical altercation over an eraser one of them had thrown, and I was so busy dealing with them and school security that there was no opportunity to have wistful goodbyes. My time at that school ended just as chaotically as it had started.

My decision to quit in the  middle of the year would have been much tougher if I’d had to leave the field altogether. I know that’s the situation for many of you who are reading this post and unable to find other teaching jobs. I quit in a year when there were far more teaching positions then qualified teachers. You’re going to groan when I tell you that within a day of making my decision, I had an interview in a neighboring county and was hired on the spot. But maybe you can relate to this part: the hope that in a different school, the love of teaching would return.

I can tell you without a doubt that it did. My new school had its problems, of course, but I felt safe there. My students were safe. And I was able to really teach again. I stayed in the classroom for another five years (and probably would have stayed longer, except I got married, moved to New York, and started doing instructional coaching). I even chose to spend my last two years as a classroom teacher in another inner city school. Urban teaching is where my heart has always been, and will always be. I know that it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. These days I work with teachers in some of the toughest areas of Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx, and I see the amazing things they’re able to do. The quality of teaching and learning in many high-poverty schools is truly exceptional and they can be fantastic places to work.

There’s no clear-cut moral to this story, I suppose. I’m hoping it’s helpful just to know you’re not the only one and someone else has been through this. But there are a few other things I want you to know if you feel like quitting teaching right now or are still feeling tremendous guilt about having quit:

1) It’s not your imagination–teaching IS getting harder. Our students are coming to school with more and more problems, and the bar for achievment is continually being raised.

2) Sometimes, the school year does not get easier with time, and that’s not necessarily your fault. Usually I’ve found that teaching becomes less stressful as the year progresses because students get the routines and make more and more academic progress. Occasionally, though, this was not true for me and it’s not true for other teachers I know. Sometimes the class is just a really difficult one and your stress level won’t improve until the following year when you have a different group. That’s very normal.

3) You are not a bad teacher just because your job feels too hard. Even the best teachers get put in situations that are physically and mentally exhausting. Feeling like you want to quit does not mean that you were not cut out for the job, or are a bad person. The position you’re in just may not be the best one for you, or you may just be having an exceptionally tough year.

4) Quitting does not equal failure. I struggled with the decision to quit long after I’d left the job, because I felt like I had abandoned the kids who needed me the most. I had to remind myself over and over: It’s not that I couldn’t do the job, it’s that I chose not to for my own mental well-being and physical health. I was not a failure, I was successful in taking care of myself. I have many other responsibilities in life in addition to being a teacher, and I was not willing to let all those other areas fall apart because of my job.

5) There are lots of ways to use your talents and gifts to help children. Many teachers who quit still have a deep desire to work with children and make a difference in their lives. There are many, many ways to do that. Your career as an educator does not have to be over simply because you don’t want to stay where you’re at.

Now, to be clear: I’m not telling you to quit your job. Quitting is not always the right decision: in fact, there were plenty of other low points in my teaching career in which I wanted to walk away but didn’t. During those times, I found that I was frustrated in the moment, but I knew in my heart that things WOULD get better, that an overbearing principal would transfer to another school (he did), that the transition to a new curriculum would be for the best (it was), or that I could make it through just a few more months with an exasperating parent or student (I did.) One of the best things about teaching is that every fall is a new start. Sometimes the best thing to do is hold on until then.

But for those of you who have emailed asking me whether to quit your job or teach on (and there have been dozens of those emails over the years), I continue to say: do what you know is best for yourself. If you’re not sure, keep teaching. Hang in there as long as you can. Read Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching and other resources to help you deal with stress. If and when you hit that breaking point–your gut feeling is to go, and the reasons to leave truly outweigh the reasons to stay–you’ll know, and you shouldn’t ignore that realization if you can find another option.

You will hear many voices within the school system telling you to prioritize your work (or more accurately, your students’ test scores) but it will be far less often that you hear the message to prioritize your health and well-being. I’m telling you that today. It might mean finding another job, or it might mean staying and developing different coping strategies for stress, but my advice is to do whatever it takes to avoid complete burn out. I think as teachers we owe that to ourselves.

I’d love to read your stories on this topic. Have you ever quit mid-year? Are you thinking about doing it? What advice would you give teachers who are in that position?

The following two tabs change content below.
Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Check out the free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 144 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Paul Bogush November 22, 2012 at 12:53 am

Gee…sounds like you must have taken over my classroom after I “quit” and moved districts years ago :)

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2 Tiffani November 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Wow that’s the same type of classroom I had last year. Needles to say i’m not there any more

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3 Cathy November 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Thank you for sharing, it is not some thing that we openly talk about, but some thing that we’ve all felt at one time or another. I appreciate your honesty and I love your message about balance and personal health. This is something that I have always struggled with! A touching post.

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4 Sarah November 22, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Thank you for expressing what I have been feeling. I can do the job and get results. I have a good relationship with my students, their parents,my principal, and my co-workers. But it takes absolutely everything I have to make it work. I leave at the end of the day just exhausted. By the end of the week, I can hardly function. It takes the entire weekend to recover enough to be able to drag myself back in on Monday and start over.I hope to finish the year, but after that, it’s anybody’s guess.

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5 Heather November 22, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this story. I also had to quit midyear some time ago. In that case it wasn’t the kids but the administration and superintendent. I had been harassed for so many years and on many different sites (mostly for standing up for other teachers) that I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was on a lot of medication just to get to school each day and still have long term health issues from the stress. I finally decided I could not take anymore. Luckily, I also found another job soon after. Sometimes we really have to put ourselves first.

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6 Mrs. Parker November 23, 2012 at 10:09 am

Thank you for this very personal reflection. Although, I have not been in this type of situation, I could relate to the obstacles that get in the way of doing what we love; teaching.

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7 Kristi November 23, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thank you so much for sharing your story. While I am not in that severe a situation, I am at my wit’s end, too. I echo Sarah’s comments. Unfortunately, I support myself, so quitting and losing benefits is not an option. I’m just hoping to make it 6 more years to retirement.

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8 kat November 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Thank you for the post you wrote. I JUST turned my letter of resignation in 2 weeks ago. This coming Monday after turkey day, I am starting a new job as a toddler teacher.
I had been in the public school system for 14 years. Like one of the other women who posted, I left due to adminstration. Pressure was put on me last year and had to increase my current medication as well as be put on others to control my situation all due to working in a school district. Before they could do something to me, my husband and I decided that if things weren’t going well this school year that it was ok for me to quit and look either elsewhere to teach or in another field until I felt ready to return to teaching.
Quitting 2 weeks ago has brought the person I always been, prior to the pressures from school, back. That person that returned has been missed for a long time.

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9 Tracy November 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Wow I feel like I’m reading about my classroom. I am at the end of my rope and can’t breath. My principal says the students behave that way because they are ‘trying me’ but its nothing I have ever seen. I have 17 4th graders and 5 are on IEP’s but because it is a catholic school we do not have the resources. We are very much inner city and there are 3 more students that should have an Iep. The behavior issues are so severe that one of my students has his own psychologist that visits in addition to his services. One female student has threatened to kill me and the other students 3 times and threatened to burn the school down. She received in school suspension that she called a party and was back in my classroom. I am seriously considering making winter break it for me. I love teaching but I can totally relate to not being able to ‘teach’ anything because of all of the issues. I wrote a grant for a free field trip -all paid 2nd grade through 5th and only 5 of my students were able to go because of disciplines or in school suspensions. I do my lesson plans each week and we get to about 60% of it all because of stopping, moving clips, sending to the office, parents who drop by and sheer chaos. We also run out of food at times on late lunch (4th grade) so I have to then hangout until they send more food so my kiddos can eat. This happens at least 1 time a week and they run out of the adult food twice a week. I get supplies and have to hide them in a classroom with no storage. They eventually find it and dig out what they want and I have to hide things again. I used to have it out in those cute bins all labeled and they took them all…home..etc. I’m on my 4th pencil sharpener because they jammed erasers in it. Oh yeah I can’t forget that one student chased another while I was breaking up a fight and knocked over my laptop and destroyed it. I have to use the classroom one which has the screen right by my students. One of the parents paid half but the other one avoids my calls. Out of 17 I have 3 at grade level and the other 14 range from 1st grade to beginning of third. Common core says we should be doing 2 and 3 digit multiplication but I only have one student in my class who can do 1 digit above 75% even one time. We have specials but the kids get sent back to me if they act up and I believe some do on purpose. We give food out over the weekend to 5 students who really need the help. Tuesday I caught one of the students selling something in the pack to a classmate. That’s not even bringing the administration. I’m at the end. Thank you for posting this. I feel less like a failure. I just don’t know how long I can keep up.

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10 Karen November 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm

My heart goes out to all of you that are teaching in schools like this. Thanks for your post Angela – it gives support to those who are in the position you were, and puts things in perspective for those of us who teach in calmer schools and get upset about relatively minor things compared to what others have to deal with every day.

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11 Stephanie November 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I feel very similar to all of you, which is such a relief. It’s hard to get friends/family who don’t teach to understand how hard teaching has become.

After reading through all the stories, I feel like I shouldn’t complain. These are very difficult/violent situations which I do not encounter on a day to day basis. However, the demand and pressure for results (no matter what) is always lingering. I feel like I am a parent to these children. I’ve taught at this school for 7 years now and I usually say the same thing every year. “Next year will be better…”

I’ve been married for over 6 months, my husband has watched me go through these swings of emotional. He wants me to be happy and thinks I should quit at the end of the year. However, I don’t know what else I could possibly do for a living.

I have other passions but let’s just say they aren’t lucrative enough to live on. Also, we want to have kids soon, so we need to money. I feel as if this situation has become a catch 22. Any advice out there?

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12 susanne November 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Yes. See a therapist. I taught at a nightmare school and really wanted to leave teaching altogether. Seeing a therapist (covered by my insurance) helped me create boundaries so that my husband could get his wife back. It will give you perspective to see if you want to stay where you are or move on.

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13 Simone November 29, 2012 at 11:16 am

I was in a similar situation and taught for six years. At the 2 year mark I became a wife and at the 3 year mark I became a mom. My priorities had changed and it was sooo difficult for me to juggle the ever growing demands of teaching and my growing family. I would come home exhausted with little time for my husband and daughter. I finally decided to resign before this school year started and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My husband and daughter have both noticed a happy change in me. Now I get to homeschool my daughter, I’ve started a business with my friend and I also substitute teach. Instead of having my life revolve around work, work revolves around MY schedule. Substitute teaching has been awesome because I can choose when, where & what grade I want to teach. Not to mention, I dont have to waste time on pointless meetings or neverending paperwork. I actually get to teach!

While I was struggling with my decision to leave the school system, my mom reminded me how my grandparents and great grandparents raised umpteen kids in a two room house on one income. That’s what made me go for it. Our society has changed so much for women we forget sometimes how women got through so much more “back in the day” without worrying about going to work to make money.

My advice: Think about your well being, your husbands well being & your future child’s well being and also listen to your husband. Mine told me the same thing yours did. With his support you can make it through whatever decision you make. Hope this helps…

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14 Olivia November 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm

I’m so glad I found this post. I made it to February in a classroom that was very similar to the ones you and Tracy described, only my students were first graders. I was too nauseous from stress and anxiety to be able to eat breakfast in the morning, too busy at school to eat lunch, and too tired (i.e. asleep on the couch) to eat dinner when I got home from school. Needless to say, the decision to quit my teaching position was definitely the right choice for me and I’ve never once regretted it. Not to sound overly dramatic, but I can’t imagine having an experience more emotionally and physically taxing than my time teaching in that school. It was quite honestly the worst 6 months of my life.

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15 Olivia November 24, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I should add that I am now a substitute teacher for a well performing suburban school district, and the difference between the two schools is incredible. I’ll also say that I think teaching in an urban school has made me extremely thankful for things other teachers might take for granted. For example, my first graders didn’t get recess and they had to eat breakfast and lunch in my classroom because the district couldn’t afford to hire any aides. I had to hide all my belongings during the day so they wouldn’t get stolen and any time I left the classroom I had to lock my door. Bathroom doors had to remain locked so students wouldn’t break the mirrors and cut each other with the glass… So, it sounds crazy, but knowing I can do things like set my purse down behind the teacher’s desk and leave it there while I run an errand down the hall still makes my day.

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16 Joanna November 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Thank you for this!

I have been teaching for 8 years and turned in my letter of resignation two weeks ago, after so much praying, pondering, and second-guessing. It was not an easy decision, but my reasons for leaving mid-year are all solid, and even supported by my administrators.

Even so, I am dealing with a lot of guilt over letting people down. I never thought I would quit a teaching job mid-year.

I am thankful to know I am not the only one who has been in this difficult place. It is a tough process to walk through, but I knew that for me it was the right choice, and would ultimately bring peace.

Thanks for posting.

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17 Maureen November 26, 2012 at 8:26 am

Hi Joanna, I feel this way too. I am actually home today because I have the flu, probably because of all the stress. Even taking today off meant leaving at 5:30 am to leave handouts and work that my inner city students may try to do. I have a temperature and have been throwing up and my principal stopped in and just told me not to leave microscopes out while I am gone and didn’t offer any help while I was obviously struggling to get ready because of how bad I feel.
I am curious as to what you stated as your reason for leaving. I want to resign but I would like to teach in some capacity in another district.
Appreciate your help.

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18 Nicky November 24, 2012 at 10:04 pm

I have just read the story of my life! I have been teaching for 18 years in an inner city school and I don’t know how much longer I can last. What kills me is that 50% of my job depends on my students test scores…..I can’t even explain the make up of my room because it gives me anxiety. Daily I suffer from shortness of breath, chest pains, and my arms go numb! My retirement age has just been up 5 years because our fund managers made poor decision, yet we are the ones to suffer. Teaching is awful, I would quit today if I could. What I want to know is when are we going to make a stand and lay the blame where it belongs…..A mass exodus of teachers, maybe someone would listen! Let’s face it, we are All too tired and don’t have the fight left!

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19 H. November 25, 2012 at 11:59 am

I understand the situation totally. I took a job teaching in an urban middle school, starting a music program. It’s been… Well, awful. The kids have no discipline, and they just laugh at the consequences. Sending them to the office is a joke. I’ve had kids throw rocks at me, paper, pencils, chairs. I have security remove them and then nothing happens. They use terrible language, fight with each other, and have called me every name in the book. We can’t get work done because of discipline issues. They would rather talk, rip pages out of books and write, “F$&@ you, Mrs. S!” On my walls, and floor. They won’t show up for after school detention and calling parents has a low success rate.

