Why This Tenured Teacher is Leaving the Classroom For Good

Burned Out Teacher Explains Why He Quit Teaching

When I decided to become a teacher I was told a lot of things. I was told that you shouldn’t get into teaching for the money. That teaching is stressful and at times mind-numbing. I was told it was a lot of work, that you’ll be working nights and weekends without pay or recognition. I was told that all that “vacation time” you think you’ll get doesn’t really exist. 

These were the words of “encouragement” I received from my parents, both of whom had 30+ years of teaching experience. 

At the time, I thought they were embellishing, or maybe just trying to dissuade me from getting into the “family business”. Maybe they were just wishing more for me than what they had? Because there’s no way teaching could be as bad as they were making it out to be. 

The good news is I was right, it turned out to be not as bad as they said it was.

The bad news: it was worse… and that’s why I’m leaving.

…after a decade of teaching, my pay has hardly budged.

After ten years in the profession, I’m walking away to find literally anything else to do. The good news is my resume is fairly robust, because I’ve had to hold down two side jobs in addition to teaching just to make ends meet. Obviously I didn’t expect to be rolling in the dough fresh out of college when I secured my first job, but after a decade of teaching, my pay has hardly budged. Compare that to my college friends that picked other majors. They may have started below me on the career ladder but they have since flown past me, while I stood still. 

…I can’t pay my mortgage with a pat on the back and a coffee mug.

The most infuriating part of the salary stalemate for me isn’t just the dollars and cents though, it’s the lack of respect it’s connected to. In 10 years, I’ve done some remarkable things. I have cultivated a classroom where students actually care about what they’re learning. I’ve helped students make incredible learning gains, and dealt with every emotional and behavioral condition known to man (and that includes the parents!). And no matter what I did or how well I did it, it never seemed to matter much to the people writing the checks. Oh, the principal thanked me sure, but I can’t pay my mortgage with a pat on the back and a coffee mug.

The lack of respect comes at me from all sides. It comes from parents who refuse to lift a finger to help their own child, but scream in my face because I’m not “doing enough”. It comes from school board members who think it’s OK to lengthen our school day or spend our funding on unnecessary equipment instead of asking us what we really need. It comes from politicians who either promise us more resources and fail to deliver, or who have the audacity to suggest we already have more than we need.

I have literally given all of myself to this school and this profession and have received very little in return.

At the end of every school day, I am tired, and I don’t just mean physically. Being a teacher grinds you down little by little and there’s little to no opportunity to recover. My days in the classroom have included fights that I had to break up, tears I had to wipe away (from students and teachers alike), and complete and utter apathy from students that have no problem telling me how boring and stupid both me and my lesson are. I’ve arrived at school two hours early to prepare for the day and stayed just as late afterward. I’ve surrendered weekends and evenings that could have been spent with my family. And more of my own money has gone into my classroom than I even care to count at this point. I have literally given all of myself to this school and this profession and have received very little in return.

Being an educator is frankly too bizarre to wrap your mind around sometimes. Everyone says the educational system needs to be fixed, and everyone has a solution on how to fix it, yet somehow the only group of people that never get asked their opinion are the teachers actually doing the educating. I’ve heard more informed and intelligent ideas on education reform in the teacher’s lounge than I’ve ever heard at a congressional hearing. We vent and complain and come up with a myriad of ideas on how to make things better, but no one is ever interested in what we have to say. It’s frustrating, infuriating and ultimately disappointing. 

Most teachers end up either shrugging their shoulders and rolling with the punches, or throwing up their hands and walking out the door. Well, I’ve shrugged my shoulders once too often, and I just can’t do it anymore. 

And believe me, I’m not alone. 

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