Leaving teaching was the best thing that has happened to me, and here are 10 important things I learned after I left teaching.
10 Things I Learned After I Left Teaching
Life is short. Your job shouldn’t make you miserable.
This is the most important lesson I learned after I left teaching. Obviously, teaching was not the right position for me. My personal relationships with my boyfriend, friends, and family were suffering. I spent my weekends working for little pay and zero recognition from a toxic administration. At that point, I didn’t have the energy to do anything on most weeknights. And I could barely make my rent in Los Angeles (even with my Master’s).
During my worst (and final) year as a teacher, I found myself at the doctor’s office frequently for stress related illnesses. I was crying in the car on the way to work. At that point, I knew that I couldn?t stay in the classroom for 5 more years, and especially not 20. On top of all of this, I was also facing teacher guilt. Life is short, and if your work is impacting every component of your life in a negative way, it’s time to re-evaluate. Your life, mental health, and physical health are more valuable than sticking it out through any career.
You’re not getting paid as much as you think.
When you’re on salary and expected to work long hours, it doesn’t add up. After I did the math, it didn’t make any sense.
Think of how many weeks you work (you can take out summers and holidays). How many hours on average do you work on those weeks? Do you come in early, stay late for bus duty, grade papers and decorate the classroom on the weekends? Are you asked to late for Back to School nights, carnivals, parent-teacher conferences? How much do actually you work during your summers / holidays off?
Let’s say you work 39 weeks out of the year, with an average of 60 hours per week. That’s 2,340 hours you work annually. If your salary is $55,000, you’re getting paid $23 per hour. If you left for another position, would you make more hourly? And if the salary is the same, but you work 8 hour shifts x 5 days a week, that equals 2,080 hours. In that case, the new salary is $26 an hour.
Here’s what really struck me after I left: I could do so much with the 260 hours I regained. I could build additional income or start a passion project I’d been putting off. That leads me to the next point:
It’s easier to supplement your income with other opportunities when you have work-life balance.
After I left the classroom for a job as an educational consultant, I got a little stir crazy. I was used to working long hours. This particular job gave me SO MUCH free time, that within a few months I already felt comfortable branching out and starting a few passion projects. I began my own TPT store, Kitten Approved Curriculum.
Now I currently make a few thousand dollars per month of passive income off my store, even though I am not currently working on it or updating the resources. I also started working on The Teacher Career Coach resources and course to support teachers looking to transition out of the classroom. I never would have had the time or energy to work on these projects if I was still in the classroom. And I’m not overwhelmed anymore. I have the ability to walk away whenever I want. This is another reason why I left teaching and is part of what I learned.
I can still support education even if I’m not involved.
After a few months, I started volunteering at a creative writing workshop for students based out of Los Angeles. In my position as an educational consultant, I made connections with many of the local school districts in my area. I wanted to ensure their teachers and staff had access to amazing resources. Through my work, I searched for grants and technology giveaways to help match districts with great opportunities for them. I learned quickly that just because you are no longer in the classroom, it doesn’t mean you can’t still make a positive impact on education.
Other teachers will start asking you for support getting out.
Within weeks of me announcing my new position, I had a few text messages from teachers that I used to work with asking for advice. When I spoke at schools or conferences, teachers would come up afterwards and ask me for career advice. To my surprise, I even had a principal reach out to see if my company was hiring! This was why I started building The Teacher Career Coach resources. I realized that there were so many others that were in my exact same position that need addition support and resources.
I can still work “teacher hours” depending on the positions I take.
I was worried that after I left teaching I would miss having the summers and holidays off. Honestly, I thought I’d be in a 9-5 position and wasn?t sure how I?d take the new change. To my surprise, the educational companies I’ve worked for mimic a teacher’s schedule. If schools are not in session, there really isn’t a lot of work to be done on your end, so you have vacation as well. In addition to that, I get unlimited flexible paid time off. This means that if I submit dates and my manager agrees, I receive paid time off for vacations or personal reasons. Not all companies are like this, so you?ll have to look into if these benefits are listed in the job description or on the careers page of their website.
There is more upward mobility
As a teacher, I was able to see the pay scale laid out in front of me with it’s modest annual increases. I looked forward to what I would make after 15 years, but until then, I felt like I would be struggling (not to mention the idea of staying in the classroom much longer terrified me). After leaving the classroom, I was exposed to a completely new world of upward mobility.
As an Educational Consultant, I was able to identify the positions above me that I was interested in and make a clear game plan to leverage myself into higher paying positions. I received a job offer within a few years as an Instructional Designer, pushing me even closer to my ultimate goal. Every year I’ve received a raise. I’ve watched another former teacher quadruple her salary within 3 years of being outside of teaching, something that would have been impossible for her before.
Networking is key
One of the biggest lessons I learned was about the importance of networking for careers outside of the classroom. I found it easy to land my teaching positions in the districts I applied for but I felt totally lost when I was looking for new employment outside the classroom. Now I realize that’s because I hadn’t found any connections outside of the classroom. After working as an Educational Consultant, I began meeting people at districts throughout the area. I also worked closely with other Professional Development trainers and many other educational companies.
Surprisingly, I was being offered other jobs on a consistent basis. My LinkedIn had grown with authentic connections that I knew I could reach out to. After two years, I was approached about taking a job as an Instructional Designer with another company due to a connection I had made. Not only was I underqualified for this position, it was almost handed to me because people could vouch for my ability to put in the work and the value I bring to companies. If by any reason I needed to look for work in the future, I know it would be 500X easier than it was before I began networking.
Salaries can be negotiated
I had no idea how any of this worked when I started to transition from teaching. When I looked at job postings, I didn’t have ANY idea what to expect for a starting wage. One thing I learned after leaving is that many salaries can be negotiated upon hiring. This isn’t something that’s common in teaching, and it’s still under utilized (especially amongst female job candidates). After learning the steps, I negotiated my own starting salary to 16% higher than the company’s original offer. This is another big thing I learned after I left teaching.
I did not fail, I grew.
I remember I felt like an absolute failure my last year of teaching. I had always wanted to be a teacher, and then I didn’t feel cut out for the position. After I finally left teaching, I have been happier than ever. I knew I made the right decision. Looking back, I never would be in the position I am in today without my experience in the classroom. The companies I work for all value my educational experience.
Also, I realized that not everything works for me the first time. I’ve learned to accept my “failures” as challenges to keep me moving in the right direction.
What I Learned After I Left Teaching Conclusion
When I left, I didn’t fail. I grew into a better position. Leaving teaching is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I leveraged my experience as experience that’s valuable to the next company. And if I never taught, I wouldn’t be able to create resources for other teachers transitioning out the classroom. If I didn’t have the same struggle, it wouldn’t have pushed me to support those who are also feeling the same way.
Honestly, I don’t understand why I thought switching careers was a failure. In other positions, people change careers frequently (between 12 to 15 times in their lifetime on average). I left my position as an Educational Consultant for a position as an Instructional Designer, and that’s not a failure. So why did leaving teaching feel so different?
Any career change should be done so, after carefully researching all your options. But, if you’ve realized teaching is no longer a good fit for you, there are plenty of opportunities and resources to find the right job to match your skills. This is why I created a course to help walk teachers through transitioning out of the classroom called The Teacher Career Coach Course. This complete course will walk you through identifying the positions you are the most qualified for, write your transition resume, network with the right people to get your foot in the door, answer tricky interview questions, and more!