Needless to say, I’m at the end of my rope as well. I’m currently looking for other employment outside teaching. This article has made me feel much better. I’m not alone, and not a failure. Maybe this isn’t for me. And that’s ok.

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20 Nicole Latham March 19, 2014 at 9:32 am

I can totally relate!!! I was asked to build a high school choir grades 7-12. Every child acted awful!!! They would fight, yell obscenities, run around the room, rip up the music , groan when asked to sing, threaten me, and the administration did zero to help with establishing expectations in the classroom. There were literally no consequences for insane behavior. Not to mention my classroom setting was completely unsafe, no PA system, no phone, only my laptop and cell phone – which rarely had reception due to the location of the classroom. What’s worse is that all of the student behavior was constantly blamed on me . Administration would ask kids what I said , the kid written up, and take their word as gospel and use it to attack me. I asked administration to visit my classroom without my knowledge or to record the class so that they could get an accurate view as to what was going on , but my requests were refused. I finally took medical leave toward the end of the year and do not anticipate going back. My one regret is taking this job in the first place as I fear it will mar my chances of ever working again. Hindsight is better than foresight!!

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21 Victoria November 25, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Thank you for this post. Fourteen years ago I was in that position in an urban first grade and made the difficult decision to quit. I spent a long time questioning my ability to teach, but was able to move on. I now teach in a different state at a school that I love, and I’m currently working on my National Board Certification. There’s a lot to be thankful for including fresh starts.

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22 Angela Watson November 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I’m so grateful to each one of you who has taken the time to comment and share your story. It’s so encouraging to other teachers to know they’re not the only ones in this situation. It’s also interesting to read how each of you has chosen to deal with these tough situations.

For those who are still grappling with the situation you’re in and looking for advice on other career opportunities in the education field, you can check out the Eduprenur section of my website here: http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/free-resources/edupreneurs. I’ve shared resources for becoming an educational consultant, doing instructional coaching, starting a teaching blog and selling teaching materials, etc. I hope that’s helpful.

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23 Bri November 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Thank you, thank you for the article you wrote. I left my position at an urban school at Christmas time last year. It was one of the most difficult choices I have ever made, and although I am still searching for a permanent position I know that it was the best thing for me. It helps to know that others have been there and are now successful.

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24 Dana R. November 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Angela , thank you so much for writing this post and explaining what you went through. I really appreciate your honesty. You’re a fabulous person, educator, and friend. Helping others is your speciality, and I’m beyond thankful to have read your story and encouraging words. :)

Dana

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25 Zachary November 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Um , you should be ashamed of yourself, if you were a good teacher and in the profession for the right reasons you would have stayed knowing you were the only shot those kids had. It’s teachers like you and all of your so called “fans” who have created the dropout factories we call schools. I teach each and everyday and its the hardest job in the world but like everything in life it’s a choice. It’s reprehensible for a teacher to quit midyear, at least have the grit to finish the year and then move on.

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26 January November 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I agree Zachary. Reading the post and replies makes me very worried for our most vulnerable students – classroom management and relationship building is part of the job.

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27 L November 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Zachary,

I think that’s the same doubts teachers have before quitting. I’m in my eighth year of teaching and for the past five, I’ve wanted to quit. Yet, every year I think about the fact that I’m one of the few teachers willing to fight for the kids. But I always wind up stressed out and sick mid-year. I’ve been hospitalized every year for some type of stress-prompted medical condition. So this year I’m done. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it for the whole school year, but if not, there will be no guilt on my part.

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28 Carolyn November 25, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Don’t throw stones, my friend. You may not know this lady’s whole story. Sounds to me like you’re sitting in judgement right now.

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29 Carolyn November 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm

My comment was for Zachary, by the way.

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30 Dave November 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Zachary & January:

It is great that you are able to withstand the stress and challenges of your classrooms; your students and school are the better for it. However, it is not shameful if others are unable to persist in a similar environment. We all have our strengths, weaknesses, and limits. There are a myriad of factors that impact one’s ability to sustain his/herself in a negative environment; until you get to know the other person, how can you judge them so sharply? Rather than demean them, why not thank them for the contributions they made up to the point they could not take it any longer?

Responding to a calling, I became a teacher after a quarter century working in high-tech. I felt full of empathy, compassion, and drive as I made my way through ed school. Yet, once in the classroom, the enormity of the job cast a shadow over what until then was unabashed idealism, ever for a baby boomer. However, all too often, the reality of today’s classrooms clash with the ideals of helping others overcome their challenges in life. As teachers, you should recognize this as truth, and empathize with your fellow teachers who suffer in their desire to serve, rather than belittle them.

I hope you remain as strong-willed as you seem to be so that you may both continue serving those in need. Yet, if the day comes when you realize you have exceeded your threshold, I hope you recognize the irony in the moment as others thank you for your service, when they could bemoan why you were unable to endure.

[reposted from below]

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31 Kris Nielsen November 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Bad things happening to good teachers. It doesn’t make any sense and it’s got to stop.

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32 Kelsi November 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I teach a first-grade class that is not quite as bad as the one you mentioned, but it is my second year with a tough class and an unsupportive administration. I have a student in my class who is ADHD, ODD, and has intermittent-explosive disorder. Even with an aide in the room, he refuses to stay in his seat. He is constantly throwing things, climbing in cabinets/on counters, yelling and hitting other kids, taking things from my desk and drawers, jumping on the tables…anything to get attention.
This is all documented and nothing new.
My principal has continually blamed this behavior on me (saying if I taught him expectations, he would not behave in that way), and does not understand that I can hardly keep the attention of the rest of the class (or teach) when I am constantly dealing with him. I have a few other students who join in, which always makes it even crazier. I feel I am at the end of my rope, but had decided to stick it out – only to be put on a growth plan for not keeping 90% of my students engages 90% of the time. Now I am afraid that – despite attempting to stay with it, I will end up with a “bruise” on my record as bad as if I had just left (but I still have to deal with going back).
Any advice/words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated!

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33 cathy November 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I am so glad you wrote this.
I quit teaching a junior high job in middle of second year. I had 5 different class preparations and was too overwhelmed creating lesson after lesson and having different levels ( first and second year) students in language classes. I was also coaching and asked to take on mor ecoaching. I went on a medical leave and ultimately resigned. I felt like a failure fo ra long long time afterwards. No one can do everything. Many of us have taken on classes and situations which we could not handle.
I would nto have taken your job as the no windows andno recess part would have been signals to meto nto take the job. I have refused jobs and then been a waitress for another year when I interviewed for a no window job.
We must listento our hearts, encourage others and communicate as much as possible with our knowledge and ideals. namaste

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34 Katy November 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Angela,

Thanks so much for sharing this. Teachers need to hear from each other, especially during the most challenging times. We have to be the ones to hold each other up, and also to encourage decisions that consider the teacher’s well being, when most people don’t. So many teachers are facing unsustainable situations like you describe. My book Why Great Teachers Quit is full of stories like yours and with suggestions to change schools to help retain wonderful teachers like you! I’ll share this post widely. Thanks again.

Katy

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35 Robbi November 25, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Yes. I’ll be giving up teaching due to exhaustion very soon myself. It’s tough tonight (Sunday after Thanksgiving) thinking I will need to go back tomorrow. Tears and stress building up already. A good article, full of much wisdom…..

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36 afm November 25, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Zachary–it’s crystal clear that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

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37 January November 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Wow, those who have posted here certainly have painted a negative picture of your students. Keep in mind, there are those teachers who have classes just as “bad” who are thriving and doing wonderful things. I would offer the advice to sit in on some of those classes. Perhaps you may want to examine your knowledge, skills, and dispositions as critically as you have assessed those of your students.

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38 Kim November 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Hi, I just want to say that we really cannot judge what situation any one person is in. Have you been hospitalized for stress related conditions? Is your health at risk? Is your family suffering because of the effort you must exercise to make a job as tough as that work? There are so many components to our lives. I’m not in the position of being in such a tough district. But there is no way to judge someone when what they are going through professionally, personally, physically, and emotionally is different from you. You need to take your peace with your decisions, and realize that taking care of yourself is an important job. When your health suffers, what help will that be for the children? When everything else in your life suffers, where will that leave you? Everyone is different and that should be respected. Remember, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before passing judgment.

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39 Carolyn November 25, 2012 at 8:08 pm

AMEN!!!!!

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40 Rick December 2, 2012 at 5:37 am

January, you sound like you have never taught a day in your life. If so, you have no business judging others for a job you have never done.

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41 Louise September 22, 2013 at 11:42 am

Yes but we are not comparing ‘bad’ or good classes. If an educator is saying it was too much for them, it must have been. I have been teaching just over a year. I’m 42 changed careers out of a desire to teach and share my love of history and literature with my students. Of course it didnt take long to realize that my vision of teaching was based on my fantasy. In today’s classroom n matter how bad or good, no one is interested in you sharing your love literature, not the students and definitely not the administration ( though they will tell you how much they want students to lve reading). My first school was a nightmare and I wanted to quit after the first month but ‘stick it out’ as people suggested I should. Well I made it by relying. Coffee and little sleep due to spending my evenings and weekends preparing 30 lessons plans (6for each day) every week. But at the end of the year I thought, maybe. Was wrong and its not teaching, but rather the school thA was the problem, so I applied cord and received a transfer. So I started a new position at another school hoping that my feelings would change. When I entered the school I felt a warmth and care for the students and thought yes, this is it. This year will be much better. I must have just been overwhelmed at the first school, but the feeling hasn’t left. I love my students, the school is doing its best to meet the new demands of the field while still being concerned with student welfare, but I am still overwhelmed. I do know if I have the energy to make it throw another year, let alone and entire career of being perpetually tired and overworked. I was raised I the ‘urban’ school systems and so I knw personally what my students are facing at home but that shouldn’t mean I forget my own well being and stay on when I am pretty certain the profession as awhile is it for me. …..just some thoughts from someone who is considering resigning now, before it goes too far.

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42 Teresa November 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I am so glad to have read your article. You don’t know how relieved I am–I, too have given much thought into quitting after 12 years of teaching. I have felt such guilt; but like you I realized that if I do not quit I will risk my health and sanity. I am going to finish out the school year; but don’t think I haven’t thought about quitting after December. :) I have made a decision to join the Peace Corps for 2 years (my application should be in the “process” stage after December) and see what happens from there when I get back. I have felt in the last two years that teaching has gotten a lot harder on the part of the teacher–the expectation for teachers is so high it borders on extremely rigid and impossible to reach. There is always a want, want, want, and a need, need, need from administrators, parents, and students; but there is no give to teachers–give us adequate classroom supplies, teaching supplies, a classroom with enough space for 25-30 students, or classrooms with fewer students, and there are probably a few hundred other items to give a teacher. Thank you Angela for your story in helping so many teachers who are in the same boat to come to a decision and know that we (I am) are not failures as teachers–cause no matter the decision made there will be one more healthier and saner person on this earth. :)

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43 Dianne November 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I am grateful that this is my 30th and last year of teaching. My stress level and the hours spent on work have increased steadily over the past 6 years. I have taught three different grade levels in the past three years. I have had to move my own classroom and start all over again creating lesson plans and materials. This is due to the financial problems within the district and being “highly qualified” to teach many grade levels. I feel guilty for the relief that I feel when I realize that I do not have to go through the new teacher evaluation program or the testing of the new Common Core. Children bring to school with them so many life problems that interfer with learning. I now deal with behaviors and issues that I did not have when I started teaching in 1983. I am still passionate about my profession, but I am so tired of being in the only profession where perfection is the standard. Teachers must meet 100% of their students needs 100% of the time and be 100% successful too! God bless all of the teachers who wrote comments to this article.

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44 Olivia November 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm

January, I don’t think these posts have been directed towards the students as much as they’ve been directed towards poorly run administrations and school districts. I’m passionate about education reform, but not to the point that I’m willing to sacrifice my own mental and physical health. Can children from high poverty backgrounds excel in the classroom? Absolutely. Is it the teacher’s job to set expectations, form meaningful relationships, and plan engaging lessons to keep students on track? Of course. But at some point schools have to draw the line between what is and is not feasible for 1 person to do, and, unfortunately, that line is often crossed (or not drawn at all) in urban schools due to a lack of resources. You’re right in saying that it’s not fair to blame the students for being in these situations, but it’s also not right to blame teachers who go into low performing schools and try to make a difference, only to find out that it comes at a pretty hefty cost.

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45 Dave November 25, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Angela’s post could not come at a better time. With less than a year and a half as a credentialed teacher, in a suburban setting no where near as tumultuous as hers, thoughts of quitting have become more prevalent of late. Will I act on them? I doubt it. I simply need to seek balance, which is nigh impossible given the near infinite number of tasks that require my attention to teach my three preps to 150 or so students. Saying such is easy; achieving it remains elusive even today.

Zachary & January:

It is great that you are able to withstand the stress and challenges of your classrooms; your students and school are the better for it. However, it is not shameful if others are unable to persist in a similar environment. We all have our strengths, weaknesses, and limits. There are a myriad of factors that impact one’s ability to sustain his/herself in a negative environment; until you get to know the other person, how can you judge them so sharply? Rather than demean them, why not thank them for the contributions they made up to the point they could not take it any longer?

Responding to a calling, I became a teacher after a quarter century working in high-tech. I felt full of empathy, compassion, and drive as I made my way through ed school. Yet, once in the classroom, the enormity of the job cast a shadow over what until then was unabashed idealism, ever for a baby boomer. However, all too often, the reality of today’s classrooms clash with the ideals of helping others overcome their challenges in life. As teachers, you should recognize this as truth, and empathize with your fellow teachers who suffer in their desire to serve, rather than belittle them.

I hope you remain as strong-willed as you seem to be so that you may both continue serving those in need. Yet, if the day comes when you realize you have exceeded your threshold, I hope you recognize the irony in the moment as others thank you for your service, when they could bemoan why you were unable to endure.

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46 PK Ergle November 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Well said.

