Let me be real with you. Today’s topic is one that isn’t easy for me to deliver. You know that normal Toni is totally encouraging and uplifting to teachers, because in the deepest part of my soul, I believe that great teachers are one of the best gifts to society that have ever existed. Our children need passionate teachers, and I’ve made it my life’s purpose to be a cheerleader for teachers. But you know what? This profession is not for everyone. It just isn’t. So if you’ve ever been in the place of wondering, “Is this right for me? Am I supposed to keep teaching?” Or you’ve always dreamed of doing something else and you want to be reaffirmed that it’s time to leave, today I am going to give you three undeniable signs that it is indeed time for you to quit teaching.
This is not going to be an easy topic, but I think it’s time for me to cover it.
(Spoiler alert: if you’re not careful, you might actually find three signs you should definitely be teaching! 😉)
Is it time to quit teaching?
I see you there, teacher. I know you because I am you.
I know that you’re exhausted and tired from worrying constantly about your students. You feel like you neglect your family to care for children that aren’t even yours. I know that you have administrators and parents who do not appreciate the time, effort, and thought you put in to serving your kids. You have some students in your classroom that steal your sanity, who can’t be managed well, and who maybe make it hard to come to work each day. I also know that the pay you receive to do the work that you do is laughable. Because who can really put a price on changing the world?
I also know that this is a very stressful time of the school year when deficiencies in student learning really stand out and are a thorn in your side. Add on top of all that a worldwide pandemic, virtual teaching, synchronous learning, all this technology, and who wouldn’t want to quit at this moment?
I’m here to remind you that every teacher on the planet has felt the way you feel right now. But step aside for a moment and really consider: Is this line of work really for me? Did I make a mistake? Is it time for me to put away this career and chase a more valuable and attainable goal or dream?
I’m here to help you. I want you to make the decision that is right for you. Not everyone is made for this line of work. When I speak to family members who are nurses, it’s very clear to me that that line of work is not for me. I could not serve that community of people, do it well, and be joyful. Teaching is the same way. It’s not for everyone, and it certainly is not for the faint of heart.
Here are three undeniable reasons it may be time for you to quit teaching.
Reason #1: Quit if You Don’t Enjoy Children
I’m not talking about the one kid that comes into your class and completely ruins your atmosphere. Just think about those little creatures walking around your classroom, smiling and chatting and enjoying life, untarnished by years of hurt and worry and sorrow that we have as adults. Wouldn’t it be absolutely horrible if some of that joy they have in their hearts actually rubbed off on me? I mean, I’m too busy being miserable and exhausted. I do not have time to look at those little grins and their beaming eyes of hope and potential and be affected by that! Uh-uh.
And they’re so hard to manage! They can get really out of hand with all of the wanting to hug and high five and model your behavior. Those little copycats will do exactly what you do. Don’t you really hate it when they come into school randomly, for no reason at all, and hand you a little piece of paper, a little cutesy note, that they sat down at home and asked their mom to help them spell, that says, “I love you Mrs. Mullins.” Has that ever happened to you?
So the truth is, if on a regular day, you don’t enjoy these happy little children, you don’t enjoy their company, it is time for you to quit. Turn in your pencil sharpener now! Leave those little happy, joyful creatures behind. Go find some other thankless career where you serve adults, because they will not have nearly the joy in their hearts that you will find in the classroom. You’ll be much happier without all of that, right?
Reason #2: Quit if You Don’t Want to Leave a Legacy
Doesn’t it weird you out to think people are going to remember your impact and personality for years to come? Normal employees do not have to worry about going to work on a normal day and live in fear that one of their actions is going to become a happy memory for some little child who will retell it when they are older.
When you ask people who has made a great impact in their life, more than likely they’re going to think back and tell you about a teacher that they had as a child. Personally, right now I can think of so many adults in my school career that absolutely changed the direction of my life. Without their encouragement and presence day to day in the classroom, I honestly don’t know where I would be in this moment.
