Do you ever get into such a stressful rut that you feel like leaving teaching? Grading papers, creating lesson plans, a mountain of paperwork, and the pressure from high stakes testing are enough to drive anyone into another profession. Then, factor in the stress from your personal life, and how do we all not lose our minds?
For those of you that know me on a more personal level, you know that I have a son who has severe autism and is non-verbal. You can read more about him in this post that I wrote. Now he is 12 years old, but still functions at a 2 year old level cognitively. This school year is his last year in elementary school. After weighing many options, I made the very difficult decision to take some time off from teaching to have more time to devote to my family.
I see so many posts and hear so many stories about teachers who leave teaching. I wanted to share why I went BACK to teaching, even though I had a million reasons not to.
At the beginning of this school year, I started tackling my long to-do list. While the boys were at school, I was at home working away on my blog and creating resources. After a while, I lost the motivation to create. It became a struggle to blog and create resources, because I wasn’t able to use them to help a room full of students master a difficult skill or engage them in a new way.
Despite all the to-do lists and big plans, I quickly became uninspired to create and share. I was unmotivated and had lost that something special that I had while I was teaching. It didn’t take me long to realize, I need students to inspire me. Without knowing it, my students had been inspiring me just as much as I had tried to inspire all the students I had taught in the past.
I thought volunteering in Brody’s classroom would help satisfy my need to be in the classroom, but that didn’t turn out well. Every time I came in, he would grab my hand and was ready to leave. Then, I tried to volunteer once a week at my old school, and then at my other son’s school. However, I still felt like part of me was missing. I didn’t have students to call my own. I didn’t have anyone who proudly said, “Mrs. Williams is my teacher!” My heart was broken.
I had written a letter to myself before I quit last school year, because I knew this would happen. I knew as I distanced myself from teaching, I would forget all the negative and only remember the positives. In the letter, I wrote about all the reasons why I chose to take a year off: the kids, my husband, the stress, my growing business. I read the letter almost every week in an attempt make myself feel better about not teaching anymore. It didn’t work. No matter how many times I read that letter, I still felt like part of me was missing.
I couldn’t help but wonder about the students who I would have had this year. I wondered if they would have a teacher who cared about them and worked hard for them like I did. This sounds cheesy, but it was almost like I was grieving for the students I wasn’t going to be able teach this year.
I spoke with my teacher friends regularly and was reminded, on an almost daily basis, of all the reasons I should not want to be a teacher. I saw the stress and pressure first-hand when I visited the schools and the classrooms. However, there was one huge reason why I wanted and needed to be a teacher again: the students.
I needed to be there for them. I needed to make a difference in their lives. I needed to give them the skills to be successful, the confidence to keep trying, and the desire to learn. Here’s the thing I never saw coming, I needed my students just as much as they needed me.
I applied for a couple of part-time positions in my area throughout the first semester. I prayed that there was something that was a perfect fit for me. I thought about teaching every. single. day. So when the opportunity to teach middle school part-time became open, I took it and have never looked back.
I have been teaching part-time since the beginning of January. It is very different than elementary school and there have been some adjustments and growing pains. However, I feel hope and inspiration again. I look at the students I am teaching, and I know I am there for them. This position is the best of both worlds: I can get my inspiration and fuel my purpose, and I still have that much needed time for my family.
Not everyone will be as fortunate as I am to be able to work part-time, however if you are thinking of quitting teaching, I urge you to:
- remember why you became a teacher
- remember all the students you have helped and made a difference with – even if it is just one
- seek support from a positive tribe of teachers – even if they are online
- look for a different teaching position that better suits your needs – transfer to another district, take a chance with a new position, ask for another grade level
But most of all, I urge you to never give up. If you are truly meant to be a teacher, you must find a way to stay motivated and stay inspired, for yourself and for your future students. Putting my story out here for the world to see has been really difficult for me. But I hope that my message will inspire others to remember why they deal with the pressure, the stress, the behavior, the two hundred other parts of the job that make it difficult. Thank you for letting me share my story with you.