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47 debra November 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I quit after I was with a district for a year and a half. I worked with high school, sped, gang kids in two border towns. The week before break was like this; one student was watching videos about Columbine, another was dealing, and a third got in my face because he was moved to Fridays only. It was such a dangerous place to be so I left. However, no matter what teaching position I interviewed for, I didn’t get a job. I went without work for more than three months and was told that if you quit mid-year no one will hire you, you’re not dependable. I finally was hired and able to get back on my feet, but what a challenge. Find a job before quitting the other would be my recommendation.

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48 LL November 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm

I am so thankful to hear the stress of teaching is affecting other teachers and not just me. I loved teaching, but in a 100% farms school with a 90% ESOl population, my 2nd grade class has 30 students. There are 5 IEP”s and 1 autistic boy who qualifies for an aide, but I was told there is no money to pay for one. Since NCLB, education has deteriorated to chasing scores that are not attainable. Teachers at my schools work and collaborate and come up with wonderful ideas that are exhausting to implement with little or no resources. The steady flow of paper tasks and admin requirements increases weekly. Oh and did I mention that our county has not had any pay increases for 5 years, none, nada, nothing…….it really kills a teacher’s spirit.

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49 Mama November 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm

If teaching is draining your energy, it’s ok to look at other professions ;)

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50 LL November 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Sorry to say but you really miss the whole point of my post….. I do not quit because I love the children and they deserve to be educated. I don’t want to get another job….

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51 Mama November 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm

LL, my comment was not directed at you….it was directed at teachers who are feeling energy sucked from their core. It’s unhealthy and it’s ok to leave the profession.

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52 LL November 25, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I agree, it’s either your glass is half full or it’s half empty! It’s your state of mind!

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53 Jan November 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I am quitting as of December 28th. I have been a Pre K teacher for 12 years in the same room. I wished I would of done it in August after my last class moved on to Kindergarten but I tried it one more time but by Nov I knew I was done !

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54 Amanda November 25, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Your post describes exactly what I felt last year as a nineteen year veteran. Fortunately, I chose to stay and fight the battles each day, mainly because my own son was in one of my classes. This year, I’m pleased to report, my joy for teaching has returned. To all new teachers, hang in there! It is the toughest job ever, but it is so crucial that children have quality teachers.

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55 Carrie November 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm

“I was not a failure. I was successful in taking care of myself.” I needed to read that…thank you!

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56 Teacher November 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm

My 8th year of teaching was a HORRIBLE year. The teachers, students, admin, and parents were a nightmare. In October, if I could have come up with ANY alternative, I would have thrown in the towel. The ONE thing that kept me sane was lunch time. During lunch I would go to the Discovery channel website and watch a few minutes of Deadliest Catch. I would say to myself, “If these guys can do this all day, every day for weeks on end, I can get through the next 4 hours.” It helped to put things in perspective for me. I made it through that TERRIBLE year, transferred schools and am in LOVE with teaching once again. You will not be the perfect match for every school. Search until you find the right one. Then, settle in for the long haul. Teaching is a WONDERFUL profession and I wouldn’t want to ever do anything else!

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57 Kathleen November 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Thank you for providing insight to what several of us educators face. You have helped me realize that my heart is in teaching teachers…something I did for 2 years and decided to return to the clsm this year, but I’ve struggled with my decision. Thank you!

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58 Nelda Cole November 25, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I completely understand and agree with everything you wrote in the article. I managed to hold everything together until the day after school was out in 2010. Then, I had a mental breakdown, or breakthrough, and committed myself to the mental hospital where I stayed a week. My mental and physical health suffered from all the daily stress of teaching. I retired early after teaching for 20 years. Even the thought of being around children, especially children with behavior problems who are disrespectful, makes me ill. I loved teaching children, but the stress of achievement scores, a rigorous curriculum, and having no time for myself or family destroyed my love for children and teaching.

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59 Dave November 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Thanks for sharing, Nelda. I can see how those three challenges could wreak havoc on someone’s soul. So few people understand a teacher’s travails. I know I did not as little as three years ago. Now, a year and a half into my new career, they weigh heavily on me along with the challenges of being a new teacher with three preps (algebra intervention, algebra 1, AP Calc AB) developing new curriculum for all three (Common Core based for one) and completing a second year of BTSA (in order to receive a clear credential). As someone who transitioned from a quarter century in industry, working for some very taxing firms in a very “go get ‘em” type A fashion, I am convinced this profession places too much of a burden on the individual teacher. It requires a team approach, much like all other professions and industries. If that were the case,it might lessen the frequency of situations like yours where the individual who gives their heart and souls ends up smitten in the end. So sad.

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60 Jenifer P. November 26, 2012 at 11:54 am

My 2nd year of teaching I took at job at an inner city school as a 3rd grade teacher. I had spent my first year teaching at a great suburban school, but it was in Elementary Library/Computers, a “foot in the door” type position. I was excited to have my own classroom.
My team teacher was wonderful but that’s where the greatness stopped. The students were terrible, the admin even worse, and the electrical problems at the school were horrid!! We sometimes didn’t even have working heat.
I could go on all day about all of the horrible, stressful, daily events, but I just don’t have the time to share.
The breaking point was when I showed up barely a minute late to pick up the kids from Lunch. The admin was very racist towards the white teachers. I literally walked in maybe 5 seconds behind an African American teacher (whom was also late to pick her kids up). The principal was chatting it up with her as she went in.
She saw me and literally started yelling at me in front of my kids and in front of the cafeteria staff. She also went off on a (rare) good students of mine for something petty. I decided then and there that it was the last straw. The next day, I went to the district office and said that they either let me out of my contract, or I press racial harrassment charges
.

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61 Jenifer P. November 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

It was late October when that occurred. I worked a randome retail job for a month, then I happened to find a full time 4th grade job at a local charter school. I stayed there for 2 years before moving on to a better job.
Now, the decision would’ve been harder had I had more responsibilities like I do now. I now have 2 kids. Back then, I was a newlywed with a very supportive hubby. While he’s still supportive, I know my own kiddos are top priority!
I ultimate goal now is to be a stay at home mom and somehow stay involved in the education field in my own time and/or online. I just don’t know where to start.

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62 Blithe November 27, 2012 at 9:31 am

Thank you for the article Angela, and thanks to everyone for your thoughtful responses. After a terrible year of teaching (my 20th) with many of the problems you’ve written about, I’m pretty sure I’m finished with education. I never want to stand in front of a classroom again. Conveniently, I was furloughed from my latest position instead of having to quit.
I’m now working a close-to minimum wage job at a psychiatric hospital, with patients who are considered some of the toughest at the facility. I regularly have bodily fluids spewn at me and sometimes have to restrain adults from hitting or biting me. But this is better! For the first time in my adult life I don’t dread every day of work. (And I was considered a really good teacher!)
Like most of you in your individual subjects, I wanted to turn students on to the joy of learning. In my case it was music. I did not go into teaching to be a drill sergeant or to coerce people into learning. I’ve wondered if maybe I never the right kind of personality to be an effective teacher, but my 19 years of success would suggest otherwise.
Our culture has changed and I suspect the model of education we’ve had for the past 100 years just doesn’t work for many of our children anymore. I’m starting nursing school in January, at the age of 52. Wish me luck!

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63 Rachel November 28, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I’ve definitely been there before. After 6 years in a low-income school, I was done. The stress made me ill, I was so unhappy, and I was just miserable. I dreaded going to school every day. But it wasn’t teaching – I still wanted to TEACH. So I found a job fair – an international school job fair – and I got a job teaching overseas. As soon as the fair was over, I literally felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. As stressed and unhappy as I was, I didn’t realize just how much it was all weighing on me until I knew that once June came, I was done there.

Four months into my new job, I love teaching again. I’m happy and healthy – haven’t missed a single day of school since the year began. I love my LIFE, and I am so happy. It’s an amazing opportunity, and I am so lucky. If it’s possible for you, I definitely recommend it. There’s some awful international schools out there, but it’s overall amazing. The administration, the school, the classroom resources, the students – all of it. Not only that – the perks are AMAZING.

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64 Maureen December 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Sounds Great Rachel! How do we find out about these jobs?

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65 Michele December 2, 2012 at 10:30 am

I know the pain that you went through in quitting in the middle of the year.
I taught 6th-8th for many years but the stress level built up slowly kind of
like the frog in the pot,anyway I had reached my breaking point. I felt that
I wasn’t teaching anymore it was a battle everyday. But God stepped in and
there was a 3rd grade opening in another town. I wanted to leave soonthat day
as soon as I walked into my new classroom I felt a joy about teaching that I hadn’t
Felt since my first year of teaching. What’s ironic is that I returned to the same school
but now I now I teach 3/4 grade.

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66 soonai December 9, 2012 at 8:17 am

thanks for the encouragement! as I am in tears on a Sunday morning thinking about quitting and dreading Monday. Feeling guilty for leaving the “good” students, the pressure that I will to my principal, who is the best; wondering what my 13 year old daughter will think of a mother who quit, wondering if I could replace my salary soon enough to keep the bills going.

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67 Gretchen December 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Angela,
It takes strength to recognize when you lack what it takes at a particular moment to do the job the way it needs to be done. Passing the baton is humbling and shows how much you put students first. I too had a similar experience. I was teaching 5th grade at a title one school in the city. I was asked to leave my comfy, safe 3rd grade classroom because my behavior management could be of help to the 5th grade students. Although this was a compliment, I was unhappy about the change. I knew 5th grade was out of my comfort zone. I coached middle school soccer and knew the interests of this age of child. It wasn’t on school that’s for sure! Needless to say I spent all of my time disciplining students and trying to keep the oogling eyes to a minimum. My principal sat me down numerous times asking if I was okay and that I looked miserable. I was. I kept saying, “I just want to teach.” I waited it out until the end of the year, but I was exhausted emotionally and cannot remember one piece of content I taught. I thought about giving up teaching, but I accepted a position in 2nd grade and fell back in love with teaching. I realized I was mot the best person for the job. Sometimes that truth hurts, but it’s putting kids first. Their next teacher gave them everything they needed. I bless her everyday!

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68 Waving the flag December 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm

As I sit here tonight writing my resignation letter to leave at Christmas, I feel sorry for all of us that went into education with such a passion and desire to help students learn, but are burdened by the behaviors we can no longer control, the continuous testing even at 5 years old, the data that must drive our instruction 24-7, lack of parenting, and administrators that wouldn’t even spend a day teaching in one of our rooms. I have been a teacher for 9 years, and I can no longer do it. I decided I would attempt to teach Kindergarten in an inner-city charter school, and it has been the biggest mistake I have made. Charter schools are not run like public schools and the work load is much heavier, yet the pay is much less. The stress is unstoppable, and the school year doesn’t get even a tad easier. Most days I put in between 12-15 hours and don’t feel I even make a dent in my workload. I have missed over a week of work due to stress and illness and have lost a significant amount of weight. I stand behind my decision of leaving and I know my health is way more important than any job, so too is my marriage. One can only give so much of oneself before you are the one who actually loses.

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69 Maureen December 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I feel your pain Waving the Flag, I am considering rendering my letter on Dec. 21. That would give the district 2 weeks over break to replace me and I won’t have to prepare lesson plans.
Nice to know I am not alone in feeling this way about inner city teaching. I love the kids but have been moved to five different schools in six years. Inconsistency and chaos often rule the day. I am exhausted and really miss my family.

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70 James December 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm

I’m seriously thinking of quitting mid-year. This is the fourth year I’ve been at this school, but so many changes in the school have made it an even harder place to work.

I work in a semi-isolated community (50 miles from the nearest town). I teach grades 5-7, but half my class is at a K level in reading and math. I’ve had successes in the past (gotten kids from four years behind level to reading and math at level) but in the past three years, we’ve had three different principals come in and try and make the school a functional school. This year, he means well, but students should not be referred to the office, and cannot be suspended. I have fights breaking out, my personal laptop has had keys ripped off, students screaming abuse (“I’m gonna F your wife till she dies”) on a daily basis.

I know if I leave, I’ll feel like I failed. I know I’ll have a fight to get my “summer pay” (they take off part of my check to pay me in the summer, but they won’t give me back what they’ve taken if I leave). I could get a job pretty quick in the actual district (this isn’t a district school) but I’m worried about burning bridges and losing money.

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71 Veronica December 22, 2012 at 6:09 pm

This is so sad, this is why Teachers get a bad rap! When pursing the teaching profession, people really should think about the worst situation possible and if they can handle it (mentally, emotionally, physically, etc.), instead of quitting when things seems impossible. I’m not judging your personal decision to quit, just that teaching isn’t for everyone, but people should figure that out before going into the field and giving up on the “bad” kids. More than likely those are the kids that needed you the most and just like you said, they have been left before so that is all they know. Knowing that and turning around and doing it to them is just atrocious. I think a huge injustice is done when teachers don’t stick it out. True, someone should not be a teacher if they can’t hack it or just don’t want to do it anymore, then they definitely shouldn’t be a teacher. I’m just disappointed by how the public and media treats teachers, and situations like this add to it. Again, I’m not trying to be judgmental on your own decision, in fact it was probably the best idea that you quit if your heart wasn’t in it. I’m just frustrated that people can give up on the difficult children, knowing full well that the teaching profession should inspire and attempt to help all students regardless of situation or ability. I urge everyone to do your homework before picking the teaching profession because ALL children need inspiring, strong, and caring teachers!

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72 Carrie February 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

Veronica, I am just curious – are you a teacher? Have you ever been in a teaching situation such as the one described above? I am also not judging your response to Angela’s post, but as you mentioned in your comment, you hate the way the public and the media treat teachers (I do too – in fact, teachers are my passion), but yet, in the next breath, you essentially DID cast your judgement on her decision, calling it ‘atrocious’. What I am finding more and more, is that quite a lot of people have a lot to say about teaching and teachers who have never stepped foot in a classroom, or who have taught a day in their lives, and unless you’ve been in a situation like Angela’s, there is no way to know how you would respond. In Angela’s post, I didn’t glean anywhere from it that her heart wasn’t in it. In fact, quite the opposite as she dreamed of being able to share literature and critical thinking, and stir up curiosity and wonder through science, but in her situation, it was impossible to get past the environment of the school, and the baggage that these children brought to the classroom that made teaching equivalent to climbing a mountain by one’s fingertips – every.single.day. Two things I am frustrated with in all of this (while we’re sharing frustrations): 1) In all of the increased expectations and elevated academic rigor for achievement, coupled with the behavioral issues on the rise (and not just in urban areas), NO ONE is talking about how to provide teachers with ways to fortify themselves mentally, physically, emotionally to continue to do what they do to the capacity that is expected. Teachers are expected to be superhuman and 110% selfless, even to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing. 2) There appears to be SOME talk and research depicting the increasing behavioral issues in classrooms, and the students’ home lives and backgrounds being at the root of these issues but VERY LITTLE in the way of talking about solutions. We’re essentially saying, ‘We know children are going to school with more needs than ever on top of their academic needs, but let the teachers handle it.’ End of story. There needs to be more conversation about change, and bringing an awareness to the public as the realities of what our teachers are up against daily. Then there needs to be a plan to support them, and not just in word only.

