Being a teacher is a hard job, and often a thankless one.
And sometimes the stress and headaches just get to be too much. Teachers of AskReddit shared the stories about how they finally decided they had to quit.
1. Didn’t last long
“I taught middle school science in a small rural district in southern Illinois. The superintendent made a position for his wife in our cash-strapped system. Due to scheduling, it moved me out of a job that I loved, into teaching second grade. I lasted 8 days.
When the superintendent called me to tell me that I was moving, he told me not to get the union involved or fight it. I did give him a piece of my mind while on the phone, and I heard rumors that the move was coming so I made plans to leave.
If people ask me why I left, I just tell them that education has gone from making people learners to too focused on test scores. Students lack critical thinking skills.
I quit for about 1.5 years and went to work at a car manufacturing company. I left there, just wasn’t my thing. And now I’m teaching middle school science in a different district.”
2. Career change
“Good timing. I’ve been teaching high school for about four years. I’ve found the work incredibly gratifying in some ways, but I’ve never been all that happy. I start a new job after Christmas break. My kids don’t know that I won’t be teaching them next semester. :/
Stuff I like:
I really, truly love helping kids learn. I love seeing them discover or rediscover a love for reading and writing.
I’m proud that my students feel safe and cared about when they’re in my room. Some of my best teaching moments have nothing to do with my subject area, but instead come from being that “trusted adult” that’s there for students who are going through tough times and need someone to care about them. I have a drawer full of notes and letters students have written me – I cry every time I look through them.
I’ve worked on two campuses and student taught at a third, and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve worked with.
Obviously, the time off is sweet. Having summers and breaks is super nice.
I don’t think there was a single “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but here are some things that led to be wanting to switch professions:
Not enough planning time. Like, not even close to enough. You get one class period a day, which is often eaten up with all sorts of meetings (504/SST/ARD/etc). I get to work early every day, stay after really late, and I still end up having to grade/lesson plan on the weekend.
Horrible work/life balance. I give a lot to my kids – but someone is always there asking for more. Volunteer on weekends for this or that, sponsor this club, come to sports events, etc. After about a year of teaching I realized that I had stopped having any real life outside of school.
State testing. I’m lucky to work in a district that doesn’t harp on it like others do, but when the test is getting close, it’s all anyone can talk about. It’s not an accurate way to measure student growth and it has a tendency to suck out any natural curiosity kids have about learning. Want to ruin how a person feels about reading and writing for the rest of their lives? Shove standardized test prep down their throats for two months.
Being a performer every day is exhausting. I’m basically not allowed to have a bad day, because the kids need me every day. Also, dealing with subs is THE WORST. I usually go to work even when I feel awful (as long as I’m not contagious), because coming up with sub plans and dealing with the fallout of the kids who don’t know how to behave with someone else in the room is not worth it.
There’s not a lot of room to grow in your career. I knew I didn’t want to be an administrator, so I very quickly felt like I was stuck. I saw old timer teachers around that just seemed beaten down and depressed after 30+ years of teaching, and I didn’t want to end up like that.
The paperwork. I spend so so so so much time dealing with SPED accommodations/504 forms/etc., it’s just unreal.
What it really boils down to, is that it’s impossible for me to be good at my job in every way I’d like to be. I can either 1) plan good lessons that engage the kids, 2) give useful feedback on student work, 3) be a paperwork superstar, or 4) be a teacher that’s involved with extracurricular activities. But I can’t do all of them at the same time, or even most of them. I know I’m a good teacher. My evaluators at each campus I’ve been on have uniformly loved me. I know I’ve been a good influence on many of my students. But I always, always, always, feel like I’m not doing my job good enough. I’m always behind. I have to pick what I think is most important, and just deal with the fallout of not doing the other stuff that well. It’s draining and depressing.
Oh, and cellphones. I know it’s not just a problem for kids, but we’re in the midst of a serious technology addiction problem. Many students are straight up incapable of carrying on a conversation, even with their friends, without staring at their phones every few seconds. Focusing on anything that requires brainpower is legitimately out of the question for some of them. It makes teaching frustrating when you feel like you’re giving it your all, and you look around and realize that some (it’s always just some, but sometimes it feels like most/all) of them would prefer shitposting memes and snapchatting with their friends.
Again, I love my kids, and there’s a lot that I love about teaching, but I have had plenty of moments where I look around the room and think to myself, “fine, fuck this. If you don’t care about your own learning, why should I? Have fun reading and writing like first graders for the rest of your adult lives.” For example, I have one student who has had a seriously horrible life. It breaks my heart, and I’ve spent a lot of my time this year working with him directly, trying to build him up. He’s a “trouble maker” and mouths off and has gotten in plenty of fights. The in-district alternative school won’t take him because of his violent history. This kid desperately needs help and some kind of life path.
He expressed interest in a specific trade, so the administration jumped through hoops to get him into a program that would, for free, enable him to learn that trade and graduate with some kind of certificate or licence. He got kicked out of the program after less than a month because he ignored class and played on his phone all day, so he never even learned the required safety guidelines that he needed to know to operate the equipment he was supposedly interested in learning about. Teens, especially teen boys, have undoubtedly ALWAYS had problems with executive functioning, but cell phones take that natural weakness and turn it into a gaping, infected, life threatening wound.
I knew going into the job that most teachers quit less than five years in. I thought I could handle it. I wasn’t in it for money or glory or recognition. But even in a good district and school, the deck is so stacked against you. I’m not looking forward to telling my kids that I won’t be their teacher next semester. Some of them will be mad, and some will probably cry. I will likely get embarrassingly emotional when I tell them myself. But teaching feels like being in an abusive relationship, and I’m ready to walk away from it.”
