This post was written in July 2019. Update for what happened just a few months later at the end of the post.
Yes, you read that right. Last month, I quit my full-time teaching job. It’s something I had been wanting to do for a while and knew that if I didn’t just do it, maybe I never would. I figured it was time for a real update and wanted to be honest about why I decided to leave.
This is my personal experience and I will say this several times throughout the post, but I love teaching and I love working with students. I think education is a way to change and shape your future. Always have, always will. I continue to work in education even though I have left.
If you’re interested, I’ve launched a course to help teachers who want to transition out of the classroom. Find the information on the career change course here.
I was unhappy teaching.
Today my intention is to be a happy, healthy, stress-free version of myself so that I may pursue my purpose with respect and humility. – Lyn Patterson
Let me be clear here, I love working with kids. I love the look on their faces when they learn something new, and truly believe that education is one of the key factors to help people build a successful future. I also know what it takes to be a successful teacher and was able to push myself – hard to make sure students learned. But, the longer I did it, the more tired I became of going into that building every day.
I would literally have a panic attack before returning after a long break and would walk into the building wondering what would happen to me that day. I got to a point where I needed to see a therapist to deal with what I was experiencing daily. It went beyond being unhappy and into giving me actual anxiety. My therapist recommended leaving. No matter how much I loved my students, no matter how much I cared, I wasn’t going to do my best feeling that way. Talking with her is what convinced me it was time to do something else.
Social media has a way of making you look really happy all the time, but if you were following me, you probably noticed that I was not always happy and all the motivational quotes I was posting all the time. I was happiest when traveling and helping people. These two things have always been true for me. Teaching just became a way that I felt I was no longer helping people and ultimately, hurting myself.
Teacher burnout is real.
I think people really misunderstand what teaching can be like. The amount of emotional, physical, and mental energy it takes to be a good teacher is astounding.
Some first-hand statistics with links because I don’t just want to throw numbers at you:
I worked a base of 50 hours a week (according to my contract), with monthly meetings where we had to stay until 7, and was told “We don’t take days off. We come in when we are sick and then we ask for time off.” The average teacher works 50 hours a week. The amount of guilt associated with taking a day off made me literally cry when I had to do it because I knew my co-workers would have to take my students if I didn’t come in. It was an unhealthy policy and promoted burnout.
I had 3 other jobs on top of my 50 hours of work. – I wanted to travel, I wanted to own a home, I wanted a dog. With my long hours, I needed a daily dog walker and couldn’t take vacations any time so the expensive tickets were the only option sometimes. That’s the reality when teaching. 30% of teachers have a job outside of the classroom. Read more here.
44% of teachers quit within the first 5 years, in urban schools, that number is even higher. Teachers leave the profession at a higher rate than many other professionals, including police officers. Research found here.
When students experience trauma, teachers do too. Nearly half of of US kids are exposed to traumatic social and family experiences. This means teachers are also being exposed to traumatic events without adequate training and often, are asked to teach right after experiencing a situation. Study done by Johns Hopkins here. Research on Teacher Trauma here.
7 teachers quit at my school throughout the school year due to being unable to cope with the various issues at my school. I worked there for 5 years.
It was time. All of these things contributed to my burnout. All of them are important. DO NOT ignore the signs if you see yourself beginning to deal with burnout. No one benefits when you continue to do something out of guilt or shame or obligation. There are other ways to help people and you don’t have to feel stuck in something. The beauty of teaching is you have a full summer to find something new and different.
So for all my teachers out there, know this…
Burnout is a problem with the company, not the person. You deserve to be happy and there are places where teachers can be happy. You can fulfill your purpose without burnout. I needed to leave because I was being literally triggered (into anxious episodes) but, you can be happy and still teach! Just look for the right fit. If you love teaching but need a change…
You can’t be afraid to go for it.
You may not know what lies ahead, but you also do not know just how brave you are. – Morgan Harper Nichols
This is another piece I was thinking about for so long. It’s hard to leave something you’ve been doing for a long time. It’s a risk. How was leaving going to help my career? What was I going to do next?
Well, I decided back in January that I would start looking. I was going to find a job that was not in the classroom but supporting education still. My belief that education is a way to change someone’s life had not changed and my desire to be a part of that was still there.
I found that teaching was one of the hardest professions to leave. Someone sees teacher on your resume and they make assumptions. I started applying, talking to people in my network, and asking questions. I ended up finding a pretty great job but it took months. It took months and I definitely went through stress, but at the end, it was worth it.
Things aren’t perfect. They might never be.
I’m still working like 5 jobs so that I can make as much as I supplemented my income. BUT I am not stressed about it. It’s fun and interesting and challenging. I’m supporting schools, educators, teachers, and districts to make sure they have the tools they need to support students. The hours I work are mine and actually, I work fewer hours in a way less stressful environment.
I’m still teaching online with VIPKID and QKids giving my the chance to continue to see students daily and continue to flex that teaching muscle. I love seeing my students every day. I know the numbers and what I need to do to make ends meet and I am setting goals I can achieve.
You are the CEO of your life. Hire, fire, and promote accordingly.
I took a job as an Educational Consultant for a curriculum company that I have admired for years. I had almost given up and had started to apply to teaching jobs… when I got a call back for the job I ended up taking. It’s part-time, work from home, make my own schedule, and I’m helping teachers along the way. The craziest part? I’ll be making basically as much as I did teaching. That tells you, something folks…
I’m teaching online, traveling more (I’ll be going on 5 trips this summer, adding up to 18 days total), and focusing more on my blog (I’ll be bringing you lots of awesome content I hope!). Today my former coworkers went back to work and I’m on my couch writing this post! I will miss the classroom but am so glad I am able to support teachers and parents in a different way and can officially say, I’m not going back to the classroom this fall. I can’t wait to see what is to come.
Update Fall 2019
I worked my butt off and continued to help support teachers and schools in my educational consultant role. Hard work pays off – I was offered two different full-time positions outside the classroom. One in sales, one in a support role. I chose to take the support role at a company I absolutely admire. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I still think back to how hard it was to leave the classroom. I still think of my students and love staying updated on how they are doing. Teachers are superheroes and deserve more.
The guilt is real, the pressure was real, and ultimately, I didn’t give in and found a way I am still able to help kids – every. single. day. You don’t have to give into the pressure you are being given. Make an exit plan and do what is best FOR YOU. It’s ultimately what is best for your students too.
Interested in a similar path?
I’ve got resources I’ve created to help you if you’re interested in a similar or different path. Below are a few to help:
My TikTok – I post regularly about positions, tips for applying, application processes, etc.
Legitimate work from home jobs for teachers – brainstorm some potential pathways
Step by Step guide to finding remote work – resources specific to remote work and finding those positions
Career change course – my course along with a one on one consultation to help you through the process
One on one consultations – meet with me for 30 minutes and let’s talk it through together