I could go on. As you’re thinking about teachers that are horrible or selfish for leaving the profession, please also be thinking of ways to help improve the state of education.

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73 Blithe December 22, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Veronica, I am a teacher who left the profession. Most of us thought long and hard about going into teaching and worked very hard to be the best teachers we could possible be, for the kids. But there was no way to prepare for what we have had to face. It’s like trying to imagine childbirth before going through it, or like knowing how we will react in a crisis situation when we’ve never been in one.
Teaching is one crisis situation after another, especially in the inner city. What I had to do was to make a decision about the value of my own health. The decision to leave the teaching profession was extremely difficult. My heart was in it, but it was making me emotionally and physically ill.

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74 Teach First December 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I agree with Blithe. I can’t imagine myself doing anthing but being a teacher. I do though have to draw the line when the time I take to do all the obligations and work required takes away from my family, and my personal health (spiritual and physical). Being a teacher today is becoming more and more difficult. You don’t know what you might do in any given situation unless you have walked in that teacher’s shoes.

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75 Waving the flag January 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Thank you Blithe for your insight. I couldn’t agree more. I have to tell those of you struggling with the decision to leave, I was so nervous to provide my principal with my letter of resignation, but am now so glad I did. I am ready to move forward. I will continue with the field of education, but in the college sector. I am not sure if I will return to the elementary school classroom, as I no longer believe in the changes that are being made constantly. Teachers are now treated like unworthy slaves, and that breaks my heart. If my heart and soul are not in it, it is not fair to all of those souls who need someone whose is. My next task is to write a book on my experiences to hopefully shed light to those who have no true idea what is going on behind the closed door.

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76 Maureen January 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Waving the Flag,
I salute your courage. Curious as to what your letter said and how it was received. Haven’t surrendered yet. Still looking for another job first. So happy for you. Good luck in your new endeavors.

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77 Waving the flag January 3, 2013 at 9:18 am
78 Sarah January 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I agree with Blithe. I was a teacher for 7 years. I just quit two days ago, right after our district’s return from the winter holiday. Never in my life did I think I would do something so risky as quitting my teaching job mid-year. But a series of events led me to this difficult decision. My body crashed. The stress and pressure that I used to handle with ease was manifesting itself in a great depression that left me feeling guilty. I had no gusto. My husband a daughter suffered because of it. It was a struggle, but I made the difficult decision to leave the profession behind me. I feel that I may have let the kids down but I also know that fourth graders are resilient and in 10 years this will be a blip on their radar. My ultimate complaint about the job is the relentless pile of duties and paperwork given to teachers with no regard for the number of hours in the day. It became so thankless for me that I had to quit for my own health. Were my first 6 years of teaching enjoyable? Yes. But it seems like this year contained the over-scheduling of meetings, half-hearted professional development agendas, over-bearing parents, and ever difficult process for getting struggling students help that was just enough for me to resign. Believe me when I say I am not the type of person to do such a thing. But I would hope that other people reading this post who have maybe done searches about getting out of the teaching profession would take solice in my story. And make a decision for YOUR SELF. Teachers take care of others’ needs all day long. If your job is harming you emotionally, physically and spiritually, DONT DO IT!!! While I’m scared of my immediate future I know things will be ok, my husband is supportive of my new focus to care for my sanity :) and my daughter is going to have a happier mommy. To the people who think those of us that quit “give teachers a bad name” for running when it gets hard….change your perspective a bit. If you had a friend who was an accountant and they were unhappy with their job would you sink so low as to judge them for needing a change? Teaching may be a calling, it deals with precious children and it’s noble but when you step far enough out of the bubble of education you realize it’s just a job like pumping gas or serving fries.

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79 Louise September 22, 2013 at 11:50 am

Thank you

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80 Andrea January 13, 2013 at 8:47 am

Sarah,

I am curious as to what state you teach in. I am in the same boat. I just got back from break and I am ready to resign. It’s just too much. I am trying to stick it out and find another job first. However, I don’t know if I can make it until May 28th.

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81 Sarah January 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Andrea,
I had planned to stick it out through this entire year as well (my husband and I agreed upon that earlier this school year) but, like I said, my body told me otherwise when I had such terrible anxiety that I didn’t want to do anything! If you can stick it out, do. It makes the most sense financially, right? But I will tell you this…the day I spoke with my principal and told him I wasn’t coming back I felt such a weight lifted. I hadn’t felt that great in months. I live in Oregon. I don’t know teachers in any other states so I’m not sure if I had it better or worse as far as the job goes. I just know that we get one life and I was not going to do this til retirement so I made the change.

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82 Maureen January 13, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Sarah,
I hear what you are saying!! I keep hanging in there hoping for a change or a new job offering but the stress is taking its toll. I just don’t have the nerve to quit without another job lined up. State tests came back very low last week so now there is even more pressure added. Just praying my way through this. I admire your courage and can only imagine how much lighter you feel.

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83 Suzanne January 15, 2013 at 1:19 am

My daughter’s two teachers of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade classroom of a private school quit midyear too. One called me to give me the news on the first day after Christmas break. She said they were being harassed and going to start their own school. She was calling each parent ( except the parent on the school’s board). At first, I was supportive. I understand how stressful teaching in our current environment is. Later, after further investigation, I changed my mind. I found many details were distorted based on reports by fellow teachers, parents and the children. The deciding factor for me was the testimony ( corroborated by my child and other children in the class) that the children saw both teachers that Tuesday. The waved and called hello to both AND THE TEACHERS TURNED THEIR BACKS ON THEM. The child that told me this was one of the two of the sixteen students that my daughter ( 11 years young and innocent) had reported were most devastated by the teachers leaving. I have lost all respect for these two teachers. I am a physician and am bound by law ( not to mention ethics) not to abandon my patients. I have to put my patients needs above my own. if I am not emotionally sound enough to practice, I am expected to turn in my license. There are now 16 souls facing abandonment issues that will scar them for a lifetime. I have lost respect for these teachers that did not at least say good bye to their students. I hope they never are in the position to hurt other children.

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84 Sarah January 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Suzanne,
That sounds like a terrible experience for the students, parents and remainder of the school staff. I agree that what you described was very unprofessional. I hope that my posts above (tinged with a bit of venting) did not make it seem as though I don’t care for the students or the profession. In fact it’s quite the opposite. And I feel resolve with the way I said goodbye to my students. To use some of your words, I don’t feel emotionally sound enough to give my elementary teaching position it’s due diligence while simultaneously giving the same time to my toddler and husband. Granted, this is unique to me and many women manage this and more with grace. I simply had to make a life change. I am now working through the guilt of leaving something I once loved but ultimately put my own health above the profession. That I cannot apologize for. I am sorry that the students at your school are feeling abandoned…they have every right to feel that way. But I always remind myself that children are resilient. That won’t stop the anguish now, I know, but it has proven true over time in my experience. I sincerely hope the situation at your school changes for the better!

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85 Suzanne January 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Sarah,
I would not have had a problem if the teachers had explained and said good bye. Nothing we ( parents and other teachers) say seems to help them. I am glad you said good bye. I trusted these teachers with my children. I will not do it again with these particular ladies ( who are starting their own school). This does not apply to you or any of the other teachers who leave without hurting the children.
And about children being resilient. They are not as resilient as you think. You are not the first adult who has mentioned this. I was surprised at first, but I later realized not everyone is as aware of the effects of childhood trauma as I am.. I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist by training. However, I now see adults and geriatrics. Abandonment scars cause problems that last into adulthood. That is why divorce is so harmful to children. It is as though these children have lost someone through death. A few have asked if this happened because they were bad. Mine just keeps it inside. Some of the parents have even suggested grief counseling. This incident affected many people.

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86 Waving the Flag January 15, 2013 at 9:15 pm

I made sure to say good-bye, not only to my students, but also to my parents, and my colleagues. I also made gift bags for all of the kids with special messages inside. I also keep in touch with the new teacher who took my position (God bless her). My health is now much better and I have had several people tell me how much better I sound when I talk to them. I feel like I have gained my life back, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I was doing a disservice to those students by staying any longer. I was absolutely miserable. I was angry. I was exhausted from working 15-17 hour days which my boss told us were expected of us, I was tired of getting sick from being so worn down, I couldn’t do it any longer. My advice to those of you who are ready to resign, do make sure you find something you can fall back on, even if it is part time, independent tutoring, subbing for the district, administrative assistant, working at the mall, anything to be able to get out and regain who you’ve lost sight of. Best of luck to those of you who are trying to decide what to do. Don’t let the guilt of leaving weigh on you, the kids WILL be okay!! Most importantly, do what is best for you and your family. It is not worth losing a marriage over, not having any energy or time to take care of your own children, and allowing your health to deteriorate like mine did. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I promise you.

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87 Leslie January 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm

I have been teaching 8 years, 7 of those in urban settings, but this past year we moved to a smaller town and I’m in a rural school district. Even though there are hardly any behavior issues, I still feel burnt out. A group of teachers were talking recently about what could we even do for a living if we didn’t teach. I would love some ideas for a former teacher. I’m not seriously considering leaving at the moment, but I do think about it.

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88 lisa January 19, 2013 at 10:22 pm

What you don’ t address are the significant discrepancies in pay and respect when comparing teachers and physicians. Most of us anticipated the low wages but the blatant disrespect is completely unexpected and difficult to overlook.

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89 lisa January 19, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I intended this as a reply to Suzanne.

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90 Suzanne January 20, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Lisa, I do not hink you or any of the teachers on this page have mistreated children like our 2 teachers did. Money and respect have nothing to do with mistreating children. I am not saying stay in a profession that doesn’t pay. I am saying get out without hurting the children in your care. My post had nothing to do with the people here. I was just needing to vent about the treatment of our 16 children. 2 weeks have passed and my daughter is still having trouble.

Howver, regarding the pay issue not all physicians are wealthy and the pay is much worse than it used to be. I had to go to college, med school and residency/ fellowship 15 years total. I have 100k student loan debt ( my husband had 75k and has never been able to work at ant more tha a minimum wage job because of health issues- nursing not physician). I usually make about 80 k, but have made about 70k. Some teachers make more than I do (administrators), so for the years of my life and the hell I went through, the difference is not that much.

That being said, teachers do not get paid enough. My GGM always tod me there were 3 noble professions, preacher, teacher and physician. I started out at 11 wanting to be a missionary. I changed to planning to get a Ph. D. in English History. However, a year after graduating and putting myself through a very difficult life experience, I took the advice of a man who was a car salesman and was a previous college professor, “Do something else, teachers don’t get paid well”. So, at 19, I reexamined my life and at 33 graduated from med school. I had planned initially to do pediatrics, the very lowest paying specialty, but changed to child psychiatry because my initial plan was to work with abused children and I didn’t think psychiatrists could help. I think police and firemen are under paid as well.

I agree with the respect issues, though. Psychiatrists don’t always get the respect the other specialties do, but all physicians get more respect than most people. Many do not deserve that respect. I do think teachers also get more respect from the community, parents and kids than most other people. It is the individual teachers that don’t get respect from the administrations, institutions and governments they work for.

Money and respect should have nothing to do with not mistreating children. Anyone, from a babysitter (low pay), to a stepparent ( no pay), to a teacher, coach, clergy, physician) have a duty to put the children’s needs before their own if they are going to work with them. Teacher, like doctors and clergy, in a position of authority. The potential for abuse is huge. Anyone who goes into these endeavors just for money and respect should find another profession.

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91 Babs January 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm

It’s helpful to read all the comments and suggestions. I’m currently a librarian who is extremely homesick (spouse, pets, house 3 hours away). And I am disheartened that the career I loved has so changed that the requirements and expectations are not much different than classroom teaching. I wanted to share a love of literature thru simply sharing stories and modeling reading, but now I am tasked to implement the latest strategies, content lessons, assignments, and basically show that all I do corresponds to the ‘test.’ And teachers are stressed to the max. I wanted library to be a respite from the day to day tasks of the classroom, as modeled by my mentor. This is only one of many issues in public ed that are sad for me. I have already made the decision to not sign for another year, but I just don’t know if I can make it until June, the homesickness is so unbearable. Just thought I’d share.

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92 241 January 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I quit my teaching job mid-year, too.

I loved my school. I spent eight years at that middle school. They hired me straight out of college. Looking back on it now, I feel like my co-workers watched me grow up. They helped raise me.

But, last year, I found my breaking point.

I broke.

I always said that when I became a mean teacher, I would leave. And I had become a mean teacher. I was teaching an elective that the kids did not get to pick – Creative Writing. My classes were huge (35 and up) and I was also stuck in a windowless room, in the back of the school. For some reason, I’d gotten a really challenging crop of kids. There was very little disciplinary support from the front office, and very few rules I was allowed to actually enforce with any authority. I was charged with making all my own curriculum but not given any direction, then I got slammed by admin for not being on pace with a non-existing learning schedule. I had one functioning computer for the students to use while the other elective in my grade level had a full production graphics design studio. Oh, did I mention the 35 thirteen year olds in the room?

I’m a good teacher. I know this. I love children. I love learning and I am constantly searching for new ways to reach my students. Also – I’m a great employee. I always to what I’m told, when I’m told. I constantly offer and give help to others. I practically made a career of scratching backs. So, I don’t think it was unreasonable to that when I asked for help, I expected to get it. But all I was hearing was “No”.

During this time, I was serving as the yearbook advisor. I loved those kids. My yearbook kids were hard-working, sweet, and dependable. Additionally, I was working part-time for a virtual school as academic integrity support. These two second jobs were necessary because my salary was slashed 10% in the last three years of my employment with the county. When you’re not making much to start, 10% hurts. It really hurts.

So, when my virtual school offered me a full-time teaching job, at the same salary as all three of my jobs, and the opportunity to work from home, I was at once overjoyed and immediately conflicted. Would it get better next year? I didn’t know, but honestly, I didn’t want to know. If it was going to get better, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there anymore.

