Teachers Are Burning Out From Toxic School Environments – Know When to Leave


Teachers Are Burning Out From Toxic School Environments - Know When to Leave

“I wouldn’t want my son in your class,” he told me for the second time.  And for the second time, I was bluntly being told I wasn’t good enough for them and their school. 

By the time he told me the second time I was past caring. They had already killed what love I had left for the profession with their belittling, micro-managing, and anxiety-inducing “constructive” criticism. My past two years had shown me how toxic the relationship of teaching could be. I couldn’t sleep, I cried sometimes on the way into work, it was the catalyst that had sent me spiraling down into the dark abyss of post-partum depression upon my return to work six months after a long and anxiety-induced pregnancy. 

I will never forget the day I walked out of that building in the middle of the day, too shook up to stay even one more minute in there. I had never felt so lost and I had no idea how I could stay even one more day in education much less another 15+ years. 

I only took a few days off and then I returned. For the remainder of my time there I was physically present, but I was no longer mentally there. And I’ll be the first to admit my teaching suffered because of it. It’s hard to do something good anymore when your fire for it has been stomped out. 

I knew that to fight for my lost passion for teaching I needed change. I was gone within two years, and though everyone was convinced I was going somewhere much “worse”, what they didn’t know was the quality of character that existed within those school walls. Because within the walls of every school is its own story. Just like within the walls of every family’s home there’s good and bad and highs and lows. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can do good with what we can control and from there we can rewrite any story for good.  

Within three years from one school to the next, it was like a 180 and by the end of my second year of rebirth in education, I was named Teacher of the Year. Though I doubted if I was really worthy of such a noble honor, I realized that school gave me so much more than a Teacher of the Year nomination.

I worked hard for them because people believed in me. I worked hard because I felt like I was a part of something so much bigger than myself. I felt appreciated and valued by my students, my coworkers, my administration. It felt like a school family again and one I very much wanted to be a part of in whatever way my skills and talents could serve the group. 

There are unbelievable educators in that building. So you can be sure I don’t think I’m the best there but I’m definitely better than I was when I arrived because when I arrived I wasn’t sure this profession was for me anymore. I doubted that I had anything left to offer education, the kids, my administration and fellow teachers. I was a burnt-out, adapting to significant hearing loss, recovering from postpartum depression, and learning to manage my teaching anxiety better. I’m ashamed to admit because I’m not a quitter, but this profession had beat me.

I know how hard teaching can be. But one of the best ways to fight the burnout is change. Change what you teach, change how you teach, change where you teach, just seek change. The relationship of teaching doesn’t have to be toxic. Too many think we can’t escape that negative relationship with teaching but yes we can. And we must because there are so many great teachers out there leaving the profession in a mass exodus. So, before you leave, find change within the system. Find your people who will believe in you again, find your passion project, be the change in education you want to see. See what you can change before you let the profession change you. 

This place gave me so much more than a Teacher of the Year nominee. It gave me back my belief in myself, a passion I lost for a job that gives me purpose, kids I love that remind me teaching is a profession worth fighting for. 

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Teachers Are Burning Out From Toxic School Environments - Know When to Leave

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Angela Williams Glenn

Angela Williams Glenn is a sixteen year veteran English teacher. She is currently happily teaching English and Journalism in Essex, Maryland for Kenwood High School. She also writes about women's issues and family life for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Her View from Home, TAAVI Village, and Filter Free Parents. She hopes to one day write a book with her student writers about growing up in 21st Century America.

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