Life is too short to stay in a career that you don’t feel is the right fit. If teaching isn’t what you thought it would be or you simply need a change, it’s okay to move on. It’s okay to validate those feelings instead of feeling wrong for them.
If you find yourself thinking “I hate teaching” on a regular basis, it’s time to start considering making a change. Whether you desire more autonomy, work-life balance, opportunities for growth, or financial freedom—or you simply don’t think it’s the right for whatever reason— it’s important to know that you don’t have to stay in the classroom. Unfortunately, too many teachers end up staying in a profession that they no longer are passionate about for various reasons (but I’ll dig into those in just a moment).
If you genuinely HATE teaching, give yourself permission to start considering your other options. Even if you thought teaching would be your forever career, it’s okay to look into different career paths. Personally, I left teaching for roles in instructional design and educational consulting, and I’ve never been happier.
People always want to know what I hated about teaching. What were the reasons that led me to leave the classroom?
Let’s get this out of the way first because I have no shame in my decision despite the unfortunate (and unnecessary) stigma around leaving this career.
For me, it wasn’t about unruly students. I actually adored many of my students. The truth is, I hated the job itself. I hated how it changed me and how it impeded other aspects of my life. By my last year, I felt like a different person. An unhappy and physically, emotionally, and mentally unhealthy person.
It was the pressures of unrealistic job expectations, the burden of an ever-growing list of duties outside of working hours, and the limiting lack of career growth opportunities. I felt stagnant, miserable, and burned out. While it took me a minute— and several doctor visits for stress-related illnesses— I finally realized I simply needed a change.After years of working happily outside of the classroom, I’ve vowed to support other teachers as they navigate their journey of finding a new career. The Teacher Career Coach community, resources, and course are all here to help people like you and me who, for whatever reason, are looking for an exit strategy. So, if you’ve found yourself stuck in a career that no longer serves you, I hope this blog will be a good starting point to help you as you embark on this next chapter.
You can hear all about my story of transitioning out of the classroom on the Teacher Career Coach Podcast.
I hate teaching, why do I stay?
It’s important that you understand WHY you are staying in a position that you think you hate. The average person changes careers 12 times in their lifetime. Why do so many educators say, “I hate teaching,” but then never take action to make a change?
After surveying thousands of teachers and former teachers, I’ve compiled the data to understand the trends behind this unique situation. I’ve found teachers often stay in the classroom (even when they are miserable) for three main reasons:
Teaching was supposed to be your forever career.
First, teaching was supposed to be their forever career. This can lead to two major roadblocks. The first being having never made a Plan B. The second being they aren’t sure what else they could do. If you’re a planner like me, it feels really good when you have it all “figured out”— including your career. A lot of teachers get caught up in this sense of stability and a lifelong plan.
Many aspiring teachers enter the career feeling like they’re finally doing what they’re meant to do with their life. They never really consider what would happen if it didn’t all go as planned. So, when the expectations of administration or parents start to weigh heavily, the never-ending to-do list becomes unbearable, the lack of work-life balance starts to take its toll, these teachers push themselves past their breaking point. Why? Because they’ve accepted the (unfortunate) status quo of the profession. (It’s more common than you may think).
Suddenly, when they find themselves thinking, “I hate teaching!” and hoping for a change, they not only feel burned out, but they feel stuck. Because teaching is such a niche profession, I’ve found that many teachers don’t realize the value their experience can bring to positions outside of the classroom. The truth is, there are numerous career pivots that teachers can make with their plethora of transferable skills. I’m telling you, some positions out there were practically designed for former teachers.
You feel guilty about wanting a change even if you hate teaching.
Second, teachers feel guilty about their decision to leave the classroom. Teacher guilt is very, very real and can be very, very powerful. Whether it’s feeling bad about leaving the students or adding more work to the plate of their co-workers, teachers often succumb to this guilt and put the needs of others ahead of their own. The result? They stay in a career that is making them truly unhappy.
It doesn’t help the teaching guilt when coworkers and loved ones (usually unintentionally) add pressure by focusing on teaching being a “calling” instead of a career that they have the choice to walk away from. Heck, even society views the profession that way. I also felt guilty when I left teaching due to added pressures. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “But, Daphne! You’re such a great teacher!” or “Oh, but the kids need people like you in their lives.”
So, trust me. I know how heavily the guilt can weigh at times. I also know it gets easier to deal with overtime. The biggest thing to remind yourself is that you deserve to be happy. You deserve to feel fulfilled in your life in and out of your career. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in either when I finally decided to leave. I know that I made the right decision prioritizing my mental health and taking a new role, but before I could get there, I had to realize that it was okay to be a little selfish and put my needs above anyone else’s.
