When do I quit teaching?

When is it Time to Quit Teaching?

Each year I seek clarity for my teaching career. There are no easy answers here. Know this. The question is serious,

“Should I teach another year?”

As I ponder my own path, let me take you on a journey of thoughts.

Dancing with Snakes.

The Indonesian pop star, Irma Bule died at age 29 of a cobra bite she got while performing. She performed with pythons. In April 2016, the conference organizers provided a cobra. She thought it was de-fanged. It wasn't. After a full performance with it draped around her neck, she put it back in the bag. As she performed, it slipped out of the bag. She stepped on its tail. It bit her. Not thinking she was in any danger — she kept performing. Forty-five minutes after she received the bite, she stepped off stage and died.

I'm not sure why the snake handlers who knew the slithering performer was full of venom (and fangs) didn't stop the show. Surely, they knew what was happening.

As teachers, we deal with difficult people. Sometimes we even deal with people dangerous to our health. There are several times sharp-fanged people have wounded me. Once, I wasn't sure I could recover as a teacher. The venom of a hateful person poisoned me so much.

Thankfully, my family recognized the signs of my injury. They helped me heal and prepare to teach again.

Sometimes teachers are too wounded to perform. We help so many. But sometimes we're the one who needs the help. Those who love us or work with us should help us get help before we kill our career. (or even worse, do permanent harm to our bodies or those precious children we teach.)

[callout]If you know someone who has been wounded by a situation, seriously consider what you can do to help. Don't ignore it. Time definitely does not heal all wounds.[/callout]

Injured in the game.

I'll never forget the sight that had the whole sidelines gasping and gagging. The young man's thumb dangled down to his wrist. With three minutes left in the state semi-finals, he begged to be taped up. He wanted to go back in.

“Give me a shot and tape it. I can play,” howled the quarterback.

He didn't even look at his slick, white bones sticking out of the gaping wound. Or the blood. Or his pale face. He was in shock. He wasn't thinking.

The doctor said,

“If you play, you will do permanent damage to your hand. You cannot go in. Your high school career is over.”

He cried. He begged. The doctor stood firm. With these injuries, he could not play.

Sometimes things can happen to us and we break. We cannot function. A death of a child. Or spouse. Or parent. A divorce. A hardship. A terrible loss. A traumatic accident.

Like the broken hand, things can damage us and our ability to teach. We can become unable to do the job for now or indefinitely.

As a teacher, we have to be sound in mind and able to hold our patience. We have to have healthy minds because our minds are attached to our hands. If we’re angry at the world, we cannot let ourselves inject our anger at our circumstances into an innocent child's world. It is not the child’s fault.

We all need colleagues we trust. We need truth-tellers. When we are injured by life, someone who loves us should tell us we are not at our best right now.

Oh, places that understand the value of a sabbatical bless our profession so much! Sometimes teachers have burnt out or broken down. Sometimes a sabbatical can salvage a career. She needs time to heal. She has to stop dancing. Pull her out of the game.

[callout]Burnout or breakdown happens to many teachers who have a long and storied history of greatness. Sometimes principals and administrators have to play the role of the doctor in this example. If you can offer a sabbatical, consider it. A great teacher is hard to find. If you can help a teacher re-find their own greatness, you're doing the person and your school a big favor. Sometimes great teachers don't need to get out, they just need a break so they can rejoin the ranks. [/callout]

He retired too late.  

The glory days were glorious, but they were a decade ago. People shake their heads. He used to be great. He isn't anymore.

I pray that I retire from working with kids when I can no longer give them my patience, love, and belief.

Children are children. They are difficult. Hard to handle. They need patience. Sometimes I’m so tired I put my head down on my desk after the students leave.

The things that make me examine my thinking and work as a teacher:

  • The moment I am starting every class period at the end of my rope. I need help.
  • When I can’t reach up and touch bottom. I need help.
  • When I say things in the teacher's lounge starting with the words “kids today are so…” and I finish the sentence with some stereotype or blanket statement that is unworthy and untrue. I need to either adjust my attitude or remove myself from teaching.
  • When I refuse to believe in a student because some kid fifteen years ago that I poured my heart into let me down. When I start recycling yesterday's faces without giving the kids today in front of me a chance – it is time to go.