I still didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I could go. Could I leave my kids? Could I leave my friends? Could I leave my school?

Yes, I could. And I did.

I agonized for weeks, but when the time came to make a decision, I went with the virtual school. I don’t regret my decision, not for one minute. I’m extremely supported at my new school, I get to work from home, and I’m still teaching. I get to spend one-on-one time with my students for however long they need me. My kids come from all walks of life – teen moms, hospital homebound, caring for sick parents, military families, and kids who just don’t find the brick and mortar schools to be a good fit. Is is perfect? No. But was it the right decision for me? Yes.

As teachers, we are here to serve the needs of others. You can’t possibly do that if you’re unhappy. You can probably skate by for awhile, but if you can’t give 100%, then there’s no way you’ll get 100% back.

My students treated me like a princess during my last week, and their loving acts were not lost on me. It stung when my principal didn’t really acknowledge my departure, in any official or private capacity. I chose to interpret his actions as a reaction to being hurt, and not really meant to hurt me. It was disappointing, but thankfully, my co-workers cheered me off into my new job and showered me with hugs.

I did what was the right thing for me, and I know it was best for my students. They didn’t need another disgruntled, angry, burnt out teacher. They needed who I used to be. I’m happy to say that my new students are getting to old me, the happy me, the true “teacher” version of me.

Quitting mid-year?

So worth it.

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93 Christina February 7, 2013 at 12:44 am

good for you…proud you found success elsewhere

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94 Angela Gibson August 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

What you describe is the EXACT situation I’m in. Creative Writing, forced elective, no curriculum, 38-40 students, serious discipline issues. I work at the school until 9-10 and then get up between 2-3 in the morning to try to plan. My heart pounds and I am nauseated and unable to eat, I feel so stressed about this class. I’m trying to figure out How to get out.

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95 soonai January 21, 2013 at 8:15 am

I’m hanging in there until May. The passion, patience and tolerance are gone. I’m currently an elective teacher of Nutrition. I’m also a certified School Counselor. If I’m not hired as a Counselor, I will end my career as a classroom teacher. Point blank. Ditto to everything read in the above posts.

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96 ChristinaS January 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Any ideas on jobs for former teachers?

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97 Christina February 7, 2013 at 12:40 am

Many management jobs only require a degree,,,not specific to the job…just so you can prove you can organize and manage people…who better than a teacher?

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98 S February 1, 2013 at 12:50 am

I’ve been teaching for over 25 years. There have times over the years that I have wondered how I was going to get through the next month, week, day, or even hour. Teaching is a tough profession. If you are a title 1 school, you must deal with issues related to poverty and violence. If you work at a middle class school, you must deal with individuals that feel teachers are beneath them. There is no perfect place to teach, nor is there a perfect class, but what gets me through the day is the love that I have for each of my students.

Today, members of the district visited our classrooms. They were not happy with my grade level. Each of us were doing what was expected of us, but not what the district wanted to see. I was working with a small group of students, preparing them to work with partners on a comprehension activity while 2/3 of my class were either on computers working on Destinations (a program that the district wants the students on each day) or working on other assignments. My principal wants us to conduct small reading groups. How do you conduct small reading groups if the other students are doing mindless worksheets? The disconnect between what districts, principals, parents, and students wants makes teaching very difficult. How do I satisfy everyone? Simply, you can’t please everyone all the time or even any time. I was doing what my students needed at the time. I did nothing wrong even if the district didn’t see anything right. Oh well, I can’t help that these individuals are short sighted.

As a 25 year veteran teacher, I have seen it all. I have gone through a half dozen programs and adoptions. Everyone thinks he knows what the kids need. Just like this group of District People, everyone thinks they have the perfect answers. Ironically, no one does. No class is ever the same from year to the next. No student is ever the same from year to year and no school is exactly alike. One year, I will have a good year, and the next year, I will be wringing my hands all year. I have seen 7 superintendents come and go, worked with 12 principals, taught from 6 different Language Arts series, and have seen the pendulum swing back and forth so many times that I feel dizzy from all the changes. I have been a gifted teacher to some and a pariah to others. Some parents have loved me and others have hated me. But… all in all, I have taught children to the best of my ability and loved them all with all my heart. I am not been a perfect teacher, but I have given my all. Of the 700 plus students that I have taught, they know one thing — that I loved them and I did my best. When I am laid to rest, it will say “Here lies a teacher who loved us best.” At the end of the day, that is all that anyone can ask of us — to do our best and love them as we do our best.

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99 misty February 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm

overwhelmed and confused
thanks for sharing you experiences !
it was very helpful 2 me !
I need to leave bc I ‘m giving it all that I can and it doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m a new Mom and my job is taking time away family. My princpal has written me up for submitting late assessment data and lesson plans … poor classroom management bc i wasnt able 2 handle a few students misbehavior on my own.I had to develop a teacher improvement plan and implement it now which is causing me more stress bc my principal made it clear I should take leave

but I can’t financially my husband keeps telling me hang in there the year is almost over ! he will become the breadwinner for next year so I can stay home with our baby girl. He doesn’t get how hard it is 2 manage 26 kindergarteners without any help and more pressure to administer many assessments individually (that’s a requirement) my husband has an office job where he can put his call on hold or call the customer back later/use the bathroom anytime he needs to. I’m afraid to tell my husband that I need to leave I think Im reaching my breaking point and it looks like its all downhill. My husband says other teachers teach and have time for their family. Why can’t I ? this makes me feel like failure.

I want to quit but I feel guilty leaving the students they all are very nice and well behaved except 4 several students behavior makes it difficult to teach. defiance/not staying seat/running around the room/a student who has repeatedly stolen from me and classmates, my breaking point was when two children were running around the room,refused to talk with me in private/go 2 time out it …
they were so disruptive i couldn’t teach refused 2 have a time out in my neighbor
classrm. i had to call the principal the well behaved kids were annoyed and had lost interest in the a have a few copycats ! this scenario is not good fot my TIP i feel like i’m failing that too. If I do leave i dont no what 2 say 2 students/co-workers/parents and I feel like my principal was right I’m not meant 2 b in this setting but would be good in a daycare setting, I feel like its best for my students they will b able to learn more. I feel so bad that I have used up all my sick days and feel uncomfortable saying I needed a mental health day. any advice or suggestions ? I already received call asking if i’m ok am i aiI have been out this entire week after I had to call the office 3 daqys in row afraid how that will b documented on my TIP embarassed kids will go home tell parents about those misbehaviors/parents will call 2 complain….i have lost my confidence and feel really bad about myself bc i didnt plan on being out that long had 2 fax my l plans which is not good 4 my TIP

I appreciate any advice/suggestions thnxs again

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100 Christina February 7, 2013 at 12:34 am

I so understand and relate to this article and many of the teachers who have posted. I taught public school for 4 years. My children were not being challenged at all so for 4 years I homeschooled. That was the best thing I ever did for my family. When they reached the ages beyond my teaching credentials I placed them in a private school where I also picked up a job for 2 years. So, after ten years of teaching, I took a long look at what I’d been through. Having a sexually abusive background, the perpetrator began showing up at my work my 3rd year of teaching. He was good friends with my principal. He’d already served time in prison for what he had done. I approached my principal and asked if he knew what the perpetrator had done. All my principal would say was, “I know him and you can keep your job as long as you are willing to work hard.” See, he had been told by the perpetrator that I had recanted my story and he was released. Not so. It was against the law for the man to be on school grounds. But, he would come every week to have a referee’s meeting with my principal during school hours. I hated the politics. I quit working for that school that year. It was a sad time for me. I was so low over believing my principal believed the perp. over me. I went into a depression. Then I pulled myself together and began homeschooling, not only to challenge my children, but to get them away from such evil. Yes, a huge investigation was conducted and I was given many options. But the school system had offered too little, too late. Homeschooling was a blast and my boys soared through school and became so far ahead of the public schools that I held pride in my boys. I then tried public school again. Fifth grade. My youngest went with me to school. my oldest into middle school. That was my year from Hell. I was given the worst kids with the most needy of problems. Not hard to deal with for me. I loved teaching. As time went by my teammates on grade level bgan to talk about me and the principal joined in on their efforts to make my life miserable. They would have meetings when I’d take my bathroom break. I never got them to switch time of day for meetings. Because I didn’t wear makeup, I was named unprofessional. Anything they could do to tear me down, they did. I ended up quitting before the end of the last 9 weeks…Again, an investigation was done only to find out the principal had broken several laws and codes of conduct. I was done. I only had an early childhood/elementary degree. So when my oldest son at 12 years old began taking college classes and making A’s I figured it was time to seek some help. Both boys were tested and placed in a private school. They wanted to move them up several grades. I allowed only one grade. Being the youngest in your class was going to be tough enough. I didn’t want them being bullied. I took a job there teaching 4th grade. I had a blast…..for a while. After my new principal found out I was on depression medication she told me that mind altering meds. were Satan’s work. The pressure began to build. My depression got worse and I began to have panic attacks. Only, my attacks looked like some kind of seizure. On my last day teaching at that school, I had a panic attack at the school convincing the principal I had a demon in me. I was released that day. My oldest son was months away from graduating..so I kept my children in school until number one could graduate. He graduated valedictorian, of course. The next year number two began having problems with the high school curriculum. Again, we had him tested and found out he had a simple type of epilepsy. He would blank out for 10-20 seconds several times in a minute. So, we asked for notes to be copied so he could study the entirety of the class material. We were denied. I told them they were breaking the law. That didn’t matter. Back to public school with number 2. He received the help he needed and over-came his disease. He was popular and a star athelete. He bloomed. I went 15 years without teaching a single child. I missed it very much. Today, I tutor a kindergartener and a 2nd grader 2 times a week each. My life feels full again and I’m having fun. I do not charge for my services. I don’t need the money. I do it purely for the love of teaching. I’m in total control. I answer to me. No one has an issue with me. In fact, I’m appreciated. I should be retired by now. But, I just can’t give it up. I’m having a blast.

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101 Suzanne February 7, 2013 at 11:42 am

Christina, I love your story. Homeschooling was the coolest thing I have ever done. My son is flourishing in public high school though now I think that was the best decision for him. The comments about Satan made me laugh. Remember the two teachers I said left the kids? One of the new teachers ( and youth pastor) said they had been great teachers before. ( true for at least one of them). At our meet the teacher meeting, he said there must have been an ” evil spirit” involved. Wow, no one has to change or take responsibility if we can blame Satan and evil spirits.

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102 Christina February 8, 2013 at 10:04 pm

xactly my point

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103 Megan February 9, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Thank you for this. I have been struggling with guilt ever since recently quitting my teaching position at a residential treatment center/open enrollment charter school. I taught two years previously in the inner city and though some days were exhausting, I stuck with it. The kids were good kids at their core and administration was supportive. When my husband was transferred out of the city, I got a new position at a small charter school serving a residential treatment center and neighboring community. The students who chose to come to our school from the community did so because they didn’t like the rules at the local ISD. Almost all of them came to school heavily self-medicated which made it impossible for them to comprehend most things, let alone learn. They proudly bragged about the drugs they were on. I spent my day just trying to get them to stop texting on their phone or talking over me. I had to constantly reteach materials because they would forget what they learned so quickly. I reached my limit when a student came into class every day and tried to intimidate me. I would write him up and nothing ever happened to him. One day I realized I was actually afraid to write him up because I knew there would be no consequences and I feared his reaction, as his methods of intimidation got worse. It was in this moment I knew my safety and mental health outweighed my concern for the students I taught. I felt/feel so selfish. We served an extremely needy population that required structure and discipline, yet administration was afraid to provide it. Our Superintendent/Principal did not like conflict and would not call parents. He had an extreme need to be liked. When I walked into the office to give my letter of resignation, I could hear him dismissing another teacher’s concerns by saying “write him up, write him up”. I felt like this was my sign, though it didn’t alleviate the guilt. Reading this has helped a lot. Thank you.

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104 Babs February 11, 2013 at 9:51 am

I’ve posted once before. Not a classroom teacher, just a dedicated librarian who sees ‘teaching to the tests’ filtering down to the library so that the joy of reading is zapped by teachers who warn students to “listen carefully as we will be having a test (or assignment, or whatever) over the material.” But who can blame the teachers — the pressure is on them big time. However, it is my goal to joyfully motivate students to read, as the more they read, the better they will read, and hopefully, improve on what I consider to be a ridiculous amount of standardized tests. I personally believe that the powers that be are so concentrating on the academics (and grasping at any and every strategy that comes along) that we are not addressing the needs of the whole student. And students today, as always, are multi-faceted beings from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of needs, and concentration on academics only in order to pass the myriad of tests is not addressing some of the primary aspects of the problems teachers inevitably encounter in the classroom. Oh how I long for the days when standardized testing occurred maybe once a year, and many times students didn’t know about it until they came to school on test day. And teachers just taught with no worries that their job was on the line due to students’ test performance.

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105 Clary February 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I am a first year teacher of students with multiple disabilities in elementary school. For weeks I was understaffed; and then I was given my most difficult student from a more experienced teacher’s class without any extra aid support. Administration turned me down when I said I needed another instructional assistant. It took one of my coaches to influence them to change their mind and finally give the staff support I needed. I work 12 hours a day, manage two I.A’s-one of which who goes against my instruction and tries taking over my class on a day to day basis, have three teacher coaches/collaborators to correspond with, two gen ed teachers of different grade levels to work along with, parents-some who are in denial and blameable to the teacher for their child’s disability, I.E.P meetings with students who have 30 goals to master, and I am physically exhausted every day from my students; some have aggressive behaviors. I have no planning time during the day and for most of the year I have not got a lunch break. During the first few weeks of school when I was understaffed, I couldn’t even use the bathroom all day. On top of that, I am on a provisional license and I am taking graduate courses. I found out that the program I am in does not guarantee me a job next year at my current school because a year ago they changed the degree programs into three different programs and now what would have been accepted before no longer counts. Now if I want to stay I have to re-do my whole masters program because non of the courses transfer. And NOW I have a year less time to finish my license in time or else I am kicked out of teaching temporarily until I finish it.

