In this episode of The Teacher Career Coach Podcast, I’m addressing one of the biggest (and most common) questions I’m receiving from teachers right now, “Should I leave teaching after this year?”
Now, this is always a common question, but with the ongoing pandemic leading to new levels of burnout and frustration, so many teachers are struggling. I know this year has been especially tough for so many reasons. That’s why, in this episode, I get candid about the several factors that go into making such a big decision and my best advice for taking action toward your desired outcome despite the pandemic.
Listen to the Should I Leave Teaching episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
Should I Leave Teaching? Podcast Recap and BIG Ideas:
✨ There is no one-size-fits-all answer to if you should (or shouldn’t) leave the classroom or what your journey to a new career will look like.
✨ Looking at the bigger picture of how long you’ve been feeling this way can help you make the best decision for you.
✨ Why you should consider changing grade levels, schools, or districts before landing on leaving.
✨ There are certain things that point to taking temporary actions, but it’s important to know when you shouldn’t simply “ride out the storm” and stay in the classroom.
✨The importance of planning ahead and applying two months before the end of the school year for anyone looking to switch careers.
✨Yes, there is going to be more competition in certain careers due to the influx of teachers leaving the classroom, but there are ways to rise above the competition.
✨ Regardless if you decide to stay or leave your current position, there is so much power in seeking support and finding a community that inspires you.
DON’T MISS THESE RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOULD I LEAVE TEACHING EPISODE
✨Read my blog all about approaching a job search during the pandemic
✨ Be sure to check out Angela Watson’s incredible resources for teachers struggling with the pandemic.
Should I Leave Teaching? Podcast Transcript
Daphne: I wanted to begin this episode with a message I receive daily from teachers in my inbox;
Hey Daphne, I’m so glad that I found you. I’m really struggling right now. Do you think I should leave teaching after this year? I’m so excited about the idea of a new job, but is this really the right time for me to switch careers, during a pandemic, with the economy the way it is? I’m just so scared to make the wrong choice. And if I don’t end up leaving…what then? I’m so burned out; I have no idea how I can handle another year if it goes the way that it does. Please help.
Honestly, I get hundreds of these messages weekly. I knew I needed to create a resource to refer people to… but truthfully, I really struggled with writing this episode. I could talk about your other career options all day. I could easily explain career paths that hire teachers, best practices for interviewing when you’re leaving teaching, and how to rewrite your resume.
But what I can’t do is make the choice to leave teaching for you.
I can help you overcome your teacher guilt, figure out what you need to know about your timeline, and understand all the risks involved. I can talk to you about impostor syndrome and mindset challenges you are going to face throughout the journey.
So many are rightfully so overwhelmed that they want a short and concise answer, or they need someone else to validate their gut instincts. Unfortunately, I can’t give you that. Everything I am telling you is going to be the best generalized advice I could give a wide audience.
Yes, many of you listening should probably leave teaching at the end of this year. I’m assuming you found me and my resources because I’m speaking your language and you resonate with the Teacher Career Coach community. You’ve likely had one foot already out the door or are interested in exploring other career options, right? And there should be no guilt or stigma associated with you wanting a career change.
Now, I don’t know YOU or your story or circumstances. Honestly, I don’t even know what the future holds for you or anyone.
But, I do know that I want the best for you, but you’ll be the only one who can (or should) make this decision. The level of burnout you are facing and all of the circumstances around whatever is motivating you to leave– these are the factors you can use to determine if the decision to leave teaching is worth the risk right now. The thing is, I don’t want anyone who LOVES teaching to leave if they haven’t explored and considered making other changes before changing careers.
While I might not have ALL of the answers, in this episode I am going to walk you through what I do know, what I can help you understand, and some next steps that can help as you make your decision. Again, this isn’t cookie-cutter. You’ll have to fill in the blanks with factors in your own situation and make the final say based on what’s best for YOU.
My hope is that this episode is enough to bring you some comfort and clarity in knowing you are making the best choice for you in this uneasy time, so you can confidently move forward with whatever plan you decide.
First, consider how long you’ve felt this way about leaving teaching.
Start by reflecting on the years in the past. Were you already leaning toward leaving in some capacity or was this year so bad that it broke you?