Even through abuse and neglect, and never really feeling like I belonged anywhere, these integral people stepped out in the most needed times of my life and gave me what I needed: care, love, and encouragement. And I’ll never forget them for that. I’ll always talk about them fondly, remember them, and share their stories with the people that I love. They are deeply engrained into my life because they were THERE.
You’ll Be Remembered
This career comes with that horrible consequence of being treasured and remembered for years to come. If that bothers you, this is not the lifestyle for you. Just by showing up daily, smiling, and being yourself, and sharing your joy for learning, and just being that positive adult role model will cause this to happen to you.
You don’t have to be a rock star teacher or even an award winning teacher. You just have to be a teacher. All it takes is being there with our students each day patting them on the back and encouraging them, showing them that they can overcome their obstacles in the classroom. They will remember you for it forever. Is that not cruel and unusual punishment? Can’t we just show up to our jobs, do our thing, go home, and forget about it? Nope, not happening. Sorry! So if you don’t want to be remembered and leave a legacy behind, you need to leave this career ASAP. Leave your apple decor on your desk for the next teacher and run!
Reason #3: Quit if You Don’t Like Creating Positive, Lasting Change in the World
Teachers are such difference makers. We take these little seeds. We plant them, and man oh man, they sprout potential to make the world a better place. We talk so sweetly to our students with positive language and encouragement. Do you know what that does? It means that child is going to go out and do the same thing in the world. They are going to go out and model you and do the same thing to others.
Not to mention that teaching them to love learning will sustain throughout their life. If you show these kids that learning can be fun, knowledge is power, and they can go out and fulfill whatever dream is floating around in that brilliant little brain, they might actually go out there and do that. They might go change the world.
The truth is, whether we like to admit it or not, everything we do has an impact on the world. Your students are going to go out and make waves no matter what. But if you stand as a positive, encouraging adult in their life, you are creating positive, lasting change in the future.
Your Students May Change the World Because of You
As a primary teacher, I also have to say that if you are teaching those children those foundational learning concepts of reading and math, stop it now! They can take those skills, multiply them exponentially, and really do some amazing things as adults. Personally, I’ve not been teaching long enough to see what these kids come out to be as adults. But I will say, I talked to some incredibly happy (I don’t know why) teachers as well. Their students are doctors, and lawyers, and all of those really incredible careers.
But forget whatever career they choose. Imagine if they someday credit you with loving school and following a career path that brings them happiness. Here, I have to say, that without those teachers who really impacted me, I would not have the passion for teaching I have today. They created positive change in my life, and isn’t it terrifying and horrible to think that you could do the same?
When you look at your classroom on a normal day, you do not see the emotions and memories building in their little minds. You are shaping the future. Even when you’re tired, burned out, ready to leave, those little faces are being molded every moment you are together. You could be making positive, lasting change. Stop it right now! How could you do such a thing? Don’t even stop to pick up that mug of pens on your desk!
Are you ready to quit teaching?
Hopefully these things have pushed you over the edge and you’ve decided it’s time for you to quit. Or maybe you’ve decided to stick around a while longer! I can promise you one thing: you’ll never, ever find a career that can bring you as much hope, joy, and impact as this one.
Whatever you decide to do, do it with joy, teacher.
I hope that today’s topic served as a reminder to you of just how incredible you are.
Time for some real talk. I was being honest when I said this career is not for everyone. But I know, because you’re listening right now, you are constantly working to improve, that this career is just right for you. Our children, those joyful little creatures who have the capability of spreading that joy to us, need YOU my friend. They need you and people like you to really care for their well being and show up for them every day, whether you’re tired, exhausted, burned out, or not.
If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for updates about Joyful Teacher Academy, which is a professional development coming this summer centered on finding joy in our career.
You can also join our happy community of primary teachers over on Facebook. We’d love to meet you!
Keep making that difference, teacher friend.