If all of this wasn’t enough I had become extremely depressed. I no longer have the energy or time to do anything I like. I worked all day and all weekend. I became really sick in November and all the following months. Every time I was almost better, I would get sick again and most likely from my students since they have always been sick a lot. I was told I was the hardest working first year teacher that my coach has ever seen in special education. I care a lot about my students and my I.A’s and my coworkers. But I think I care t0o much and I can’t turn it off. The affect of this job is taking so much out of me that it is negative. I had many suicidal thoughts, and constantly fantasized about getting in some kind of an accident. I was never like this before I took this job; I was bright and happy. Now I feel SO responsible for these children, and weight is impossible and unbearable. I feel like no one knows how hard this job is, and I feel like I have no to little respect.

The moment that ended my depression just a few weeks ago was when I hit rock bottom, my boyfriend didn’t want to be around me anymore because I was always sick and stressed out and depressed. Then I didn’t even want to be around myself. What I want more than anything now is to be myself and truly smile again. I don’t know if I should just finish the school year or take a leave of absence or frankly quit. The people in my personal life deserve my very best and I deserve to be at my very best for myself. I don’t understand how people could think this is selfish. I am going to try to be my best while finishing out the school year but I am not perfect and not sure if I can make it till then.

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106 Babs February 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Do not feel guilty if you need to quit school before year end. Taking care of one’s personal health and personal relationships is not selfish.

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107 TheTRUTH February 15, 2013 at 10:51 am

Anyone considering teaching should absolutely find another career/job. I don’t care how many years and how much money you invested. You’ll be MISERABLE. I quit after teaching Special Ed for 4 for the NYC DOE. Now I work in an office making less, but never been happier. I don’t even have to buy my own supplies anymore lol Oh, and when I feel the urge to pee, I just get up and go like a normal human being :O)

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108 Blithe February 15, 2013 at 11:39 am

After 20 years as a public school teacher, I’m moving into a different career. I now work in a Psych hospital while going to nursing school. This is easier than trying to work with people whose goal in life seemed to be to resist everything I try to do. Seriously, the occasional hit or scratch and frequent fecal exposure is easier than trying to influence 40 teenagers in a room that I had something to offer….something worth putting their devices away for. And I was a fun teacher. It didn’t matter.
I’ve come to the sad conclusion that for a lot of our kids, the way we do education just doesn’t work anymore. The model is still based on the factory, the assembly line, where we try to impose knowledge like an accessory on a car door. They’re not having it. They see past our bribes or grades and rewards and are immune to the “consequences” we dole out. With all we know ,we should really know better than to be running schools this way.
I believe we will see the complete demise of public education in the next decade and end up with a permanent underclass, if we’re not there already. Public education was the great leveling factor and thanks to unbridled greed in our culture, we can no longer fund this kind of fairness.
I believed in what I was doing, I was passionate and dedicated but I could not spend every moment of my workday fighting. At 52, I’m excited to be starting down a different path.

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109 Suzanne February 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm

That is great! It is sad to say that nursing is extremely well compensated, while teaching is not. Money is not the only reason to go into medicine, but it helps to have your skills appreciated. Many musicians I know became nurses just to survive.

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110 Blithe February 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Thanks for your response Suzanne. You’re right, nurses with 2 year degress generally make more than a teacher with a master’s degree. Interesting that you mentioned your musician friends becoming nurses. I was a music teacher!

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111 Frankie February 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I really needed your 1-5 list. I teach in an urban school (only my 2nd year) and it’s just nice to reflect on that list. Thank you. I’m not going to quit my job, but it’s nice to know that I’m not a bad teacher for having thought about it.

Thank you again.

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112 Paul February 20, 2013 at 6:09 am

It was so refreshing to read the main story, and the comments from other teachers.

We are highly-educated professionals, tasked with an important mission, but we are not given the resources or authority to do our jobs effectively, the basic respect that other professionals receive, or the wages to match.

Any teacher who finds him or herself in a stressful situation would do well to resign. There are other schools and districts, and beyond the world of public education, other jobs. It is hard to find a professional-level job with longer hours, less status, and a lower wage than teaching.

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113 liza March 7, 2013 at 3:14 am

I Want to quit my job as a college professor, NOW. It’s driving me crazy, my life is destroyed, I can’t handle it anymore….
I’m new to this field…I’m working as a college professor for 4 months, till now, but I feel very bad. In the end of the semester students do a survey online, and their comments about me was terrible; that I’m incompetent, incapable and incommunicative; In fact I did my best, but I didn’t have experience and now I want to quit (as a looser of course).
What do you think? Do you think that I would finish this year and than quit? Or should I quit Now,in the middle of the second semester?
Thank you very much

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114 TonyT March 29, 2013 at 10:54 am

I have been teaching in a public Jr./Sr. high school for 15 years.
I am currently teaching seventh and ninth grade computer classes.
For the past several years I have been seriously considering a career change
as I feel burnt out and exhausted. Student behavior gets worse every year
and I feel like I accomplish very little in my classroom after all the interruptions
and distractions. The apathy and disrespect are taking its toll. It seems the older
I get, the less tolerance I have in the classroom. The other teachers in my department
typically have fewer students in their courses and always have the higher achieving
students to deal with, which can make for a much nicer day. I know I am the workhorse
and this never seems to change.

I began teaching at age 33, and I have a business background in insurance and
banking. I have been on some job interviews and even had two offers that I
really thought hard about, but when the time came to give my acceptance I just
couldn’t do it. Financially I understand that I will not be where I am today and
that belt tightening is unavoidable. I am a single male so I am only supporting
myself at this time. I guess my worry is that I am giving up a pension and security
to jump back into the business world and such a volatile economy. My colleagues
tell me I am crazy for jumping ship with such a horrible economy right now.

There are times I don’t want to walk into that building and face the day, but
I push myself to do it. I do enjoy teaching and working with technology but if
only the students would let me do my job.

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115 Caesar April 3, 2013 at 11:35 am

I quit mid-year as well, and wanted to add my $.02 because I never, ever thought I would. I got into teaching through an alternative certification program and found a job at an urban high school in Chicago. I had 5 weeks of training before I started. It was rough from the very beginning.
I was assigned an extra subject to teach a few days before school started (not uncommon), had no projector screen for my classroom (bought a bed sheet and hung it up, but at least I had a projector), and had no access to the online system for the first month or two (couldn’t input attendance, didn’t have a list of students, etc.). By the way, discipline at the beginning of the year is next to impossible if you don’t have a list of students, especially if they’re being switched from class to class.
Anyway, within the first month they start throwing things at me. First, textbooks and the CDs that come with them. My stapler. Then some of them brought eggs and a milk carton which they pelted at me. I was very green at the time so I was in a state of shock when this happened. I didn’t quit – instead I just cleared my room of everything so they had nothing to throw at me.
I took a day off in late October (school year started in September) because the job was killing me, I was considering quitting. I get a text from another teacher that my students had broken into some supplies in my classroom and were throwing them around the school. I went back and yelled at them, which was actually somewhat effective… I learn to yell.
At this point I’m working ~110 hours / week, staying until 11 pm on Friday’s, taking graduate classes for my credential, and making an hour of parent phone calls every day, and 3-4 hours on weekends (I make so many that I max out my cell phone plan and have to buy an unlimited one…). I keep this up until I quit at the end of January. I also have 10-15 people observing my classroom regularly, but their advice is mostly nonsense because they don’t realize that my students and I are at war.
Anyway, some kid gets into a cabinet when my back is turned and spills a toxic, cancer causing, highly dangerous chemical. When I see this I am horrified (I am a trained chemist and knew what it was on sight). I am sick to my stomach and start cursing like a sailor (not proud of this). This was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I tie plastic bags to my shoes and put on my gloves and clean it up. Not my best day.
I scare them by doing a class on lab safety. For some reason they all now want to work with chemicals. Not going to happen.
I buy speakers for my class so we can watch useful YouTube videos. When my back is turned they are stolen. My briefcase is ransacked and my headphones are stolen at the same time. I call up a few friendly parents (remember, I have been making phone calls nonstop the entire year) and ask them to question their kids. One of the kids saw who did it.
The police arrest the perpetrator, search him, and recover my headphones but not the speakers. The perpetrator claims that the kid who saw him do it sold the headphones to him that morning (impossible because the kid and his dad were with me). He refuses to admit his guilt, even when caught red handed. The cop asks me if I want to send him to prison. I decline.
Instead I file a police report and keep it on file in case he ever gives me trouble again. He never does, though like many of my students he simply disappears (probably transferred to another school).
Now it’s the week before Thanksgiving and my father comes to visit me. I’m in bad shape. I’m working every waking hour and living off of diet soda, crackers, and pizza (Chicago has great pizza, though!). He isn’t happy. He basically saves my life by co-teaching with me for a week and buying me a printer, a jacket, and other essentials (and making me eat real food). FYI I moved to a new city 2000 miles away for this job, so I have no family or friends nearby. Support network is so important.
Anyway, December comes and things are calmer for the most part. One of my female students is mad about her grade and curses me out for 5 minutes in front of my entire class and storms out. 2 of her friends join her. I call their parents. This is old hat now.
I spend my entire Christmas vacation writing curriculum. (we don’t have a written curriculum at my school). This facilitates more teamwork (the other teachers are great, but they are so swamped with their own problems they can’t help me much).
I come back and things are much calmer. I’m pretty unshakeable now. If a kid gives me problems I kick them out of the classroom for the entire period and then I call their parents that night. This is actually effective. I’m more prison guard than teacher though.
Now it’s late January. Two of my best students get into a fight before my class starts (I haven’t had a fight in my class for a good, long while). One of the students puts his hands on the other’s neck and raises her up off the floor (she’s very small FYI). I yell at him and kick him outside the classroom. Then I send him to the dean.
The kid’s grandfather shows up the next day. I tell the grandfather that it’s not OK for his grandson to put his hands on another person. The grandfather tells me that I only think this because I probably got beaten up in school (I try not to laugh). Then he tells the dean that growing up in this neighborhood if someone hits you, you always respond in kind. The dean sympathizes, and tells the parent that I grew up in another place and was taught differently. The kids are given a slap on the wrist.
I go back to the dean later (he’s a great guy BTW, pretty much holds the school together, and a friend) and ask him if the grandfather was serious about the responding with physical violence in turn thing. The dean tells me “it’s a black thing.” (FYI he’s black himself, though I disagree with him – it’s a poverty thing). At this point I’m done.
I give my principal my resignation letter. I didn’t mind the long hours, I loved (some of) my students, enjoyed the challenges of teaching, and I could handle the disrespect but not the disillusionment. As a classroom teacher you and the students are on opposite sides of a never ending struggle for classroom management, but there’s a line that neither of you is supposed to cross. Unfortunately they crossed it and I was afraid that I would too.
When I told my students I was leaving I got mixed reactions. Some were sorry to see me go but they understood. Others celebrated and said good riddance. I cleaned up my classroom and walked out the door.
It’s been 2 months and I’m only now fully coming to terms with the whole ordeal. I gave up my entire life in Chicago and returned home (which I said I would never do). Plus, I’m 24 years old, I left my job mid year, and I have no teaching credential. When I was in college I taught and tutored for years and I thought I’d do this for my entire life. I never thought I’d leave. There’s no easy way back into the profession for me and I don’t know if I want to go back (I can’t afford a regular certification program, either in terms of time or money).
Anyway, I put this up here because I wanted to add some nuance to whether it’s OK to leave your teaching job. Sometimes things play out in ways you can’t possibly imagine. Don’t judge other people because you don’t know what went into their decision. A human being can only take so much abuse and still show up with a smile on their face.
And BTW, most kids will have many teachers in their lifetime. I was only 1 of their 7 teachers for that year and I gave my boss enough time to find a replacement (I was replaced the day after I left by a veteran teacher). They aren’t psychologically scarred because of the whole experience. If anything they are probably happy to have me gone because now they’ll probably get less homework.

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116 Maureen April 6, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Caesar,
I enjoyed reading your post. I totally understand why you resigned. I have been through many of the same situations in my six years as an inner city teacher. This was a second career choice for me and I thought I was meant to teach. I always enjoyed working with students of all ages in the ten years I subbed while my own children were in school. Nothing could prepare me for the resistance to learning that I have encountered. Like you I have many students I enjoy working with, but just as many who only come to school as a place to socialize and eat. Sometimes the endless challenges are overwhelming. I hope you can harness your good intentions and strong work ethic to secure a new position in education or in another line of work where you can add value and enjoy your work.

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117 susan April 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I was interested in the comments of people who have taught for over 15 years and then moved.
I like my job as a public high school teacher. I just don’t love it. Frankly, I feel burnt out. I feel to be in this odd situation where I’m in a very middle class high school where there is general, overall lack of respect for the profession. I have the occasional students that are motivated and driven and very pleasant. But I have an awful lot of students who are just rude and disrespectful and don’t seem to care about learning in general. Maybe it’s just me. I just found comfort from reading these posts. I’ve been contemplating a career change and, as an English teacher, with degrees in English, I’m wondering what I can pursue. I will take the salary cut. I know there will be one. Anyhow, it just felt nice to post this. Thanks.

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118 Angela Watson April 11, 2013 at 9:11 pm

I just wanted to chime in once again to thank those of you who continue to share your stories here. There are many teachers reading this post on a daily basis, and I’m really appreciate of the fact that so many of you are taking the time to let them know they’re not the only ones. I wish that this wasn’t such a common problem, but I’m glad that we are here to support one another.

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119 Lisa April 12, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I’m thinking about leaving my school, which I love, because of a colleague who is impossible to work with. She keeps behaving horribly unprofessionally. For example, she bursts into my classroom and yells at me in front of my students. She spreads untrue rumours about me to others on staff (without realising that they will come and talk to me about these rumours). She blames me for “sabotaging” her with the students and somehow making them dislike her. She makes me so stressed out that I don’t want to go to work anymore even though I love my job and my students. My union is toothless about this kind of thing, and administration has said that adults need to act like adults and get along, and won’t direct her to stop. So I feel like I’m out of options, and it makes me so sad.

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120 Texas Teacher April 13, 2013 at 12:52 am

I had this same problem. It took a few years, but she finally sank her own ship. She alienated the entire faculty with her lies and accusations. Now everyone sees through her and “has her number.” She finally dug herself in so deep that she moved to another school to escape her nasty reputation. So, hang in there if you can. The sweetest revenge is when you don’t have to do ANYTHING to someone else because they do it for you.