If year after year you find yourself searching the keywords “other jobs for teachers,” especially around Spring, you’ve probably already had one foot out the door. If you’ve already been daydreaming of a life outside of the classroom walls or even following accounts like mine for years, that’s a pretty good indicator that this year was truly the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’d be willing to bet all the stress that came with teaching hybrid, virtually, or in person during a pandemic just brought you to a tension point that’s making it impossible to deny these thoughts any longer.
Maybe you’ve already been mentally checked out or exploring options for years, but perhaps this was the year you started to realize you DIDN’T have to feel guilty acknowledging your desire for change.
Maybe, because other teachers are being more vocal about the struggle this year, you finally didn’t have to be ashamed that you want something different. If that sounds right, I believe it’s a clear indicator that you need to (and should) explore those emotions.
But, what if these thoughts and feelings started THIS year?
If you’ve loved teaching forever but this year was just too much and you’re ready to be done, I get it. But, I want to unravel those feelings a little more to uncover what the main issue is, so you can take action from there.
Is it your administration? Was it the way they handled (or botched) their response to the pandemic? Maybe it was all of the mandatory meetings filled with toxic positivity that left you never wanting to look at your administrative team again. If that’s the case, I would start by exploring neighboring districts. Look at other schools, and see if you align more with the administration or environment there. Ask yourself, “Is there a private school, a charter school, or a neighboring district that handled this differently and that I could see myself being a part of?”
Is it the specific grade level or working environment that you’re in? Maybe teaching first graders virtually has been VERY hard for you. What if you tried to move to fifth grade? Ask yourself if making a grade level change would help alleviate some of the stressors you are currently experiencing.
This year has particularly been tough on everyone. Honestly, pandemic or not, my first piece of advice is always to try to change grade levels, schools, or districts before landing on leaving. If this year is the first time you’ve really felt this way, I stand by my suggestion because, truthfully, everything about this year is enough to break someone.
For example, I balled the other day because I was so stressed that I couldn’t find the farmers market. Google maps was taking me to the wrong parking lot and I was driving around crying for 30 minutes. Now, I didn’t break down because the only thing on my plate was needing to go buy vegan cheese from the farmers market. I mean I have 1,000 other things going on in my life.
This time in our life has taken a huge toll on all of us and it makes us act out in different ways. I mean, in September I tried to convince Jonathan we didn’t need our jobs anymore and we could open a crystal store on the side of the road in Utah. If he would have said yes…well, I might have honestly done it. This is a heightened time of emotion and people are really stressed. It’s so easy to walk away from everything because you are craving a change from the craziness we’ve been experiencing.
The bottom line? I really don’t want you to abandon a career that you love because the stress of this year pushed you to do it. I also know that, especially after this year, it’s not that easy to stay.
How to know “riding out the storm” is NOT an option for you.
Teaching is a hard job and the pandemic only exacerbates that. Riding it out until teaching is better may not be an option for you, even if in your heart you love it.
For example, if your desire to leave stems from health concerns about in-person teaching or if you are struggling with mental health issues from the new stressors, I urge you to consider if taking a medical leave might be the right option for you.
Or maybe you can take a break and choose not to return next year. You can find a remote position for a year and then come back to the classroom in another year if it still feels right. However, If this is an urgent situation, I suggest you go back and listen to episode 15 where I interview Brian Rippet and we discuss rights for teachers looking to break their contract mid-year. You may also want to read this blog about quitting teaching mid-year or writing a teacher resignation letter to your principal.
What to expect if you decide to leave teaching and how to avoid a BIG mistake.
If you’ve decided you can’t stay, honestly don’t.
Start to plan NOW to have all of your ducks in a row because, truthfully, anytime you switch careers there is risk involved. I don’t want to sugarcoat that, but I do want you to have a realistic expectation for what this journey could look like for you.
Is it going to be hard? Universally, yes. The mindset challenges of a career change alone are rough, but there are going to be other roadblocks that you could face.
There’s no magic number for how long it will take to find your next job. The amount of time you are unemployed and searching for that next move is going to differ with your experience level in and out of the classroom, comfort with networking, location, jobs that are available and that you’re applying to, and skills that you have.
Again, I can’t say definitively how long this process will take. My best advice is to save up an emergency savings fund and to start aggressively applying two months before your last day of school to reduce the burden of unemployment.
