It’s totally normal to need a break this time of the school year. Everyone’s energy levels are low, and a summer break can be exactly what’s needed to re-energize.
But you might also be wondering if it’s time to make a change:
- Should I find transfer to another school?
- Should I stay home with the kids, or save up for another year first?
- Should I ask my principal about that open spot in another grade level?
- Should I apply for that position as an instructional coach or an administrator?
- Should I stick around to see what next school year brings, or is it time to find another career?
To complicate things, this year many are wondering, “Do I just not want to teach like THIS anymore? Or do I not want to teach at all?”
It can be hard to tell the difference between pandemic fatigue (which will fade once we begin schooling in a post-pandemic world) and true burnout, which may not go away even when circumstances improve.
Trying to determine the “right” decision can be overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider and only you know them all, and understand the relative importance of them all.
And, it’s difficult to decide on anything in the spring when you’re just super tired and in need of a break.
Here are a few mindset shifts and resources to help you make the best choice for YOUR situation.
1. Let go of the guilt around quitting so you can make a clear-headed decision.
I had always thought of myself as a teacher and pictured myself teaching in the same place for decades, it created a bit of an identity crisis when I realized that wasn’t making me happy anymore. I felt like I had lost my way or sold out.
Not only did it feel like a personal failure to quit, but it also seemed like a disrespect to the profession. In my mind, teaching was not something you just dip in and out of: “Oh, I’ll teach for a few years and then do something else.” Either you’re a born educator who is committed to our students or you’re not.
It took me a long time to realize teaching does not have to be a lifelong career. You are not a failure if you decide you want to use your gifts and talents in another way.
What if we thought of our careers as a portfolio of varied accomplishments, rather than one single thing we spent a lifetime building?
What if we aimed to look back on our lives and see a variety of ways we made an impact and made a living?
Wouldn’t that be healthier than telling ourselves we got a degree in education so we have to keep teaching forever even when it’s completely burning us out?
So as much as I’d love to tell amazing teachers, “Please stay — we need you in our classrooms,” I think that’s a message you’re going to hear basically everywhere else.
I’d like to offer you a counterpoint, which is that we need you in the world, in general, and teaching is just one of an infinite number of ways you can contribute great things to the world. If it’s not THE way you make a difference for your entire lifetime, that’s absolutely fine.
Check out my blog/podcast episode called How do you know when it’s time to quit teaching? for more about this.
You can also read or listen to my story about how I decided to quit teaching (twice!) and eventually made the transition to instructional coaching and educational consulting.
2. Use my weighted pros/cons system for making big life decisions.
I’ve changed schools five times and grade levels three times, and relocated to other parts of the country for work twice. I often found that a change of teaching context helped re-energize me and gave me a new enthusiasm for teaching when my professional growth started to feel stagnant.
This resulted in a lot of change, but I always felt confident about the choices I made because I created a system that helped me think through every aspect of the decision. The system helped me weigh the options: not just on an intellectual, rational, logical level, but also on an emotional and heart level.
Here’s the most important part of the weighted pros/cons list: as you’re completing it, you’re going to find yourself instinctively wanting to be more lenient with one choice over another. You’ll find yourself penalizing one argument more harshly and wanting to overlook or rate down problems with the other.
This your intuition speaking: this is your inner wisdom surfacing, and what you truly feel in your heart of hearts. This is the right choice.
You will complete this list and either feel excited about the result that is clearly the best choice, OR you’ll find yourself wanting a redo. You’ll say, Hmm, this was really close, let me look at the point values I gave here. I think actually this reason is more important than I thought, and it should be weighted more heavily. You’ll notice yourself wanting to skew the results the other way. If so, listen to that intuition and follow it.
Through this process, teachers often realize they really want to do something different, and they truly believe the change will be the right decision…but change is scary. So they’re looking for someone else to say, “You’re not crazy for uprooting your life or taking on something new. It really is all going to work out for you. You should do this.” They want someone to help them push back the fear and make sure the decision is the right one.
That’s why working through all of the issues through a weighted pros/cons list is so powerful. It does not deny the fear or the reasons for fear, but neither does it allow you to make a decision based solely on that fear. It will help you make the decision based on a well-reasoned analysis that affirms your intuition.
3. Update your resume and explore options in the current job market so you’re prepared to make a change if/when the right opportunity comes along.
Whenever teachers ask me for advice about leaving the classroom (which is a LOT, and even more frequent in 2021), I always point them to Daphne Williams of the Teacher Career Coach.