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121 Lisa April 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Thanks Texas Teacher,
I know exactly what you mean, and I hope that’s how this ends too. Unfortunately my nasty colleague is pretty thick-skinned and doesn’t seem to care (or even notice!) that people are unimpressed with her behaviour. She doesn’t have the decency to be ashamed of herself, which makes this situation extra difficult. But I do appreciate your point and am trying to find other ways to survive so I do not have to give up my position at a school where I am otherwise very happy. Thanks for your support!

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122 Christina April 22, 2013 at 9:38 am

This post was very helpful for me. I recently quit my job after Spring Break. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I am an African-American woman and i was teaching in an urban area where EVERYDAY someone was being called a “b—-”, administrators were yelling in the students face, multiple kids were getting arrested, getting pregnant and this was a MIDDLE SCHOOL! In fact, there were 2 17-year old at the school and they both asked me on dates! The administration did nothing! Kids would throw stuff at teachers and curse them out and be back the same day, no consequences. WE would get the blame for low test scores when half of the kids would skip the test. I would try to get through to the students, but they would fight you EVERY DAY and they loved me, but I just felt like they weren’t learning from me. I knew it was time to leave because when I would come home, I would be in a bad mood and my every thing my daughter did aggravated me. I’m trying to look for another teaching job at another district, but I think my decision is going to work agaisnst me. I know they are going to ask me at my interview why i quit, but I don’t want to bad mouth the other school or seem like I don’t have classroom management.

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123 Julia April 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I quit after the first two weeks of my seventh year teaching and experienced true grief over the decision, but I had to put my health first. We were under yet ~another~ new administration, discipline was out of control and getting progressively worse year after year, and I had 38 kindergartners in a room without enough tables or chairs. I just knew that I could not go through another year of chaos, stress, and maltreatment. Eight months later, my first thought is still “Oh no, we can’t have recess!” when it rains and I can’t resist going down the school supplies isle. I’m still very sad about the whole situation.

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124 Pam July 11, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Wow, I just finished reading some of these stories. Here I am after 17 years trying to buy years so I can retire early. I love being a teacher but the workload is more than most people can handle. I’m going to teach another year and hope things get better but the job has definitely caused health issues related to stress. Sometimes I wonder how my husband has put up with me because I feel like I’m always doing “school stuff.” Those of you with young children, I don’t know how you do it and I give you a lot of credit. I love working with children and will continue when I retire but not at this pace.

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125 NY Teacher July 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Without a job lined up, I quit from my teaching job when the school year had already started. I never got to say goodbye to my students, fellow teachers and staff. I simply picked my purse and personal belongings went to the principal’s office and tendered my resignation right on the spot. I was teaching in an urban charter school. I must admit I had left the school unprofessionally because I had blindsided everybody including my students. I just reached the point that I couldn’t take it anymore. I have been in the teaching profession for almost 10 years, two years of which was spent in special education. When I left the building that day, I felt a heavy weight on my shoulder had been lifted and went home with a smile on my face chanting on my way: no more school, no more books, no more administrator’s dirty looks. I miss my students but only very few of them. Most of them just don’t give a **** when a teacher quits midyear. They just think it’s normal and that the school can always find a replacement. Fast forward, I am still unemployed, not because I am unemployable but because I couldn’t figure out what I really wanted to do as most of my working years have been spent in teaching. I just don’t want to go back to teaching anymore but I also couldn’t imagine myself doing something else. I also think that my quitting midyear has hurt my chance of getting a teaching job. Maybe.

If you are reading this and thinking of quitting from your teaching job, yes, go ahead and quit but make sure you know what you want to do next and you have back up plans, enough funds to survive the days figuring out the changes you want to happen. It’s been hard for me but I am just glad that these things are happening now that I am still single and I only have myself to tend and be concerned about.

Now, I would like to ask what other job options for former teachers. Thanks for reading.

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126 Skylark August 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm

In a Bind

I have been a teacher for twelve years. For nine years I worked with special education students with significant emotional, social, and academic challenges. About half of these students were physically aggressive. My caseload averaged about seven students, and I always had two I.A.s. My sudents were all “mainstreamed” for at least 75% of the school day. I had to collaborate daily with multiple classroom teachers and specialists, and I was in frequent contact with parents, some of whom were as challenging (if not more) as their kids. Despite the challenges of this work, I was good at it, and
did feel that my program was much better supported than most programs in the district. By my 9th year though, I was restless, and I wanted a change and returned to grad school.

I got a 2nd Master’s and switched to teaching middle school humanities in an urban school. While I did well in my grad program and with student teaching in an urban school, I have done poorly in my new position. At the end of my first year, I blamed my challenges with discipline and the long work
hours, on my lack of experience. During my second year, I actively sought out help but received no support from my administrators. No adminstrators visited my classroom all year except for the two required half hour observations. It wasn’t until the end of the
year when I received a poor rating in classrrom management that my supervisor promised a coach for me the following year. I should have left then, but I felt ashamed by my evaluation and felt that it would keep me from being hired elsewhere. So, I spent last summer recharging and started the new year with optimism. I did get a coach, but it didn’t really help. My workload actually increased because of the after school meetings with my coach and weekly check-in nettings with my
supervisor. I wasn’t able to grade, create work material & anchor charts, or correspond with families – and often even lesson plan – during these meetings. On top of that, my district increased the number of dept. “planning” meetings, which, at my school, basically end up being gripe and gossip sessions
plus a lot if loose brainstorming which results in great ideas that are never followed through upon. So, I was basically working 6 to 6 daily + 8 hours on the weekend, and was still unable to keep up. I experienced major burnout by winter break but kept trudging through until the spring when I was forced to take extended medical leave because of the toll the stress took on my health. At the end if the year I was placed on probation status.

I have spent this summer tutoring ESY (“extended school year” for students with IEPs who haven’t made adequate progress toward their goals) students , teaching an ESY class, and applying for jobs,
but I have not landed anything. I feel like my probation status is like the Scarlet Letter even though I
am looking for special education jobs I know I could excel at. Comparing most Sp Ed jobs to secondary reg ed jobs is like comparing apples and oranges. Both, of course, have their challenges,
but the challenges are extremely different. I cannot transfer to a different job in my own district because of my status. Now, school is about to resume, and I am sick to my stomach about returning to the job that has made me miserable (and an ineffective teacher!) but resigning would carry a huge
toll. I am single and have a mortgage, car and school loan repayments, a health issue that needs ongoing treatment, and no family who can help me out financially. Unemployment could quickly lead to the loss of my insurance, car, and home. I would not qualify for unemployment compensation or be able to refinance my home. My therapist and a career counselor both have advised me to hold onto my job, but I fear that things will go even worse. I am close to the point of taking to huge financial risk of resigning.

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127 Lisa August 3, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Oh wow, Skylark. I really feel for you. I don’t know if your private system is any better but maybe it’s worth looking at applying to the private school system too. Also, can you get your doctor or therapist to authorize a stress leave?

I’m really sorry you’re going through this. Public education can be so brutal to its employees, uses them all up and then offers no support when they stumble. Take care of yourself and my advice would be that it you cannot stomach going back to school, take the financial risk. Talk to your bank about missing a few payments, take a loan, downsize, whatever you need to do to protect your mental health. Sending you all good wishes.

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128 Middle School Teacher September 3, 2013 at 10:21 pm

I started teaching at at Title 1 middle school Aug. 15 and I’m ready to quit. I echo everyone’s comments except for the administration. They are, in fact, quite wonderful and supportive. However, for the sake of my health and my general quality of life, I choose not to spend 8AM-3PM in a severe state of stress where the only things I accomplish are writing detention slips and muttering empty threats. I feel an incredible sense of defeat, dread, guilt, and sadness. I had fantasies of medical benefits and encouraging lectures with a group of young minds. I failed and take responsibility for that. But if I’m going to fail, I want it to happen now and not 10 years down the road where I look back and think, “what am I still doing here?” This is one of the saddest moments of my life.

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129 Miss V September 14, 2013 at 3:11 am

Thanks for sharing. It really does make a difference if your administrators have your back. My first principal did have my back, but that new one…NO COMMENT. Every time I would send a student to the office, it was overturned and they won. Also,not once did I have my observations until a disagreement happened right after spring break. Then they showed up to spy but it was well then. I was fired because of students and parents with money complaining about me all the time. Even close teachers turned on me. Never would I have ever thought that my word didn’t count for anything. I begged for cameras in the room just to prove my case because every other day I was called in on during my planning. I had received excellent evaluations until this demon came on the scene. After that, all of my evaluations were horrific. Defamation of character occurred but I didn’t have a case. It was my word against theirs. The other administrator knew the truth but went along with him like a coward. How do I recovered from this??? I still love my career and just need a fresh start.

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130 Patti September 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm

I also am struggling with making the decision to leave the profession. I am currently in my 8th year in the same district. 4 years ago I was moved to our upper elementary building without any conversation, reasons why, and told that we should all be glad we have a job. Needless to say…I did not want to move. I was extremely happy where I was…my students loved me…the parents loved me…and I had excellent reviews every year. I woke up each day ready to work and extremely excited and happy to go. I love teaching! I always give 110% every day.
I’ve been given the behavior issues each year (right from my first year). I’ve always dealt and have turned around quite a few students. I’ve been told by the administrators that they know I can handle them. Actually what that means is: they know I won’t be sending them to the office…I’ll handle it in my classroom. At the end of the school year, last year, I specifically asked to be given a break with the behavior. Again…I was told that I can handle them. I stated that I take that as a compliment, but I’m burning out and need a break from it for 1 year. Well…I’ve got 5 behaviors in my classroom. I feel like a babysitter instead of a teacher. I spend more time trying to keep students out of trouble than I do teaching. I feel awful for the students that do the right thing each and every day. The massive amounts of stress has caused my migraines to go out of control. I left on a 2 week sick leave with a doctor’s note. I am struggling now because the 2 weeks is almost up. I haven’t had a migraine at all in the time I’ve been off, but I’m beginning to think about what I’ll be facing when I go back next week, and I’m waking up in the middle of the night with dread in the pit of my stomach. Now, I’m grappling with: Do I resign? Do I go back?

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131 Ms. G October 12, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I’m so glad to find this post. I am currently struggling with the idea of leaving my job mid-year. I changed jobs this year (a decision I highly regret now!) because my school was far away from home and also increasingly test-centered rather than student-centered. Enter new job at a charter school designed for drop-out risk students. The idea is great, and the kids are great, but the job is ridiculous! 80% of my job is paperwork, and 20% of it is teaching. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to shortchange a needy student because I’m desperately trying to keep track of the paperwork. I wish I could fudge the paperwork, but teachers are audited on their paperwork once a month and given a numerical grade based on compliance. It’s crazy! We have some of the neediest students out there, but I feel like I can’t even teach them half the time.

Meanwhile, we have no substitutes, so when a teacher is gone, we cover for them in addition to covering for our own class. If two teachers are gone…well, you get the picture. This wouldn’t be a huge deal except that someone has been absent almost everyday. Thus, I haven’t had a consistent schedule since the day I started. Apparently, the schedule is just for documentation purposes? Just like everything else here! So, that means I rarely if ever get a planning period to grade and plan. It also means lots of “working lunches” because all meetings are scheduled during lunch.

Lastly, we don’t have an ESL teacher, so as an English teacher that responsibility falls to me. Don’t get me wrong; in a former life I was a SPED and ESL teacher, and I LOVE IT!!! However, the solution is to take my writing lab time and turn it into ESL time. So all my struggling writers lose out on the chance to be taught how to write better. This doesn’t directly affect me, but it totally shortchanges the students who I need to work with the most, and that’s the reason why I became a teacher in the first place – to help needy students! Don’t even get me started on 504 and sped students; I was told that it’s not part of the special education teacher’s job to modify curriculum, accommodate sped students, and certainly never to work with 504 students! That responsibility falls on the gen ed teacher…who is busy covering for other absent teachers and is spending 80% of her time on paperwork.

It’s hard to believe I took a $12,000 pay cut to end up doing the job of three teachers. I hate the idea of quitting a new job mid-year, but I just can’t keep doing this. I spend my every waking moment focused on work, most of which doesn’t qualify as teaching. I think it’s time to change.

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132 Christina October 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I just wanted to share that after some serious soul-searching, prayer, and a lot of contemplation, I decided that I will resign from teaching in my district in January, at the end of the second marking period. It was not a choice I took lightly, but it is one that needs to be done. With the job starting to demand more and more of me and my time and energy, I am coming home later and with more and more work to do, all the while caring for a disabled husband and an infant daughter. My family has had to really suffer from my busyness, and I realized that I need to put them first, even over my job and paycheck. It isn’t an easy decision; I’m the breadwinner in the family and now we may be on welfare for a period of time. But it wasn’t worth it to stick it out and suffer and leave my family suffering (my husband nearly died last year from physical problems, and he’s still trying to recover from some issues). I’m sad about it. It pains me to hurt these poor kids. I really love them, nutty ones and all. I love my fellow teachers. But I just can’t do this job anymore. The country needs to get with it and take a careful look at what they are doing to teachers. If things were the way the were back in 2006, I wouldn’t be resigning. Thanks for sharing. I really needed to read this tonight!

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133 SG November 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Wow, I can relate to everyone’s story here. I too am currently wrestling with the idea of resigning mid year. I taught high school for five years, and this is my first year teaching middle school. I can’t believe how much I really dislike it. I’m in the inner city (again) and I thought that I’d like this school and things would be different. Many students have severe emotional issues and it’s a really unpleasant experience going to work every day. Some students are just angry, disrespectful, and just plain difficult to deal with. I have very little support from administration; there is NO policy for discipline or behavior at the school in general. I find that baffling. I’m just tired of the inner city and the issues it brings. I’m also an adjunct college professor, and I truly love teaching WILLING learners as opposed to RELUCTANT learners. I think that’s where my career is heading. Despite the loss of money and insurance, I am really considering resigning. I can continue to adjunct and explore other opportunities. I never thought I’d leave mid year, but I truly feel like I’m going downhill. I hate to complain, and I’d hate to be that teacher…the one who is bitter and hates life. I think I need to make this difficult change.

Thanks for everyone who responded here. It’s helpful to hear that we’re not alone, and sometimes life forces us to make tough choices. It’s hard because we all know that leaving affects so many other people. Ultimately, we all have to make our own decisions based on what we think is best, and we have to live with those decisions. If others don’t like it, oh well. Other people’s opinion of me is their business. I have to live MY life.

