Monday, June 8, 2015

Why I Quit Teaching
By:  Anonymous 


I don’t know. Every time someone asks me, my response is always different. Teaching is a dream job. You get to share your hard-earned knowledge and experiences to train the next generation. Why would I quit such a job? I don’t think there will ever be an objective answer, but I’ll try my best to go through my experiences and figure it out.


Student teaching was awesome. I had a great master teacher, the students loved learning, and class was a blast. Still, I was always really tired. This should be shocking because normally a teacher has to teach five or more periods, but I was really only teaching two. I wasn’t even lesson planning. Therefore, why would I always come home and go straight to bed, only to wake up at 5:00 in the morning? I thought it was mostly because I wasn’t used to working and that I’m innately shy, but I figured that eventually I would get over it.


Fast forward to getting my first job as a high school math teacher at a charter school. I honestly sent in my application really late because I wanted to rest more during the summer. I don’t really have a go-getter personality and I always try hard to be efficient. By efficient I mean, getting stuff over with as little effort as possible (I mean, I still turn out a quality product. Usually.). Still, after a little monetary pressure I sent in my application. I was hired almost immediately and had to start in 3 days. School started and I really only got to be in the classroom after about a week because there were some technical difficulties with the fingerprints. In any case, I had a rough start. Sure I liked the students, but they weren’t what some would call “easy” students. Most of them grew up in Watts, in the projects, and they got passed along to high school with sometimes elementary level math skills. Several kids told me how crazy their middle schools were. Chairs and tables would be flying. One kid even blew his mouth open by lighting fireworks in his mouth. Another kid told me about how their gang got their weapons confiscated by the police.


However, this was where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a light in the darkness. I wanted to give kids who society would dismiss as hopeless, hope. I soon found out that it was a lot more work than I bargained for. At the work place, I can work like a machine. But to make me work like a dog at home too was too much. I’m still single! I need to get out! Yet I found myself isolating myself from my friends and family because the stress was too much and I always felt “behind”. The charter school did offer a lot of support but I felt like it was too much support. Can there ever be too much support? Too much coaching? Too much professional development?


I wanted to go into teaching and do my thing. Turns out that I had to reset my grading system to match theirs. I had to read a book on how to properly teach. I had to collaborate with coworkers on how to properly implement one educational theory after another. I watched videos and read articles about effective teachers. My students typically scored far below basic on the charter school’s newly designed Common Core exams. I was told to give more exams, score more exit tickets, give more assessments. I was scored on a scale from 1 to 4 about how effective I was across a plethora of parameters. I typically scored 1s and 2s so I had to receive even more coaching. Everyone was very supportive, but I still felt like I wasn’t a good teacher. They encouraged me a lot, saying that I was improving really quickly, that the students liked me, that I would be much better next year. But still, something was lost. Respect? Pride? Dignity? I don’t know. It’s not good to be proud anyway but I felt like I wasn’t a teacher anymore. I was some new clay that could be properly molded into a good teacher using the latest research and data-based educational findings. I was clay that could be found anywhere.


Who cares if my kids liked me? Who cares if I brought them candy every week? Who cares if I spent over $200 on pencils alone? I was just another face that could become effective with enough training. I was an ineffective teacher. Many of my students scored far below basic on the Common Core based tests that they had to take every unit. They were frustrated. They lost confidence.


But then, something amazing happened. They didn’t require me to give the charter school’s manufactured exams. I could teach them my way. The students started gaining confidence. They were learning at their own pace, not an artificial pace to prepare them for an exam that most adults would struggle with. They started saying bizarre things like, “This is easy!” Still, I knew that next year the exams would come back. I would have to work harder and harder to just maybe be considered effective. If I’m not effective, then I say find someone else that wants to be molded into an effective teacher. If I’m not a good teacher, why should I stay teaching only to sacrifice my well-being while doing these students a disservice?


The students were upset that I was leaving and gave me their well-wishes. Students told me I was a really good teacher and were upset that all the good teachers were leaving. It made me wonder what really made a teacher a good one. I was so busy feeling inferior the whole time that I hadn’t really stopped to consider. The students signed my yearbook and gave me cards. I told them I was moving into a Computer Programming training program. They were happy for me as I’m set to double my pay within 3 years. If I work overtime, I’ll actually get paid for it. I’ll be able to do the programming that I love and be able to challenge myself intellectually as I learn new things every day. The more I learn and master, the less work I have to do! I won’t be expected to lesson plan in the middle of the night and wake up in the mornings to motivate students that hate school, that hate the system. I’ll be working for employers that appreciate my work as I fully utilize the talents that could not see the light of day while I was a high school teacher.


Bye charter school. Even though the principal, the two vice-principals, and six out of thirty-one teachers are leaving this year, I’m happy I’m leaving because I’m sure you’ll replace me with someone more effective than myself.



  1. Good lord. It's extremely rewarding to finally read an article that articulates exactly how I feel. I'm currently considering quitting teaching after this year. I've been an English teacher for five years now, and it's not getting better. It's getting more frustrating. My family always freaks out every time I mention finding a new career and tell me I'll be making a huge mistake. Whatever will I do without summer break, winter break, and spring break?! Oh, that's right. I'll have a life. I'll be able to spend time with my children without being stressed out and over-worked. This time, I'm not telling my extended family until I've quit. I'm just going to do it. I'm enrolling in a program at my community college that is six weeks long, and the funny thing is that I'll make the same amount of money with a CNA certification as I did teaching. Nursing school, here I come...

