A few years ago, I packed up my classroom. I was very unsure about quitting teaching and even more unsure about switching to a job in corporate america. I wavered on my decision for months. Despite this career move I am and always will be an educator. I loved the small moments with my students when they would tell me a secret or a dream, because I knew how much I meant to them and how hard I had worked to gain their trust. Those killer lesson plans with my teaching team and literally everything I made with my Cricut machine. I loved the recess squabbles. The lunch break adult conversation. The parents that believed in me, as I believed in their child. The vertical and horizontal planning. The 2nd grade drama. The historical figure wax museum. I loved it all. I loved teaching and I loved wearing the title of “best teacher.”
What I did not love was that being the best teacher meant losing the other parts of myself.
I remember my first day of my first year when I showed up with personalized pencils for each of my students, and a shiny new badge with my shiny new smile. An experienced educator came to greet me in my room before my students got there and said, “You will give this your all, and you will be great. But make sure your life comes first. In the event that you dropped dead on the way into work tomorrow, the district will be calling for a sub before you even hit the ground.”
I remember thinking that I would never be cynical, and that I would find ways to beat the teacher burnout. And I did. I was and am still not, burned out or cynical. I practice self care just like everyone should. Quitting teaching was not the plan. What changed was my prioritization, and my respect for the teacher I once was.
You see, I was an excellent teacher. People say that, but I really was. I changed the course of my students lives’ on a daily basis. For the students that I was told were unable to learn, I grew them anyway. Far beyond where anyone thought they would go. I discovered hidden affinities, and made parents fall in love with their children all over again as they watched in awe. Every night I spent hours making phone calls to parents, and DSS, and social workers, and clinicians. I researched new strategies for my special education students in various journals late into the night, and scoured Pinterest looking for anything and everything to engage my students even more. I stayed late at night if a parent needed to hear more reasons that their child was worthy, and more ways that they could help their child thrive. As an educator, I was great. I was the teacher I would want for my own children.
Book Character Day With My Students
Then I became a wife. And then I became a mom. I was no longer the teacher I was before.
These new titles are wonderful and challenging just like they are for any person. There is nothing about them that makes me stand out from the crowd. But I knew that if I poured myself, my research, my heart, and my thoughts into my marriage and my children, I not continue to be that great teacher I once was. It’s just simple math, or maybe it’s part selfishness. But I knew that I could not be excellent at all of those parts of me. I could not pour my emotions into my students 15 hours a day, and then have any reserve left to nurture my relationship or my children’s characters. If I continued to be the nurse, superhero, safe haven, and nurturer to my students all day, there were very few of those pieces left for my newborn at home once I finally got there. If I continued being the teacher my students deserved, my children would receive less than they deserved, and my marriage would have been further down on the list that it already is.
When my child gets sick at daycare, I want to be able to drop everything to snuggle on the couch without having to dig into my own family’s pockets to pay for a sub. I want to be able to use my lunch break to attend the poetry reading at my child’s school instead of actually supervising lunch. On my husband’s birthday I want to head in early and leave early to surprise him, without letting down my class. I want to be able to afford quality childcare for my kids to allow me to go to work during the day. I quit teaching because I did not know if I could give my child what my heart wanted to give. Quitting teaching allowed the part of me that is a mom to take a great role in my life.
Corporate america can be cold just like people say. But the coldness gives warmth to the parts of my life outside of it.
I am still an employee with full time hours. Every day I commute, and I still take work home at night. I did not quit teaching to stay home. But now I come home with mental energy and vigor. I come home ready for kisses, snuggles, giggles, and adventure. A mind full of date nights with my husband, fort building with my kids, and family taco nights. I remember every first word and first tantrum. The first time I watched my husband with my daughter, I cried. I remember those things because I have the focus, energy, and heart for them. A chance I would not have had if I stayed in the classroom. I am an excellent employee in my corporate job and I am also an excellent (or try to be) wife and mom. Now I have the opportunity to excel in all the parts of my life. By quitting teaching, I gained my life back.
Once I stopped teaching, I discovered what it meant to put myself and my priorities first. I quit teaching and found myself again.
This job gives me the flexibility and emotional reserve that teaching could not give me. I have great benefits. Paid time to be with my family. Long (I use this term lightly for all my non-U.S friends) maternity leave options. A boss that encourages me to take care of my family first. I have bathroom breaks. There is accessible clean drinking water and coffee. I have the respect of my colleagues with how I use my time and my schedule. I no longer have a heart filled with teaching pride. But as an employee, and a human, I have much more outside of that.
This is not to say there are not excellent teachers who are also wives, mothers, friends, and coaches. There are many and I know a ton of them. I am cheering them on every single day. I also know a lot of teachers who have had their lights burned out. Their fires in the classroom diminished. Their marriages ended. I know those teachers too. Quitting teaching was the best decision for me so that I would not become one of these women.
My future students deserved the great teacher I once was. The teacher that made them her world. Quitting teaching was necessary when I could no longer be that teacher.
I respected that teacher, and I knew that I could no longer be her while embracing the new priorities of my life. Without being that teacher, teaching was no longer for me. If I was no longer the teacher I would choose for my own kids, than I did not want to be teaching anyone’s children and giving them anything less than they deserved. I am grateful for all my students taught me, and the impact I was able to have even in my short teaching career. I am still an educator. But I quit the classroom for corporate america. And my life is better for it. I am a working mom that was seeking greater balance, flexibility, and clarity. I am a working mom that aspires to have children and a career and thrive in both.
Today, thank your child’s teacher, your high school teacher, or your neighbor who is a teacher. You might just make their day, or give them back a little piece of themselves.
All the best,
Being an educator can definitely be an overwhelming position at times. I used to work with students as an SLP, but got burned out. I too left that career to find a place where I can be at peace with myself and my family. I applaud you for making your choice and doing what’s best for you and your family. Thanks for sharing.
I am sorry to hear you had a similar experience with burnout but I am glad you are now at peace with your family! Your children and yourself will be grateful for all you hard work for years to come! <3
I had to laugh at ‘accessible drinking water and coffee’ and ‘bathroom breaks’. I’ve been there and this is why I decided not to be teacher and a mom as well. I really miss it! It was a hard decision to leave.
It sounds so funny but it is so true! Crazy how much those little things matter. It was a hard decision for me as well, but so far so worth it! Glad you found that to be true for you as well!
Patricia Fidrych says
I did the reverse. I used to have a cubical and transitioned into teaching. I LOVE teaching but hate all that comes with being a teacher. For now I’m still in the classroom because I just can’t seem to pull myself away from the kids, but I’m not ruling it out either. I have many of the same reasons you do. We were talking as a group of teachers the other day about how it is nice to leave work at 5pm and not think about work again until 8am. To not have the worry about the kids, the lessons, the testing, the plans, the parents, etc. And although my hubby has an important job and makes many decisions all day it is INSANE what our brains do all day long.
Out of curiosity, what job did you transition into.
I am so glad you love teaching! It was hard for me to leave but you are so right about how hard our brains work on a daily basis! I switched to a leadership development/training position- still lots of “teaching” but with adults! It has given me back the lifestyle I was looking for. I hope you continue to love teaching and have a fantastic rest of the school year!
Kasey B. Price says
I needed this especially your reasoning; I am no longer the teacher I once was. Currently trying to figure out who am I in the corporate arena? I feel like I can only look for jobs that mimic the non – profit sector.
Sending virtual hugs! Figuring out your new identity after teaching can be very overwhelming, so give yourself some grace! Do not feel like you need to figure it out on the first try, and also don’t discredit the value of your teaching experience. Even if you end up trying something totally different, we all start somewhere!