Frankly, I’m just not passionate about the topic of career transitions and didn’t want to create materials specifically for that (beyond my course, How to Transition Into Educational Consulting, which I made a few years ago).
So, I looked for another entrepreneur who IS passionate about offering this support, and after a lot of time and consideration, I gave my endorsement to Daphne Williams. Daphne created The Teacher Career Coach blog and podcast because she’s passionate and experienced with helping teachers make a move out of the classroom when needed.
Her resources are practical and realistic, and she NEVER pushes teachers to make a decision or leave the classroom. Since 2019, I’ve watched her operate her business with 100% integrity, and I feel really confident in partnering with her as an affiliate.
In particular, I like that she’s working with a professional resume writer to offer templates that highlight teacher experience in a corporate-friendly way. That kind of professional service tends to be really expensive, and Daphne’s found a unique workaround.
I can introduce you to Daphne through my podcast interview I did with her last year, called How to transition out of teaching and into your next career. She shares:
- Why your classroom experience has prepared you for a multitude of other careers
- How you can work part-time for companies now to supplement your teaching income, which gives you more options if you decide to leave teaching later
- How to translate your experience from classroom to corporate, so potential employers understand the value of your skills
- What types of industries frequently hire former teachers
- How to find work when you live in a rural area or small town
- Why you should do the math on how much you’re making per hour when comparing your teaching salary to other fields
You could also start with her article/podcast called The pros and cons of leaving teaching during the pandemic.
If you find that helpful, look through her blog/podcast archives for more tips as well as interviews with CEOs who hire teachers and teachers who have successfully transitioned into another career. This will give you an idea of what you need to do to prepare and open you up to possibilities you haven’t considered before.
If and when you want resume/cover letter support and a community of teachers to brainstorm with, consider Daphne’s Teacher Career Coach course. That includes:
- Access to a private community of teachers who are also dedicated to making a career transition. Collaborate with other members and former teachers for continued motivation and support.
- Video modules to help walk you through all of the steps of choosing a new career path, writing your resume, networking, and more.
- A library of materials to save you time, including growing lists of educational companies that hire teachers, skills you can master to beef up your resume, and interviews with former teachers.
- Downloadable planners and worksheets to help you plan, keep you organized, and ensure you’re using your time efficiently.
- Motivational resources to help you push past your fears, unlock your potential, and achieve your goals.
Daphne’s approach is always that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to if you should (or shouldn’t) leave the classroom or what your journey to a new career will look like. She can help you look at the bigger picture of how long you’ve been feeling this way and what solutions could be possible.
If you’re on the fence or just curious about your options, take the quiz here to see what other careers might be a good it.
4. If you decide to stay in teaching, create a vision + game plan this summer to help you find a more sustainable approach to your work.
Sometimes just riding out bad circumstances is the right choice, but I think we all know that the 2021-2022 school year is going to have a lot of unique challenges on top of the usual stresses of teaching.
Hoping that things will be better isn’t nearly as effective as creating an actionable PLAN to make teaching work for your life.
Remember when I mentioned that it’s Daphne’s passion (not mine) to support teachers who are ready to leave the classroom?
Supporting those who stay is MY passion.
There’s no judgment from us around either choice: we have the shared goal of taking away the stigma of quitting for those who need to do that, and we never try to sway teachers in any direction.
My role is to simply offer you support and resources to help you find a more sustainable, enjoyable way to teach. Here’s a couple of options to choose from:
- Get encouragement, mindset shifts, and productivity tips from me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
- Subscribe to my Truth for Teachers podcast (or read the blog posts) for new ideas weekly.
- Receive a message of encouragement in your email inbox every Sunday night
- Attend my free webinar over the summer to help you counter the “lost year of learning” narrative and craft an inspiring, achievable vision for next school year (more on that soon for folks who are following me!)
Also, my 40 Hour Teacher Workweek program is open to new members from June 15th-July 15th. This online course + community has already helped 41,000 teachers find a sustainable way to do the job they love! If you want a full year’s worth of ONGOING support, encouragement, and practical resources for streamlining your workload, 40 Hour is the place to get it. Our community focuses on professional development AND personal development, so you don’t have to navigate any aspect of the new school year on your own.
Here’s a closing thought I hope you’ll remember:
Ultimately, this is just one job out of a lifetime. And, it’s just one way you are making a difference in the world out of many others that are possible.
Quitting is not failure. As Seth Godin says, “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right things at the right time.”
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. Don’t leave before you have that knowing, and don’t stay too long after it comes.
Trust that knowing within yourself, and don’t rush the decision-making process.