Tips to Consider When You Want to Leave the Classroom

This is something that is often not discussed, and I think it’s a huge disservice to all educators. It is a heartbreaking thing to consider leaving the profession, and teachers are often told to stay for the kids. This post is for those educators.

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To be upfront, I did not leave teaching because I hated it or was burnt out. I got a job at a civic education non-profit in May 2020. I interviewed for it right as the pandemic started, and before we could know what was coming. I had considered leaving teaching for a few years before this and started to set myself up to do it. This post addresses what I believe all educators need to do, whether or not you want to leave teaching, to put yourself in a place professionally that benefits you, and those around you.

To start, I did write this post in January of 2020 for Stories from Schools AZ because I felt it was necessary to talk about how not every teacher wants to be an administrator. Administration is a different animal, and not everyone wants to go that route. I sure didn’t. I had dreamed of teaching as long as I could, but life took me in another direction.

Often, I hear teachers say, “What else can I do with my college degree besides teach?” I believe that teachers have a set of marketable skills that are unique and could help any industry.

Build your professional Resume/Presence

I am a huge advocate for LinkedIn, as well as keeping an up-to-date resume. Teachers often serve on committees, work on special projects, or have leadership positions within their school or district. This is not a time to be humble but to own what you’ve done. I genuinely wish I had kept up with this because I’ve gotten asked to do a lot from outside organizations that I forget to talk about in professional situations.

If you notice on my LinkedIn, I do a lot of contract work. I do this because I enjoy doing it, but also it gives me flexible opportunities to gain experience outside of my district. This work has also lead me to my current job, as well as other opportunities. Be realistic about what you can take on. The extra money doesn’t hurt either. Find someone who has a similar job and see what qualifications or skills they have. You may notice you are more qualified than you think! Or you may find that you don’t need to go get another degree, but extra trainings may help.

Check out organizations that you want to take part in. I am a part of a handful of civic education organizations in different capacities and teaching organizations. Even the networking you can get from being a part of an organization close to what you do or want to do is helpful! Start looking at organizations within your field to see what opportunities they have. Follow them on social media, engage with them!

Seek a mentor who has left the classroom

A mentor is someone with experience that you trust. There are different forms of this, but often it’s someone you know. Offer to take them to lunch and ask them about their experience. Sometimes, it’s just nice to have another person who understands. They may even show you that the grass isn’t necessarily greener outside of teaching.

Know what you want and what you don’t want

Do not take the first thing that comes your way IF you can help it. If you are leaving teaching because you are burnt out, don’t put yourself in a more stressful situation. My dad gave me sage advice, “Don’t leave a job before you have another and don’t leave the job because you get mad one day. It should be a decision you think about and plan for.” Every situation is different. Do what works for you and never stay in a place that is abusive.

Be particular about what you want to do. Be honest with yourself about why you are leaving teaching, so you can understand what you don’t want. One of the things that I didn’t want when I left teaching was to work 60 hours a week, and have to do side jobs for menial pay. I know what I’m worth, and I wanted that. The new job I took had to pay me what my salary was, plus all my side jobs (department chair, online teacher, etc.) and more. I also wanted to take days off without guilt, and

You may not find exactly what you want right away, but make a list of non-negotiables and stick to it.

Rethink How you show up

This one is hard, and I did it a couple of times. For me this meant, changing schools and grade levels. Sometimes we just get stagnant, and that’s ok. I left a school district I had taught in for 11 years and a school I had opened and been a part of for 10 years to go to a neighboring district and teach a completely new subject. It was the best decision I ever made.

If that’s not possible, rethink how you do your job. What can you let go of? Check out this post on Teacher Burnout to help.

In the end, you have to do what’s best for you. It feels lonely, but you are not alone. There are many educators who have made switches within and out of education.

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