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Why Teachers Quit

and top signs quitting teaching may be the right move.

Why do teachers quit? I’m sure you’ve heard the statics – 44% of teachers leave within the first five years. On average, 8% of teachers start over with a new career every year, and fresh teachers are 2 1/2 times likelier to leave than tenured. 

And me, I’m one of these estimates. I quit teaching for a profession in educational consulting and instructional design within the first five years of starting. 

So…Why Do Teachers Quit?

One major reason why teachers quit is due to the lack of support. In reality, 40% of future teachers don’t ever even make it to the classroom.

When student teaching and entering the world of education, it’s easy to quickly identify there isn’t enough mentoring to prepare you for all of the challenges you face in the classroom. The reality of classroom management issues, lack of funding, over-populated classroom sizes, and heavy workload are usually shocks to those new in education.

The supply and demand for teachers is growing – as shown in the figure below. And although 50% of teachers have considered quitting, policy changes to support teachers are still lacking and minimal (and often require union intervention or teacher walk-outs).

Teacher Burnout Or Toxic Climate

Teachers have the expectation to help achieve high test scores, maintain classroom management, and keep up with extracurricular activities. The workload can often leave teachers facing long hours far beyond their work duties. Arriving early to set up the lessons and staying late to grade papers can have its toll on your mental well-being (and personal life). My last year of teaching, I worked on the majority of my weekends. I opted out of birthday celebrations due to grading, a trip to Hawaii with my boyfriend’s family due to the upcoming parent-teacher conferences, and rarely felt I had the time (or energy) to see anyone. The result? I suffered from teacher burnout.

A toxic school climate is another factor that impacts many to take a career change from teaching. Administrators that are not supportive of their staff may drive many teachers out of the classroom altogether. Toxic school climates and stress often leads to teacher burnout.

Teacher Burnout

For many, Teacher burnout is an extreme result of chronic stress. It can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. I found myself in the doctor’s office on a regular basis. A few of my stress related illnesses included clinched jaw, new (and frequent) headaches, and stomach issues.

Financial And Better Career Opportunities

Another reason why teachers quit is due to the low salary. However, during my research in creating my resources, this is not often the main reason. Even with the low pay, teachers often opt to pay on average $500 in out of pocket expenses for their own classrooms. Teachers went into the classroom understanding the low salary, but after facing other issues (such as a toxic school climate or teacher burnout), salary comparison makes it easier to finally take the plunge outside of teaching.

In this article: why teachers are leaving, it’s stated that teachers make on average 19% less than similarly skilled professions. After realizing how much work is expected of them, it’s difficult to not to start looking to other careers that pay more. In addition to this, there are other ways to supplement your salary with extra income for teachers.

Lack of Upward Mobility Within School Systems

Within a school district setting, there are few options for a teacher to leverage themselves into new exciting roles. While some teachers leave the classroom for administration, TOSA, or curriculum specialist positions, many find themselves in a career standstill with less motivation to grow their career skill sets. The average person changes jobs around 12 times, while many teachers may have less than three with teaching being their final position.

Other Reasons Why Teachers Quit

There are certainly other factors behind why teachers quit – pregnancy, having to move to another city for their spouse, or other personal reasons And now, one of the newest reasons that many teachers are starting to consider the transition is due to concerns of COVID impacting the 2020/20221 school year.

Is It Time To Make A Career Change From Teaching?

So, how do you know when it’s time to time to say goodbye to teaching?
Obviously making any career change is never an easy decision. It’s important to identify whether it’s you or them. My best advice is to think if changing schools, grades, or just making extra money on the side could change how you feel altogether – explore those options first.


5 Warning Signs It’s Time To Quit Teaching

  1. Teaching leaves you more exhausted than it leaves you energized/excited. It is normal to have a rough day at work, especially as a teacher. But if you find yourself exhausted 179 out of 180 days that you are in the classroom, this is a strong sign that it’s time for you to think of something new.
  2. Your personal life is suffering due to the stress of the position. My last year in the classroom, I felt like I was going to lose my boyfriend. We did not have any time for one another – and I was often grumpy, depressed, and moody from teaching. Another former teacher I interviewed explain that “after having regular anxiety attacks, I wasn’t functioning well enough to be in a relationship with the love of my life.” After she left teaching, she was able to reconnect with him.
  3. You are certain that switching grades, schools, or districts will not help you. This is one of the first questions you need to ask yourself. Is this something a quick fix can support? You may not need a full career change, but maybe just an atmosphere change!
  4. It is severely impacting your physical and mental well being. If teaching has left you going to the doctor on a regular basis, it’s time to start prioritizing your health.
  5. You are struggling financially on your current salary. I could barely make rent in Los Angeles on my teacher’s salary (with a Master’s degree). This was not why I went into teaching – but after a few years of paying my student loans and trying to afford my rent had me scrambling to get by.

It was time to make an extreme pivot and leave altogether. I left teaching for a position as an educational consultant. Now I am working full time as an instructional designer. Honestly, I remember not being able to imagine being a teacher for another year. And especially not another 20 years. If this is where you are right now, you need to start making an exit strategy.

Next Steps For A Career Change From Teaching

Any career change should be done so, after carefully researching all your options. But, if a classroom is no longer your cup of tea, 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!

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