3. Walked out
“Crappy, selfish, ignorant staff. They were always bad, but tolerable. My last group refused to do much of anything and bullied me mercilessly. The last straw was when one refused to move to a different classroom and verbally attacked me over it. As if it were my fault. The move was in the best interest of the child.
I basically walked out and my bosses were completely understanding as they saw what I’d been dealing with for ten years. This was a special education room with children with profound disabilities that required a lot of care. I’d been teaching 18 years. Residential facility.”
“The other teachers were gossipy and cliquey like they had never graduated high school (I started teaching at 30 after having worked in different types of jobs). They talked sh*t about each other all the time. The one teacher they all told me to avoid turned about to be the only teacher I could stand. Like me, she also worked “in the real world.”
The principal wanted me to lower my standards (which were exactly the state standards for that class. Nothing higher) because “they didn’t grow up talking about Shakespeare at the dinner table, like you.” Umm neither of my parents graduated high school so I don’t know why he assumed I was in some over educated household just because I had a few degrees. He was also just a major asshole. (He later was demoted from principal back to a teacher because he was terrible).
The students were okay, but I couldn’t stand the other teachers.”
5. I’m out
“I had a severe ear infection and temporarily lost my hearing for 3 days.
Tried to push through it for the first day but realised that not being able to hear the 30 9-year-olds in my class made teaching them pretty difficult.
I took 2 days off and sent highly detailed plans to the supply who was covering me. This was the only time I took off for the whole year.
I return to work to no less than 10 complaints. Apparently my sick leave was ‘incredibly selfish’ as having a different teacher for 2 days was ‘very confusing’ for the poor darlings, who couldn’t cope.
The Head teacher backed me up and told them to, respectfully, f*ck off but that was very much the last straw.
I’m bending over backwards working weekends and evenings for you and your kid but you can’t afford me a little human decency? I’m out.”
6. Not gonna happen
“Friend of mine quit on the spot when he was asked to change a student’s grade.
The kid missed over 50% of the classes, never handed in homework, did poorly on tests, etc, and ended up failing the class. He truly earned his failing grade. Because his father was an influential member of the school board/generous donor/blah blah blah, they “couldn’t” let the kid have a failing grade on his record.
Summer school was also not an option because the family had already scheduled a vacation during the time that summer classes would be in session. So, the principal told my buddy that he had to change the student’s grade to a passing grade.
My buddy told the principal he would absolutely not sign off on that, and if it was so important to him, to change the grade himself. He then. said “if you do change it, don’t expect to see me back here in September.” Sure enough, the grade got changed, and my buddy packed up his shit and left.”
“My 6th grade substitute science teacher quit in the middle of class. We were wild and unruly. Totally out of control. I watched him rub his forehead in frustration and he stands up, yells “F*CK EVERY ONE OF YOU!”, grabs his briefcase and walks out. It wasn’t singularly my fault but I still feel really bad about it. I’m sorry, Mr. Messina.”
8. Figuratively died
“I was teaching journalism in college.
A student handed in an article, which was supposed to go in a newspaper, that included no research and multiple emoticons.
Emoticons. This was before Buzzfeed.
So I gave the paper an F, and said come talk to me about this. I explained in short form why journalism exists, why it is important, and that his worst grade is dropped so this doesn’t have to hurt him. Hell, I would accept a redo.
The student in question was an athlete in a big state school for throwing balls fast.
I got shit from the dean of students, my department chair, other professorial types. Why wouldn’t I let it go? Was I racist or hate sports or what?
I just wanted him to try a little harder at the thing that was his college major. I used to pick my words so meticulously because communication is so important.
I held to my ethics, he got a tutor after a couple weeks, but it broke me. My mom had died less than a month prior and I had to explain to a college dean why “lol ;)” in the context of a journalistic article about a bar was unacceptable.
My father spent years learning English, and speaks it better than I do. This motherfucker threw balls fast and because of that I was supposed to pass him without question. Let’s go football, but between that and mom dying I could not go on. I figuratively died in that meeting.”
“Had a mental breakdown, brought about by stress: curriculum changes, meaning that low ability pupils were constant told that they were not good enough; less money meaning redundancies. Then the pressure of performance related pay with same said disinterested and low ability children. It was either leave teaching or commit suicide. Very supportive family and well paid partner meant that I could stop.”
10. Future felon
“Two things happened at once. After 4 years of teaching seventh grade:
A girl who complained to me for an entire semester of being harassed/groped brought a pocket knife to school and threatened a boy with it if he grabbed her breast again. SHE was expelled. I reported the incidents to administrators, school resource officers, and guidance counselors. They ignored her, me, and her other two teachers until she became that desperate for him to stop. Assholes.
Also, a “troubled” student (read: future felon, now a current felon) saw me walking from the convenience store with my goddaughter. He followed us and found my house. Started riding by, throwing stuff in my yard, yelling obscenities, etc. School resource officer said to go to the police; they said to go go him.
Final straw: he climbed on my fence and shot my dog with a paintball gun. I threatened to quit on the spot so they moved him from my class. Then over Christmas break, he stabbed and ruined my inflatable decorations.
I finished the year and was done. The girl from the first story homeschooled to finish high school, went to college, and just started her P.A. program. The future felon became an actual felon at 18, and is still in jail. Go figure.”
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