The biggest mistake that I see teachers make again and again is waiting until summer break to even start applying. Yes, applying early does lend yourself to the risk that you are offered a job and are not available to start when they need you to. Most jobs are willing to wait 2 weeks, and some up to a month, for you to onboard. The average job takes 6-8 weeks to go through the hiring process alone. If having to turn down a job is the worst case scenario, I’d say it’s worth it.
Starting your job search during the pandemic.
If you are newer to this podcast, I highly suggest you go back to episode two to hear my advice for the smoothest career transitions using your experience in the classroom. Since many teachers are looking into certain roles, like instructional design, the new concern I see coming up is if these industries are going to become overly competitive now.
I’ll be honest, I cannot tell you what this summer will look like for all industries. If there is anything the past year has taught us, anyone who thinks they can predict the future is a fool. But, I did recently write a blog entirely about job searching during the pandemic based on the most current trends and industries to work with (and which ones to avoid).
Regardless, there will ALWAYS be a need for training and learning and development. There will ALWAYS be a need for learning resources online, etc. Now, competitive does mean you’ll have to up your game. So, you’ll want to be learning and taking online classes to build your skills. You’ll want to be sure to really translate your resume to stand out against the others. The best way to do this is by preparing for the specific jobs you are applying for.
Should I leave teaching FAQ: How do I beat out the competition?
Aside from showing up prepared and confident that whatever job you’re applying and interviewing for is right for you, the best way to beat out a lot of competition is through networking. Get a foot in the door by someone you know at the company. Look on LinkedIn to see if you have a friend of a friend who works at a company you apply for is a great strategy. So, I encourage you to start strategically networking ASAP.
Networking can be hard and it can be a lot to ask someone to vouch for you. So I recommend starting your networking ASAP to avoid connecting with hundreds of total strangers and asking big favors of them. Start with warm contacts, or friends or a friend. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to get a reference from someone who is confident that you are a good person who can do that job (and not risk their reputation for a complete stranger).
You may also want to think outside of the box for roles you may have never considered in industries that will be less flooded with a mass exit of teachers. For example, I receive so many DMs about software engineering after my podcast episode all about the career. So many people never imagined that was a possibility for them until they heard Jessica’s story. You may opt to take roles like a bookkeeper, real estate agent, office manager, or executive assistant roles – even if they are simply a “starting point” for a future career trajectory you have in mind.
If you’re still on the fence about if you should leave teaching.
If you’re on the fence about leaving teaching I urge you to test the waters. Anytime you are on the fence, become still, and silent, making room for you to think about both options. What emotions overcome you when you think of each option? Does one make you feel dread while the other makes you feel excited? Explore that! Let the universe decide for you.
Put together a KILLER resume and start aggressively applying to jobs. You know what? If, by the end, you’re indifferent or it feels like too much work and you’re happy to return next year, awesome! If you get a new role, congratulations!
Now, if you start to feel heartbroken that it’s not happening for you, remember that’s not an indicator that it CAN’T happen for you. That feeling of being heartbroken? That’s an emotion you may need to explore the following year.
Everyone’s timeline and everyone’s journey is going to look different depending on the circumstances in the classroom and in their personal life. Maybe you are a single parent or the primary income provider for your family and you can’t afford to be unemployed. Maybe you are someone who can get by with your significant other’s income until the right job offer comes along. It’s so individualized so I want to remind you not to compare apples to oranges. Your situation is uniquely yours, but know that it is a possibility for you regardless.
If you decide to stay in teaching, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I do encourage you to seek the support you need. Don’t just accept the status quo of “it is what is”. If you’ve felt disappointed by lack of leadership, start seeking outside sources to help guide and motivate you. One of my absolute favorite educational podcasts is Angela Watson’s Truth For Teachers. She’s created multiple episodes offering emotional support and gives actionable advice about how to reduce your teaching workload that I highly recommend.
The power of community and support for those leaving teaching.
If you’ve been feeling completely burned out, but you love this career and you want to stay, know that you are not in this alone. Find the community that sparks your inspiration and speaks your language.
A big change in any capacity, whether it’s a career change or moving districts or seeking help, is never easy. Often people give up when they realize how much work goes into change, and because they don’t believe that the desired result is truly possible for them. I really don’t want that for you.
If you’ve decided what direction you need to take to make yourself happy, start working on those goals now. Difficult does not mean impossible. If you are struggling, like really struggling, the first step may just be booking an appointment to talk to a therapist.
Remember, whatever you decide, I’m here rooting for you.
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