Retiring from teaching is not bad when it is time to retire.

[callout]Support and appreciate retiring educators. Some are made to feel like failures when they know it is time to move on. See retiring teachers as a success and celebrate their awesomeness. Perhaps someone will do the same for you one day when you know it is time to retire. [/callout]

Considering Quitting

Teachers are wonderful, and I appreciate every single one of you.

Please listen…

  • Sometimes we should stop dancing and get the antidote for our injury.
  • Sometimes we should come out of the game and have our wounds tended.
  • And sometimes we should retire from the sport we love because we can no longer play the game.

Your break from teaching might not be permanent. You might need to retire. Or, you might need to coach others in the profession you love! (Anyone know a 50-year-old football players? I know coaches, though.)

[callout]Quitting sounds so negative. If we stop teaching for the right reasons, WE ARE NOT QUITTING. We are being called to a new area of service. We are doing the right thing for ourselves and our students. Great teachers are usually motivated by love.[/callout]

4 Things to Remember As We Consider Whether We Should Teach

1. We all get broken sometimes.

We all have hard things happen that make us unable to dance. While I need a job, a suffering child is too high a price to pay for me to draw a salary.

2. Some teachers have had a great run.

Time has run out because they no longer love the kids. The kindness is gone. The spark of genius and love that ignited their greatness is extinguished. A different phase of life beckons. Or they are broken and need healing.

3. Seasons are part of life.

You can't stop them. We must learn to enjoy each of the seasons for their beauty. The tragedy of life is that we can make more money, but we can never make more time.

4. There are no easy answers.  

Nothing easy to say. No formula exists saying ‘this' plus ‘that' equals retire. Or ‘that' plus ‘this' equals a return to teaching.

I can tell you this: teaching is serious business. Lives are at stake. Futures. Generations.

I know you love it. I do too. But I pray that when I either become broken or have a new calling that I will have the guts to move on.

[callout]Sometimes the best thing we can do is to keep on putting ourselves out there and teach and teach and teach. Sometimes taking ourselves out of the equation is the best thing for everyone. Knowing the difference is the key to living with our choice. Two of the most miserable kinds of teachers are the teacher who quit too soon or the one who quit too late.[/callout]

The Lies We Must Not Tell Ourselves

Some will hate these words. They think no one should ever retire. We should act like everyone stays a great teacher forever. We should pretend that some wounds aren't game ending and that snake bites never happen. And we would be lying.

I love you too much to feed you lies. Lies can poison a profession. And to think that everyone is physically and emotionally capable of teaching for fifty or sixty years — that is enough of a lie to make Pinocchio's nose grow by 10 feet.

Some of the worst teachers I've ever seen were once the best. Some  great teachers let bitterness, anger, and dissatisfaction take root. Then, the used-to-be-a-blessing teacher becomes a curse. These formerly-amazing professionals hurt kids because they didn't deal with their own hurt.

(Let me add, one of the best educators I know is 86, teaching full time and still going strong — so don't say this is an age thing. I hate seeing great teachers retire too soon! It isn't the age of the sage, but the patience of the pedagog at issue here.)

Don't get out of teaching because it is hard — it will always be hard.

Don't get out of teaching because you're tired — it is a tiring job for all of us.

In this time and season may you decide whether you need a sabbatical, to retire, or if you're healthy enough to keep on teaching those precious children.

Teacher, You are Needed

Your profession needs you, teachers. It needs you to be healthy. It needs you to be of sound mind. The kids need you to love them. And when you aren't those things, it needs you to take a break, so you don't break. Or even worse, so you don't break them.

It is the nature of the human condition that things happen to us that wound us deeply. Like a car in a wreck, sometimes we need repair.

Kids are too important. You are too. So is this question.

“To teach or not to teach?”

Do not suffer the slings and arrows of our outrageous profession without considering the heartache and a thousand natural shocks our career is heir to.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Penny Christensen April 26, 2016 - 8:10 am

I have read each post in turn – prompting me to question myself, my career, my calling. Each time teacher contemplate this it is important. Here is my contribution: http://www.hotlunchtray.com/why-you-havent-resigned-from-teaching/

Vicki Davis April 26, 2016 - 11:51 am

Lovely contribution Penny!