    1. I've been teaching for 20+ years. I feel your pain with the evaluation system. This year it seems no matter what, I keep getting 2s along with 3s. With this much experience I should be doing better, but part of me knows I lack the skills needed for today's environment. Twenty years ago my skills would be enough but with all of the changes I feel left behind and overwhelmed by what is expected now. I also have one really bad class (I teach HS special education in several subject areas)that I can't seem to connect with and whom act out constantly. I spend a lot of time feeling inferior also, and I'm always researching lesson plan ideas, observing other teachers, so I'm trying to improve but I only feel discouraged. would love to quit but finances wont' allow me to now.

  2. I taught elementary music for six years. It was horrific, pretty much the entire time. I was always exhausted, irritated, and depressed. I was working the hardest I'd ever worked in my life, but my work was never done, and I got little to no acknowledgement, respect, or appreciation! During my last year of teaching, a couple days before winter break, my principal observed me (insult #1 - any decent administrator wouldn't observe a teacher right before winter break). Well, she gave me an "unsatisfactory" rating because I had dared to sing songs with the kids for fun- and they were enjoying it! The nerve. I thought there must be some mistake. After all, our music curriculum has a standard for "singing songs with a purpose" (holidays, seasons, about the community). I requested a meeting with her, and she told me that it didn't matter what I was going to say, because she "doesn't change her mind." The unsatisfactory stood. Furthermore, she informed me that I was not allowed to sing any song from there on out unless it was directly teaching a music theory concept. She then put me on a ridiculous work plan because my lesson wasn't "rigorous" enough. Uh, what?! I was tenured, and the previous year I had received excellent evaluations! Every other music teacher I knew sang holiday songs and showed videos the day or two before winter break! In one week's time, my principal wanted full page typed lesson plans, with each music lesson including testing and higher level questioning, for the upcoming SIX weeks. Don't get me wrong, I had lesson plans! I had a binder of all of the lessons I do in a year with all grade levels, typed! But I've never been asked to include higher level questioning and testing in EVERY lesson down to KINDERGARTEN. It was absurd. That was the absolute last LAST straw! I refused to do the ridiculous assignment, and put in my resignation. I found a nannying job in April 2015, broke my contract, and lost my teacher certificate. I don't care one bit, though, because I'm never going back. I've been a nanny now for over a year. I make about half of what I did as a teacher, but I don't care. I love feeling like myself again! I love having time and energy to pursue my interests again. I love being happy, and being able to smile, to sleep, to have friends. And guess what? I've only been sick TWICE all year. As a teacher, I was sick constantly. I really think the stress and the depression was seriously impacting my health! My life is worth so much more than money. Quitting teaching was one of the best decisions I've ever made! I've never regretted it or missed it for a second.

    1. June, I am the music teacher too. I have taught for 18 years, 3 of it in the public school system. So I am not the only UNHAPPY music teacher around here! Reading your post is like if I would have read my own: I have always had perfect evaluations, then when I joined the public schools, it had changed. Not right away though. My first public school principal (3 years ago) was a former music teacher himself, and he evaluated my work above expectations in many domains. My year was not easy because he was very demanding, but he was VERY fair and professional to all teachers. Then he left. We got the new principal, and my evaluation pretty much average after this. Then this last year, my 3rd with the new boss, she decided to make my life difficult. Informal observations, walks in etc. But I did not care because I knew what I was doing, and I actually perform better under stress. Until I noticed that here and there she always recommended something, she had objections to my discipline plan, trying to tell me I need to take classroom management workshops, and she ignored the fact that as a "specials" teacher who sees around 800 kids a week, I still had the lowest number of office referrals because I refused to follow PBIS and went with another discipline plan instead. Then my evaluation day came. Because I already knew she is after me for something, I was prepared like never before. Kids were enjoying the class so much that they ran the singing game totally on their own when my class was disrupted by a student who needed a band aid. I did not have a singe disruption, the kids participated like never before. I had so many activities, that I could fill another 15 minutes with them if I wanted. So it went really well. Then my evaluation came back...with below expectations in 3 domains, making me "a teacher in a need of assistance", some growth plan. She wrote some ridiculous stuff like I need to do writing projects in my class. Hello, this is music, not English literature! I went to fight, I took it to the district and she changed some in my evaluation, but not enough for me to be satisfied with this. All this stress took a tremendous toll on my health and I ended up on a leave for the last couple months of the school year.
      Just a thought of coming back in August makes me sick, and I don't think I will be able to go back. I have ideas how to survive and keep my head above the water, so I think I should be fine, even though I loose my retirement pension plan and other benefits. It will be difficult, but I think that administration makes teacher's lives unbearable to the point that it's impossible to perform the job.

  3. Hello! I know you wrote this post last year... but I want you to know that I just left my teaching career after 4 years. I have been toying with this notion for some time and finally have the support of my family to see it to fruition. Today is my first day of freedom! I feel liberated and am looking forward to "having a life" & "spending time with my family!" You have no idea how much joy I have in my heart. I have suffered so much stress and depression from being overworked and not meeting unrealistic demands. I have faced emotional and verbal abuse at work from administration when my work "wasn't good enough". I have cried myself to sleep when I worked long hours into the night after getting home from work and all through the weekend--my husband and children did not get quality time with me at all! But now I'm free and quitting is a great financial strain... but it is worth more to me then any salary teaching can provide. I am so happy I want to shout it from my window! My heart goes out to all the hardworking teachers that are still trapped in this inferno!

  4. I am less than two months in and this is exactly how I feel. I feel like I am losing myself and my husband is starting to say I don't look good under stress. I mean, who does.
    It's hard for me to hide that I hate teaching at this charter school and I don't honk I'll want to try at a public school. I am 2 courses shy from my masters in business, plus I have over 3 years experience in a managerial role.
    I can't let charter school define me. Everyday there is an area I need to improve in, like what the hell I just started . Of course I'll need to improve, but first let me learn and find my place.
    Waiting for an offer and I'm out. Can't take this madness any longer.
    I am naturally a happy person.


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