Education is a hot topic in America, with fingers being pointed in all directions. But have you ever wondered what, exactly, teachers are really dealing with on the battlefield?
Randy Turner gave us some insight, and others have taken to comedy. But for many teachers, the levels of stress, pressure, and accountability reach so high that there’s rarely time in the day to catalogue what’s really happening or to consider pursuing another field of work.
If you’re curious about what teachers are really dealing with, here are five convincing reasons that many teachers are realizing that it’s time to jump ship:
Reason #1: The Classroom is Teachers Vs Everything Else
It’s hard enough to get your teaching license and to create a meaningful and enriching curriculum for your students. In addition to instructional pressures, teachers deal with profound respect and behavior problems and are often forced to take on inappropriate responsibilities. Add to that the long-term pressures of classroom management, attendance, and the political world outside of the school!
And on a daily basis? Constantly competing with simple things like cell phones and electronics. Students simply don’t know how to (or don’t want to) say no during school hours. In many schools, students can play with smart phones during the school day or blatantly ignore teachers and often face little or no immediate consequence.
And that’s just the simple things – the rest of the day is spent fighting hormones, poor work ethic, and the overwhelming mental and emotional health challenges of students.
On top of all this we can add those standardized test pressures, new responsibilities and curriculums to cover as a teacher, and at the end of the day many news outlets still report the problems of education to be the fault of inadequate teachers!
That’s a lot to throw out there – but that’s the point! Teachers are now expected to cope with everything listed above (and more) in addition to the structure and guidance of whatever subject they have been charged to teach. It’s just too much.
There are bad teachers out there, yes. But there are also good teachers being treated badly.
And no one should be put in disrespectful, dangerous, and overwhelming situations in order to do their public service.
The good news? In the professional world, there are difficult situations, patience-trying clients, and stressful days, but none of these things last very long and often they are not repeated. Even more rarely do these situations result in physical intimidation or violence!
Reason #2: Everyone Thinks Rock Bottom Is Normal
When you first start teaching, it takes no time to realize that teaching is a strenuous, rewarding, and unbelievably fulfilling career. However, sometimes it takes a few years to realize it’s also an unappreciated, dangerous, and unhealthy one.
My first year of teaching was a tornado of planning, grading, and living and breathing high school students. I flourished in my lesson planning and printable designs, and I loved planning and executing review activities and test questions. But the rest did not happen smoothly for me. Within a few weeks, I was having stress dreams and disordered eating and exercising just to maintain my high work volume, often with little result as I learned to navigate classroom management and student relationships.
The phases I went through each year were painful and timely, and I wasn’t alone.
In fact, this is such a phenomenon that there are commonly known charts that outline the different feelings and phases that a first year teacher will go through, most commonly identified as anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, reflection, anticipation. But did you know it starts all over again the next year?
As teachers and parents, we need to ask: Why is this chart even a thing? What does it say about teaching (and teachers) that we think it is “normal” for someone to be in a career in which you hit rock bottom (aka survival and disillusionment) over and over again?
In the real world, bad days are bad days– not bad weeks, months, or years. Anything close to that is a sign of a toxic work environment or depression and should be addressed with a doctor or counselor.
Reason #3: Jumping Between Emotional Extremes is Unhealthy
Anyone who has ever taught knows that those good days (no matter how infrequent) are the most exhilarating and rejuvenating days in existence.
Let’s say the administration and the parents finally leave you alone long enough to teach. Maybe that one kid finally spelled “conundrum” correctly, or you had students actually enjoy taking a test — or heck, maybe you just spent a few minutes talking with someone who brightened your day or got a few laughs from students during a lecture.
No matter what the ribbon tied on that day, at the end of it, it will be like you slept for 1000 years and have finally woken up.
But the bad days! The bad days. On the bad days, it’s hard enough to wake up, let alone dress yourself and leave your apartment or house. Making eye contact is cause for a few tears to well up. And do we need to discuss the gastronomical implications of carrying around that much stress?
The amount of physical and mental anguish that accompanies high-stress situations should not be acceptable. And in most other professions, it isn’t.
Reason#4: “It Get’s Better” in the Real World. That Does Not Necessarily Apply to Teaching
In the real world, when you get better at your job, your job becomes easier. When you have a measurable competency or talent (such as customer relations), managing that customer relationship eventually gets easier over time.
But in teaching, every year is a whole new batch of students with a whole new set of personalities, education needs, and possible dangers. Every year you have to earn respect, gain trust, and prove yourself, and then every year you have to begin worrying about the next year.
Some teachers manage to internalize this rhythm and find a satisfying quality of life. But for most people (according to Forbes, 46% of people), it is a lot of time, energy, and commitment into a group of people that will matriculate and disappear, leaving only you and your family to pick up the pieces.
Reason #5: Teachers Think They Can Only Teach, But They’re Wrong
Here’s the secret that will help you find your path out of teaching: Teachers can do so much more than teach.
And, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to do it.
Just because you worked hard to get into a certain field doesn’t mean your time has been wasted if you choose to move on from that field. Life—and personal development—is about using your experiences, education, and background to constantly evolve. And that can be one of the many dangers of a career like teaching: you become frozen in a subject, in a school, in a lifestyle, and start to forget about the world outside of teaching.
It is terrifying to realize you might want to leave teaching because it seems like teaching is the only career that can use all of your skills. But I’ve got great news: Teachers can run the world!
On any given day, you manage resources, time, and money like any manager or CEO.
You deal with direct customer service on a variety of levels (think: parents, administrators, and students) and manage expectations and communicate like an executive account manager.
The trick is to figure out what you like, what you’re good at, and to catapult that into your dream job.
Do you think teachers can work outside the classroom? As an HR manager, would you hire a former teacher?
Ready to see what life after teaching could be like? Click through the image above or visit www.LifeAfterTeaching.com to gear up for a successful transition into a new career.