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Why I’m Done With Teaching

Above Photo: ISTOCK.

This broken system must be fixed.

Last June, the National Education Association found 32% of teachers had considered changing jobs. By November, that number rose to 48%.

NOTE: The Wall Street Journal reports: “Burned out teachers are leaving the classroom for jobs in the private sector, where talent-hungry companies are hiring them—and often boosting their pay—to work in sales, software, healthcare and training, among other fields.

The rate of people quitting jobs in private educational services rose more than in any other industry in 2021, according to federal data. Many of those are teachers exhausted from toggling between online and classroom instruction, shifting Covid-19 protocols and dealing with challenging students, parents and administrators.”

Friday was my last day as a high school teacher.

After 15 years of teaching, this was not an easy decision. I have loved and will miss the classroom — getting excited about literature, teaching writing, asking big questions about life, discussing the human experience and getting to know students as individuals with unique perspectives. My leaving is not about advancement or money. It’s not even really about COVID.

I’m tired of being tired.

Stress and burnout in education are real. Teaching isn’t healthy and life-giving right now. If it were, I would stay.

I have faith that COVID teaching will pass, but I’ve realized that some of my greatest stressors in teaching will not. As the education system stands now, there will always be massive amounts of overtime, and there will never be enough hours to do all the things we know are important to being excellent educators. The evening and weekend work and stress would be a constant at any school.

The insanity of COVID teaching has helped me realize that it is the system, not me. More focus, better organization, more hours, greater efficiency — none of that would be enough. And, of course, I’m not the only one who has reached this conclusion. At this point, with so many teachers leaving the profession, my explanation is probably more cliché than revelation.

Last June, the National Education Association found 32% of teachers had considered changing jobs. By November, that number rose to 48%. Currently, EdWeek reports that 91% of educators experience high job-related stress.

The stressors are many and varied — from new initiatives during yet another abnormal year, to teaching both in-person and remote students simultaneously, to toxic parents and community members attacking teachers and curriculum, to lack of subs, to lack of time.

To put things in perspective, I haven’t had a heater in my (Minnesota) classroom for two months (supply chain stuff), but rather than being my No. 1 stressor, most days it didn’t even make the list.

Saying goodbye was difficult and sad, but I am excited about my next steps. I’ve taken a job in corporate training. I’ll still be using my teaching and instructional design skills, but I’ll have time.

And with that comes an incredible sense of freedom. I haven’t even started and already my nightmares are gone and my body has relaxed.

The education system needs to do better. I don’t have the answers, but educational leaders need to figure it out — fast. The system is crashing, and it can’t be business as usual.

Support teachers. We can’t “self care” our way to health and sanity, and we shouldn’t need to save ourselves. Give teachers more time, respect and money. Then redesign education. Plan smaller classes and fewer responsibilities. Make teaching equitable to other highly skilled professions. Create a world where teaching is not only possible but desirable.

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