Sheila April 26, 2016 - 7:38 pm

Last year I made the decision to leave the classroom to work with teachers and help them integrate technology. It wasn’t easy to leave my wonderful colleagues but I know I made the right move.

Vicki Davis April 26, 2016 - 9:33 pm

Way to go Shelia! Sometimes such a decision is a great one.

Kasey April 26, 2016 - 5:15 pm

Vicki, your wisdom is greatly appreciated on this April afternoon. I love your quote “[i]t isn’t the age of the sage, but the patience of the pedagog at issue here.” I believe I’ll be stealing that… :)

Vicki Davis April 26, 2016 - 9:32 pm

Thank you Kasey! It is true! ;-)

Melissa Flynn April 27, 2016 - 8:13 am

When you come to the end of the story, close the book.
I am an end of career educator who is now consulting and coaching. My job now is to mentor my peers, teach beginning educators, and strive every day to remain positive, enthusiastic and hopeful about the futures of the students and teachers of our country.
I have a great deal more to contribute, but I know I am now ready to travel a new path. In a few months, that will be my reality.
Much support and love to all who continue to carry the torch of learning.

Vicki Davis April 27, 2016 - 12:01 pm

Wise words.

Vicki Davis April 27, 2016 - 12:32 pm

Well said Melissa.

Chris Fancher April 27, 2016 - 9:03 am

One thing not mentioned is that sometimes a teacher is in a poisonous atmosphere. Sometimes a teacher is slowly dying because of the environment. Are they helping the students who they love by continuing under the added stress? Is it better that they move on and start helping other students in a less stressful environment? I am back in the classroom after 3 years as an instructional coach. I’m loving it. My batteries are recharged. But I needed to move away from the district I had been with for 7 years so that I could feel whole again. Teachers who aren’t able to be at their best aren’t able to give their students what the students need – love, patience, and a personal connection.

Vicki Davis April 27, 2016 - 11:02 am

Well said, Chris. And yes, sometimes there an be a toxic environment. It often comes back to leadership but either way, there is a time to move on!

Joanne Finnegan April 28, 2016 - 10:52 am

This is so true. There are many toxic environments in education. I’ve been in a few. It wasn’t until I found a district where I was appreciated that I could truly relax and enjoy my career. Unfortunately, changes in administration changed that district as well. Good teachers are always harder on themselves than anyone else can be. When you are always told what you have done wrong with no appreciation for what you do “right” it’s difficult to remain positive and keep from brow-beating yourself. It’s really sad that there are fewer “great” administrators than there are great teachers!

Vicki Davis April 28, 2016 - 11:02 am

I don’t know if there are fewer it is just when you only have one or two and they are weak/ it impacts a whole school so profoundly!

Beth April 27, 2016 - 9:47 am

Thank you for your honest words – they have sunk deeply into my soul!!
I left the classroom 7 years ago and my district of 27 years this year. I have not left education – but stepped sideways. In my current position I provide support for multiple school districts. Removing the weight of a single district from my shoulders was monumental to my mental health – but an incredibly difficult choice!

Vicki Davis April 27, 2016 - 11:01 am

Good for you Beth! We all have these decisions to make, thank you for sharing yours. Perhaps it will help other educators make good decisions!

Gary Gruber April 27, 2016 - 10:27 am

I have usually said and practiced, “Quit while you’re ahead.” In other words better to quit closer to the peak of your performance than wait until you slide down the other side on the way out because for whatever reasons you just can’t take it any longer. Whether it’s carry the ball or carry the day, there comes a time when quitting is a good thing. I’ve quit often, and then started again, maybe even something else, or something less or something more challenging. I have written two pieces that speak to this. One is “Getting Back on Track” and the other is “Quitting Can Be a Good Thing.” Both can be found on my blog at http://www.leadsandserves.blogspot.com.

Vicki Davis April 27, 2016 - 10:59 am

Thanks Gary.

Lesleigh Altmann April 27, 2016 - 8:08 pm

What a very wise and heartfelt post Vicki.

