A teacher recently asked me the following question:
How do you know when it’s time to find another career? I’ve been at this for a couple of years and tried switching schools and grade levels to see if that helped, but watching the kids learn and grow just doesn’t do it for me. I feel like the kids are supposed to be the reason I go to work every day, but I don’t really enjoy them. Helping them and seeing them make progress doesn’t really give me a feeling of satisfaction. Does that mean I need to quit?
My answer to her was this: Yes, I think you should quit. And here’s why.
Enjoying your students is the key to sticking with this profession and loving your work as a teacher. If you don’t enjoy being with the kids, what’s left? The meetings? The testing? The paperwork? Not every moment with students will be enjoyable, but I truly believe that the kids should be the source of energy, joy, and laughter that makes the job worthwhile.
If you don’t derive a sense of satisfaction from watching kids learn and grow, that does not make you a horrible, heartless person. It does make you a person who’s going to get burned out on teaching rather quickly, because there aren’t a lot of other perks or rewards to the job.
Here’s my advice to this teacher, and any others who recognize themselves in this post: Figure out what you DO love about teaching, and start planning how you can spin that into a different career.
Do you enjoy planning your lessons, just not implementing them with students? Maybe you can create materials for TeachersPayTeachers, corporate training modules, or curriculum resource companies.
Do you enjoy teaching lessons, but not dealing with the constant interruptions and behavioral issues? Become an instructional coach, administrator, college professor, or corporate trainer. Find opportunities in which you can teach adults the topics and skills you’re most passionate about.
Do you enjoy decorating and organizing the classroom? Make you should look into interior design, or become a personal organizer or personal shopper.
Do you really love your subject matter or a particular aspect of education? Write a book about it, teach a college course on it, become a consultant, or find other ways to get paid for sharing your expertise with the world.
It’s scary to give up a steady job, and it’s not easy to transition into a different career. But if you don’t enjoy your students or get satisfaction from seeing them learn, I truly believe it’s time to quit teaching. Your students deserve to have a teacher who’s in the job whole-heartedly…and you deserve work that you’re passionate about. Start looking for opportunities outside the classroom now (maybe an alternative job in education), and make the move as soon as you feel ready. You can even begin pursuing other work in a part-time, freelance capacity and build from there. There are many edupreneurs who make a great living from a variety of income streams rather than from one full-time job.
Teaching is not a career you can coast through half-heartedly for 30+ years until retirement. It’s hard work. And I think the hard work is only worth it if you really, really love connecting with kids and watching them learn and grow.
If that’s not the case, it’s time to quit.
What are your thoughts on this? Am I drawing too firm of a line in the sand? How would you advise a teacher who’s thinking of quitting because she or he doesn’t get satisfaction from working with kids?