If you’re anything like me, you were playing school with your dolls, neighbours or siblings as soon as you could walk. Teaching is just part of my soul, but there might come a time in your life when you should quit your teaching job and that’s ok.
If you are looking for a post that will tell you it’s ok to quit your teaching job to run away with the circus, this isn’t really that kind of post. This isn’t what you can do instead of teaching.
Instead, this post is about knowing when it’s time to change the teaching job you are currently doing. That could be a change of subject matter, grade level, locations, training or type of school position. Change is a good thing. It can breathe life back into your calling.
Read on to find out when you should quit.
Are You Thinking About Quitting Your Teaching Job?
You will know if teaching is your calling because you can’t imagine doing anything else with your life. Even though teaching has always been mine calling, there have been times during my career where I have considered quitting teaching once and for all. That’s normal-especially during report card time.
Teaching is not for the faint of heart. While we grow up believing that teachers are adored for their selflessness, that isn’t always the case. Somehow the media only has two versions of teachers: the amazing teachers that sacrifice their lives for the betterment of their students (like Mr. Holland’s Opus) or they are a disaster (like Bad Teacher). There isn’t much middle ground for normal people.
People who struggled in school or come from families who don’t value education will constantly complain about schools, taxes and teachers in general. And society will blame you for all the wrongdoings with “why isn’t that taught in schools?” rhetoric without doing the research to know that teachers don’t actually decide what is taught in school.
And if you’ve been teaching for more than five years and have made it beyond all that, then teaching is your calling.
Every year I’ve taught, I have considered quitting at least once. Over my lifetime, I have quit my job four different times and all for different reasons.
You might find our Teacher Gratitude Journal can help you write down your thoughts and think about your decision in a tangible way. A copy of the journal can be found in the Resource Library or we can send you a copy when you sign up to our email list.
You Should Quit Your Teaching Job if You are Feeling Bullied or Belittled
When I was younger and less experienced, I was so grateful to have a job that I ignored the fact that I had a bully. Worse, the bully was supposed to be my teaching partner.
It started with small things, like little criticisms for doing things differently (because frankly, I didn’t know any better). When I would approach this person for advice, I would get a dressing down about how incompetent my education was to not know these kinds of things.
At the time, I thought this was just part of being a new teacher. But it’s not. During my third year (still at that school), this person publicly reprimanded me during a staff meeting for asking a question. I didn’t know my own rights at the time, but I should have reported her. Worse, I had a principal whose head was in the sand and should have spoken up during that meeting.
This teacher would criticize my teaching and then take and use my lesson plans. They would offer to help with a project publicly and then tell me to handle it privately. The final straw was when our grade level was supposed to present at an assembly and they demanded that I organize and teach the entire thing to both classes so they could use the time to prep other things (that were only for their class).
There Really Isn’t An Excuse and Hindsight is 2020
I couldn’t stay any longer and another colleague suggested a change. If I hadn’t applied to another school to take a different job, I likely would have quit teaching altogether.
The change reinvigorated me. A few months into the new job with a new staff, I came to understand how dysfunctional those first few years were. If you are new to teaching and are feeling targeted, it’s ok to quit that position to get one in an emotionally safer environment.
If you are the Smartest Person in the Room You Should Quit Your Teaching Job
At the beginning of your career, it’s easy to have other members of the staff to learn from. These more experienced teachers are a huge source of information, practical knowledge and mentorship. If you haven’t spent some time learning from a seasoned teacher, I highly recommend it.
I was fortunate enough to be on a staff where the majority of teachers have been teaching for more than twenty years. During that time, I soaked it all in. But with time, so came retirements.
Most of the new hires were within their first five years of teaching and while they had lots of energy, I was the one they were coming to for help. Being that I love to help and mentor teachers, I found that the majority of my teaching energy was spent helping the new teachers and before too long, I was the most senior and experienced staff member with less than ten years of teaching experience.
While I enjoyed mentoring, I no longer had someone to help me grow and learn on staff. After a few years of that, I decided I needed a change and quit that job for a different one.
Leaving a teaching job that becomes stale is ok. Teachers love learning and if you aren’t learning anymore, then it’s no longer the right job for you.
You Should Quit if You Aren’t Appreciated
There’s a saying that people don’t quit jobs; they quit people. I have had some horrible bosses (especially back in my retail and restaurant days). People who are appreciated will always work hard.
And there’s something about teachers; so many are overachievers. I was definitely guilty of this. It started in my childhood where I couldn’t just do what was expected. I always had to go over and beyond.
As a restaurant and retail worker, I learned that over and above is barely rewarded. I remember having a performance review where my boss praised my work ethic and skill and then proceeded to give me a raise of a whole five cents an hour. That was the day I quit.
If you’re feeling like you’re failing as a teacher, you might benefit from reading our post: Are You Feeling Like a Failing Teacher?