Want to hear directly from former teachers why they quit? Listen to interviews with former teachers onThe Teacher Career Coach Podcast.
You have teaching but have low career self-esteem.
Lastly, I’ve found that teachers have low career self-esteem. Teachers have a hard time seeing all they are capable of beyond the walls of a classroom after feeling undervalued as a professional, which creates a massive roadblock when understanding the wide range of possibilities and career paths out there. Often they stay in the classroom simply because they believe it’s their only option.
So many teachers struggle with Impostor Syndrome, underestimating the value and skills they bring to the table in any situation. I remember struggling with this when I was in the process of applying for roles outside of teaching. Back then, I would revert to negative self-talk, asking myself who I thought I was that someone would hire me for such-and-such role. And I see it all the time; teachers talk themselves out of even applying or truly starting the process of a career transition for fear that “no one hires teachers.”
With this low self-esteem, many teachers fall into the trap of believing their profession defines them. They have the “I’m just a teacher” mentality. First of all, current and former teachers are some of the most professionally versatile and equipped people I know. Second of all, your career doesn’t define you. I challenge you to write out a list of all of your teacher duties both in and out of the classroom and identify the skills involved in each. Then, take out all of the teacher-specific language. You’ll have valuable experiences and skills to use to boost your career self-esteem whenever you find yourself saying, “Why would anyone want to hire me?”
Changing the narrative if you hate teaching
A lot of times, leaving teaching takes a complete mindset shift. I’ve learned from my experience and the experiences of hundreds of other former teachers that our mindset can be one of the biggest roadblocks when it comes to leaving teaching. In my full program, The Teacher Career Coach Course, I help teachers struggling with all sorts of mindset challenges realize that this is possible for them. Additionally, I help course members identify new career paths, rewrite their resumes, and stay on track throughout the job search and career transition process.
By no means am I trying to downplay any of your fears. Changing careers is a big decision. If you find yourself saying, “I hate teaching,” and even searching things like “other jobs for teaching” online, it’s time to really consider your options.
However, there are many reasons why teachers ultimately choose to stay in the classroom despite what I’ve mentioned above. Some people may need the job security or benefits. In some cases, having summers off with their children is invaluable. It’s important to really weigh to pros and cons of your situation. Every situation and every timeline will be unique, but just know that I’m here to offer support and guidance regardless.
I hate teaching…
When is it time to leave?
There’s no magic answer here. Ultimately, you’ll have to be the one to make this decision. Some people put a timeline on it, knowing they will leave if things don’t get better after X years. Others just wait until the end of that year to start looking into other options. In some cases, they need an out ASAP (even if that means breaking their teaching contract).
Again, it’s far from a one-size-fits-all scenario. However, it’s important to know that your emotions will often try to talk you out of any significant change like this based on the fear of the unknown. It’s important to identify the reasons why you hate the position and why you’re still there. Having the answers to these questions will help you move forward on your journey, despite any roadblocks you may encounter. Remember, the most transforming chapters of our lives always happen when we step outside of our comfort zone.
Create a pros and cons list to try to take the emotions out of your decision-making when you start. For example, what are the pros of you leaving vs. the cons of you leaving? Rate each of them on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the most important, 1 being least) and then add up each side. Let the numbers speak for themselves and push you to take to the next step in whatever direction you want to head.
The bottom line is if you find yourself thinking, “I hate teaching” on a regular basis, it’s time to get help (therapy, burnout support, other) or leave the profession. If you know changing grades, schools, or districts wouldn’t help (or you’ve already tried that), it’s a good sign it’s time to go.Related: Thinking of Leaving Teaching? 9 Signs it’s the Right Choice.
What is the Step?
Take the Quiz
If you’re starting to weigh your options outside of the classroom, I created a quiz that serves as a good starting point. This will give you insight into the strengths you have and how to apply them to careers outside the classroom. It might just be the push you need to move past those initial doubts swimming in your mind and into the world of possibilities.
And for those moments when that pesky doubt resurfaces, know that if it was possible for me to change careers, it’s possible for you too. If you need even more inspiration of what is possible, you can listen to a variety of interviews I’ve done with former teachers who have found success (and happiness) in new careers. It was possible for me, is possible for them, and is possible for you.
Are you in the research phase? I totally understand. Check out the post below to get an idea about professions hiring teachers this year. Plus you’ll get an idea about what skills you already have that are transferrable and in demand!