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134 mayrwing November 12, 2013 at 9:01 pm

SG,
I wonder where you work. It sounds just like my own district. I worked under those conditions for six years. I really didn’t think I could go on and then a Title 1 position opened and I actually enjoy my job now. I work in classrooms with small groups of students and soon I will have a caseload of the lowest students who need small group intensive interventions. I have always felt that urban students fare better in the small group rather than the in a whole class setting. I taught middle school in the inner city for four years and thought of quitting almost everyday and certainly every Sunday. You are right to give yourself the option to leave if you are losing your joy and your health. Good Luck on your journey.

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135 Texas Teacher November 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

SG,
Teaching those “reluctant learners” is a super tough job. Teaching them with no discipline support from admin is even tougher! I’m glad that you realize that this situation isn’t the right one for you, but that it doesn’t mean you are a BAD teacher. Each teacher thrives in their own specific environment. Even a great teacher can feel or look like a horrible teacher if they are in a “bad fit”. Keep looking for your “right fit “. Once you are there, everything will fall into place. But in the meantime, try not to give up on those kids. You might be the one person who reaches one of them.

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136 Terri November 12, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Wow! My school is safe, but some of the behaviors are the same. It is crazy. I have been there for 5 years and every year is worse because there is a dump truck that keeps dumping dirt on us and we are buried. I cannot get a good relationship with my kids. This is crazy time! It is wrong….it is not good for kids or teachers! I hope and pray it gets better, or I will leave the profession all together. When educators make policy we will be heading in the right direction.

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137 Katy November 23, 2013 at 12:55 am

Thanks for your story, Angela, and the many replies. I was a mid-life career changer and went into teaching with lots of idealism, in spite of my husband’s advice not to do it (he taught 33 years in the inner city and quit mid-year before retirement due to burnout). I got bumped around several districts, and managed to find other jobs because I’m a bilingual teacher. However, I got into teaching during a time when budgets are being tightened more and more every year, there are a plethora of terrible administrators, and there is the pressure of testing under No Child Left Behind. Also, here in Illinois, you must teach for 4 years and be rehired for your 5th in order to get tenure. I never got there, always losing my job due to a lousy, unsupportive principal or being cut in favor of a tenured teacher. It got harder and harder to find a job as my resume grew longer. So I finally gave up. After being a substitute for a year in an large urban school district, I am now working as a bilingual classroom assistant in a suburban district. The pay is low but the insurance is great, and I love it! The teachers I work for are very supportive and appreciative of my help. We have plenty of needy students and some cause trouble, but I love them. I enjoy being able to help teachers and work with kids in a capacity that I would have liked to have had help me when I was the classroom teacher. I am given professional development opportunities and to make extra money by attending other workshops or translating at conferences. I will check out the link Angela posted for alternatives to teaching, also. But meanwhile, I’m in the environment I love (school and children) with a much lower stress job.

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138 Lindsey December 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I never comment on anything online, but sheesh…Reading this, it’s like I could have written it.

I taught inner city in New Jersey for 1 month. I had taught before, including some inner city kids, but what ruined it for me was my administration. I never saw IEPs or 504s. I had at least five emotionally disturbed students who threatened me and attacked my other students. When I called security, I was told that I was enforcing a racial stereotype and should break it up or let them fight it out and then deal with it in the middle of instruction.

It broke my heart to leave those kids. I felt really sad and guilty for a few weeks. But I left because I was crying all night when I got home, losing weight, not sleeping, taking it out on my family, throwing up, and having panic attacks. I had to go on medical leave, because I was so sick from the job.

Now, I’m in an amazing public school district where I went to school as a child. I still feel guilty about the students I left behind, but what these schools need to learn is that we can’t help “those kids” if we don’t have the administration behind us, open-minded, and supportive. Especially if you’re a young teacher like me.

THANK YOU so much for posting this. It truly made me feel so much better than all the “non-teachers” I have around me who have tried to console me. It is nice for me, and I’m sure all of you here, to know that we are not alone and it is not our fault.

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139 marie December 27, 2013 at 10:18 am

florida teacher over here..I just have to say..that I have taught back on and off for 3 months at a clip never securing a full-time position. I finally have a position and now I hate my life..it’s really the administration..the principal..seems to find fault with everything i do..she comes from a failing school herself..she doesn’t know how to treat people right..the families and kids are very content with me..but she gave me a poor review. I’m thinking of leaving even though I finally wanted this position. It’s in an urban area and the kids can get out of hand..I dread waking up and going there every day..Do you think if i leave I will ruin all chances of teaching in another place?? Also, I do have other skills..I was thinking of leaving for the winter break..

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140 Lisa December 28, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Thank you for posting this. I have been teaching for 19 years and it is definitely getting harder – so hard that even old ones like me are ready to give it all up. There are many days that I wonder what else can I do with my degrees (2 Bachelors – 1 in Elementary Education, 1 in English and a Master of Education) that isn’t regular classroom instruction? I need ideas for helping kids outside the classroom and I’m all ears. :)

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141 Paul April 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I really appreciate this post. I’ve read it twice this week; I found it looking for something to shake me out of my funk. I’m a second year teacher who has left an urban position near the end of the year because the battles just got too much: The aging, windowless building, the lack of resources, the students, inconsistent consequences, problems with the administration…. I’m indeed heartened that I’m not the only one.

Groundhog Day: That’s what it felt like for me. Six hours of getting the students to quiet down and trying to shove in enough instruction so it didn’t feel like I was just a babysitter.

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142 Jackie Church September 14, 2014 at 5:30 am

To the critics. This kind of stress is cumulative. It builds. You start out being an achiever and keep trying, but the circumstances out of your control keep eating away at you. Some of you critics are male and I will point out that children can have a different reaction to male teachers — if you are even teachers. But male or female, the climate in schools can be toxic and is building. It will damage education unless outside issues are fixed. Teachers turn on teachers, pushing others down trying to keep their own heads afloat. Teachers are not supported and yet support is exactly what will fix education.

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143 DZV September 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I found this site a week ago. I have been going back and reading it every day since then. I am so glad to know that I am not alone. After years of guilt, torment, and regret, as a teacher, I’ve decided to leave a post here and move on with my life. I need a catharsis.
I’ve been a teacher for 12 years in a very large urban school district (the one where we’re on the news all the time, especially two years ago). I started out bright-eyed and dedicated, as all young teachers do. But as time passed, as my personal life moved forward, I began to question why I was a teacher. Yet, each day, I went to work with hope and vigor.
Four years ago, I was laid off. My principal called and read a scripted letter about budget cuts. She told me she was ashamed and embarrassed for letting me go like this, but “the top” informed her that was how it was to be done. Shocked, I trudged on. I sent out resumes by the dozens, waiting to hear from someone. The interviews slowly rolled in. To my surprise, here’s the unprofessionalism that followed…
I interviewed with a principal, who then offered me the job on the spot. He was leaving on vacation for two weeks and would submit all my paperwork to HR on return. The two weeks went by and I did not hear from him. I called and did not get a response. I emailed and didn’t get a response. Four weeks later I heard from him, “Sorry, due to budget cuts, we no longer have this position”.
Another principal insisted I bring my master’s degree portfolio (it had been five years since I graduated). He spent an hour critiquing my works, telling I had the potential to be a great teacher. He then made me sit in an after-school class he taught for an hour, to show me what a great teacher does. He lectured at the students for an hour (they were fourth graders). A student didn’t know who to spell “frightening” asked him to put it on the board, he misspelled it.
At yet another school, I interviewed with a team. I arrived on time and was kept waiting for an hour and a half in the middle of a snow storm. When the interview began, no one introduced themselves, but the questions started to roll. I couldn’t answer them. After about five minutes of this uncomfortableness, I looked down at the papers on the table. They had another teacher’s resume in hand. They were asking me questions scripted for another position.
A third principal, didn’t ask about my teaching experiences, but was more concerned about my political affiliations. He called my references, not to ask what kind of teacher I was, but wanted to know how active I was with my union.
One Sunday night, after my children were in bed (about 9), I received a phone call from a principal. She didn’t apologize for calling so late, but rushed right into a phone interview. Surprised, but polite, I answered to the best of my abilities. I looked like a great candidate! She said she would bring my resume to her special education team on Monday to set up an in person interview. Monday came, no call. Tuesday came, no call. I followed up on Wednesday, just voicemail. I called on Thursday, only voicemail. By Friday, I gave up.
I felt disappointed. I was frustrated, but I wasn’t giving up. I decided to take long term subbing positions. At least this way, I would have an opportunity to get into a school, do what I love, and make money. I’d have to give up my tenure, but that was pointless anyway. So I went from school to school for a few years. At the end of each position, there was nothing permanent. One principal was kind enough to let me know “on the sly” that I’d have a hard time finding a position, since I cost too much to employ permanently.
Yet, I trudged on. Two years ago, I took a yearlong maternity leave position. The school was over-crowded. We were cramped two classes in a room. Students were receiving services in broom closets, hallways, and utility rooms. But I was happy to have a job. I loved the kids. I went to work happy.
After the holidays, as happens, teachers started to get burnt out. They started taking days off. There weren’t any substitutes. So, I, the special education teacher, got pulled to sub in various classrooms. Then, due to lack of staffing, I also became a recess monitor for an hour every day. I saw less and less of my special education students. They weren’t receiving their minutes according to their IEPs. They were falling behind. Parents were emailing me about their grades. I couldn’t tell them what was going. I couldn’t tell them they weren’t receiving services. I would have been fired!
As an advocate for my special needs students, I went to the case manager, then to the assistant principal to voice my concerns. Nothing was done. “That’s just the way things are”, I was told. So I continued to do everything except teach my special needs students. While running from room to room monitoring students at recess, my inner voice was nagging me, “Part of my teacher evaluation were my student test scores! How were their scores going to look when I wasn’t even teaching my students on most days?”
That little voice in my head rang true. My student test scores went down, my evaluation went down, and I was let go. But not before I was summoned to the principal’s office to be humiliated two months before my dismissal. This is what I was told, “The position has become permanent, but YOU personally make me uncomfortable. I work hard to make this school great. You are undermining me with your complaining about subbing and recess duty. You’re not a team player.” I stifled back tears and shock. I apologized to HER! I told her that it wasn’t a personal attack. I had concerns about meeting my students’ needs. Their IEP minutes weren’t being met. We were violating laws. It didn’t matter. Her mind was made up.
I continued to work there. I didn’t quit. I did the best that I could. Each day I would drive to work with this horrible angst in my heart. I would swallow back tears as I walked in through the door. I put on a smile for my students. I taught them the best way I knew how, I wrote their IEPs, I spent hours writing lesson plans, making copies, and collaborating with my fellow teachers. I went outside and supervised them during recess. I subbed when I was told to sub. I was a “good little soldier” and did what I was told to do.
So ignoring my family’s needs, my own mental health and sanity, I found another school to work at. I wasn’t a failure. I wasn’t a bad teacher. I was going to prove it to myself! I attended meeting after meeting about test scores, data walls, behavior management, and everything else you could imagine at the beginning of the year. You see, the requirements for teachers now, are five days of professional development with only three hours of teacher directed time before the start of the school year.
I came in hours before and stayed hours after school to set up my classroom. There were no supplies, no materials, or anything in my classroom. I scoured the building. I went to thrift stores and teacher stores. I dragged in my own materials. I went in on the weekend to make my classroom welcoming and inviting. I worked on unit plans, lesson plans, and curriculum on weekends. My own children forgot they had a mother. I would kiss them as they were waking up in the morning and kiss them as they were going to bed at night.
The school year began and so did the insanity. One particular student was extremely disturbed. He was out to get everyone. Within the first three weeks of school, he attacked other students and staff members. There were no consequences. Administration ignored him and pretended he didn’t exist. He told students, me, and other staff members, “Shut-up, you mother-@!?!s”. He tackled students in halls. He sexually harassed students and staff. He ran from classroom to classroom shouting his profanities. There’s so much more that went on, I can’t bear to write it.
His aide chased him. I chased him. I called his mother. She wasn’t coming to school. I documented his behavior. I wrote referrals. Other teachers wrote referrals. Aides wrote referrals. That was all I was doing. I was not teaching. I was just documenting. And all I heard was silence from the administration. I emailed. I begged for a conference. I heard nothing, just morning announcements about how great the school year was so far.
Each morning I would get up and tell myself that things would get better as the school year progressed. Each day I would come home and take out my anger and frustration on my own children. I screamed at them, I yelled at them, I humiliated them, all because of this one student. I had no support. I was on my own and it was only September. How was I going to make it the rest of the year?
I knew I wasn’t. I knew deep down inside that this student of mine was going to keep on doing what he was doing. It wasn’t going to stop. That is how our system of education works, especially in the inner city. I felt nauseous. I couldn’t sleep. I was hiding in my bathroom crying, so my family wouldn’t see.
So I did it. I QUIT.
I went into work one early Monday morning and packed my personal belongings. I didn’t wait for administration. They’re always late due to some meeting. I apologized to the school secretary for inconveniencing her. I left all school property with her. I told her I was quitting. I left my resignation letter with her and I walked out.
Deep down inside I felt like a coward. I felt so unprofessional for doing what I did. I should have stood up for myself. I should have stood up for all my other students. I should have waited for the principal and spoke my mind. But I just couldn’t. I was tired, shattered, and scared.
I’m dealing with a lot of guilt. I gave up a month into the school year. I left my students behind. Students who really needed a good teacher are left with nothing. I left part of my dignity, self-esteem, and pride at that school. I am trying to find my peace. This site with all your stories brings me some of that peace I need. I know that I am not the only one: I was a good teacher, who tried, in spite of everything I’ve been through. I didn’t fail. The system failed. A system that is so disconnected from the children it serves and the teachers it employs, has failed. That student’s parents failed him. I won’t be held responsible for him or his behaviors. My family, my kids, and my mental stability come first.

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144 Nora September 28, 2014 at 4:56 pm

It’s so helpful to hear from someone who has been through a very similar situation as mine, and come out the other side.

I’m feeling the exact same things you were describing, and seriously considering quitting. The problem is, I’ll lose my certificate in my state for the remainder of this year plus another year. The final straw for me has been that a parent has been threatening me for calling CPS. I really, really want to remain a teacher–just not in my current situation.

I’m really at a loss. I don’t want to lose my certification, but I seriously question whether I’ll be able to live through this year.

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