I Was Unhappy, So I Was Given More Work?
Another job told me how wonderful my work was and as a reward was giving me a promotion, without a raise.
And as a teacher, I was constantly rewarded with more duties, more difficult children and most often-the combined grade level (a skill which I not only honed but learned to master).
The final straw for one teaching job was that despite doing everything that was asked of me and so much more, I was asked for one more thing. A thing that I had already said no to and which had been assigned to someone else because I had a relative pass away and was going to be away from school for an extended period of time. Upon my return, the principal informed me that they had “saved” the event for me (which was now only two weeks away).
I informed the principal that day that I would be seeking another position. When you are not appreciated, or worse-taken advantage of, it might be time to look for another position.
Now, I do have some advice for the overachiever teacher, but that is a whole other post for another time.
On the flip side, if you have a good working relationship with your principal, share your thoughts with him or her. I had one principal who specifically asked us how we would like to be shown appreciation. It’s different for everyone, but she listened.
Every so often a little card with a thank you message would show up in my mailbox. That made all the difference on the tough days. Sometimes you need to communicate your needs. And if after that happens, there is still no change, then quit and move on.
Ways to Quit Your Current Teaching Job for Other Opportunities
Sometimes you need a bit of a change. If it’s possible to change grade levels or subject areas, ask your principal and explain your reasoning.
Many larger school boards or districts have secondments for other types of jobs related to teaching. This can be everything from consulting, to writing curriculum to taking on a temporary role as administrator. This will depend on your qualifications, but you’ll never get any of those jobs unless you explore your options.
Lots of teachers get a Master’s Degree in the hopes of being paid more, but being very intentional about the type or field for the degree could set you up for new roles within your board or district.
There are many different types of teaching jobs within districts or boards. Reading recovery, STEM, language, music, technology, art and so many other specialized fields might be a route to getting you out of the classroom without leaving teaching completely.
While some of these jobs are a career deviation, many are temporary and can lead back into the classroom at some point. A little break from the daily classroom strife might be the change you need.
Taking a new job for the challenge of it is a great reason to quit your teaching job.
If You Have Personal Challenges, You’re Allowed to Quit
There are many things that can happen in your personal life that can make day to day teaching very difficult. Whether it’s a medical condition, child rearing or caregiving a loved one, the decision to leave your teaching job is usually a heart-wrenching and difficult choice.
Depending on the benefits of your teachers’ union or school board, you may have some support to take a temporary or semi-permanent leave. Don’t be afraid to explore your options when trying to make these decisions.
Would reducing your hours help?
A reduction of hours might be the right move. This is actually how the ninjas became teaching partners. One ninja needed to reduce their hours to part-time so they could take care of a sick child. The ninjas were paired up to share a classroom and the rest is history.
Every couple of years, I reduce my hours just slightly. That one afternoon a week to take care of myself has made a huge difference to my overall mental health.
Your ability to reduce your hours will depend on many factors. Investigate how it will impact your wages, pension and benefit packages. Your family’s overall income and expenses will also become a factor. The reduction in hours couldn’t happen until we had paid off our mortgage and put all the money we needed aside for our children’s post-secondary schooling.
How to Quit Your Teaching Job
Find Out the Process
Depending on your school board or district, there might be a process where you can change schools by applying for other positions. Inform your principal of your intentions so it doesn’t come as a surprise is someone calls for a reference. Moving schools is quite common where we live, but if it is unusual, explain your reasons-or lie and tell them you want to expand your horizons (if they are the problem).
Look into your benefits packages or union benefits. Find out your options. How will this impact your pension? How will this change your income? This information should be available to you without informing anyone that you are actually leaving. Explain that you want to know all your options so you can make the best decision for yourself.
Update Your Resume
Include the training you’ve done during your current position. Use the items that make you stand out as a great candidate to make your resume shine. Either make new copies or upload it to places where it will be accessed (like your personnel file).
Get Your Reference Letters
Ask for letters of reference from colleagues you like and trust. It is always good to have a couple of these on hand since most schools will call a principal, but these people work with you every day.
Look Into Other Types of Teaching Jobs
Look into other career opportunities. We are fortunate to live in an area where a thirty minute drive in any direction puts you in another school district. Look outside your own district because you never know what might appeal to you.
Research Schools, Districts, Principals or Staff
Talk to people who might know the new school, staff or principal to gather insight. You can usually gauge whether or not you would want to work at a school just based on the interview. Schools where I got the good vibe were always the best places to work. There were other schools where I left the interview knowing I wouldn’t accept the position should it be offered.
Trust Your Gut
Leaving one job for another one with similar problems isn’t going to get you far (and you have to pack up all your stuff). If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. Look for another option.
Are you ready to quit or will you stick it out? There is no wrong answer because you are the one that will have to deal with the fallout from your decision either way. Have you quit a job? Tell us about it in the comments below.