I faced these same considerations nearly 10 years ago but soon realised that my decisions were guided by a more powerful hand when both my parents became ill and died within 7 months of each other. I approached my principal to resign in order to care for my parents in their last few months but she encouraged me to keep one day to work with staff who wanted to embed IT into their curriculum. That one day has led me back to education to support teachers to gain PD online for their teaching accreditation. I am now a mentor, coach and credential course manager. These teachers are now my ‘class’ and I support them in much the same as I supported my young students.

We are the wisdom teachers who have reduced or resigned from our teaching hours to become a powerful advisory to full time teachers in ways that we cannot predict.

Vicki Davis April 27, 2016 - 8:11 pm

I think a hero here is the principal who saw your value. And to you who figured out a way to stay. I am sorry for the loss of your parents but I am proud you took the time to do what was important.

Norah Colvin April 28, 2016 - 6:18 am

Great article, Vicki. I recognised a few years ago, when I could no longer implement the practices required of me, that it was time to go. Having walked the faint line between the system’s topdown expectations and my beliefs about children’s learning for many years, I found that one more change further from my heart was one too many. I left while I could still find joy in the children and their learning, and a little in the practice. It would not have been possible had I continued. I stayed in education but found different ways to communicate my passion. I do miss the children, but not how I would have had to treat them. Sadly many wonderful teachers are being burned out because of unrealistic and unsound expectations put upon them and the children in their care.

Vicki Davis April 28, 2016 - 11:00 am

Far too many teachers are facing this problem. Something must be done. Thank you for speaking out about it.

Dr. Frank Buck April 28, 2016 - 9:12 am


This post is so timely. Teaching is a demanding profession. Even the best have those moments when they wonder just how long they can continue to do it. This is the time of year when the stress is at its zenith.

Most often, all we need is a break…and while the summer is also busy, it’s a different kind of busy. Whether its leaving a school or leaving a profession, I have told people many times to be sure they are making the change to go to something rather than get away from something.

There is no telling how many teachers will read this post and will find it leads them through the thought process that will help them make the best decision for them.

Vicki Davis April 28, 2016 - 11:01 am

Well said Frank! What are you going to?? Good question.

Elena Williams April 28, 2016 - 9:02 pm

That is the key! Nor retiring from teaching but retiring to what?

Elena Williams April 28, 2016 - 9:01 pm

I had a wonderful career teaching in public education over 30 years. I still read coolcatteacher and other favorite authors because I am a teacher at heart. Now I am teaching adults technology and gardening topics in a volunteer way. My transition to accept my new life took a whole year but as someone said, life has seasons and this one is very good. The freedom from time schedules is like a 12 month summer vacation.

Vicki Davis April 29, 2016 - 4:41 pm

Awesome Elena! I love your share and peek into things! Once a teacher always a teacher at heart, I guess. One day I will find out!

Louise April 29, 2016 - 9:25 pm

Wow. Go do something else NOW!!! Do not for one moment feel guilty for leaving teaching when the time is right for you to do so. Life is long, you have years to do many things, and to do them well. There is honor in having been a good teacher and then having been a good something else too.

I am 55 and just now planning to get a credential. This is after an eleven-year corporate career, a master’s degree, a three-year writing and research career, a four year non-profit career, a ten-year parent/volunteer career, and five years of starting, growing, and operating my own profitable business. All of these jobs and careers were successful and satisfying, and I STILL have at least ten years left to become a happy and productive teacher. Looking forward to reading your site for advice!

Vicki Davis April 30, 2016 - 7:21 pm

Quitting is not the answer for everyone. Of course, this post is a compilation of thoughts I have accumulated over the years as I consider when it is my time but also as I observe others- some who leave too early and some who stay too late. Good luck with teaching and with the self examination many of us do each spring.

Mark E May 2, 2016 - 9:13 am

Vicki, you write a LOT of great posts but this one (plus the comments AND your follow up comments) have been gold.
Our profession cannot really afford to be losing teachers the way it is but unfortunately I foresee that happening.
Teachers are so selfless that they spend precious little and energy caring about….THEMSELVES.
It isn’t selfish to make sure you are mentally and physically ok as a teacher and in fact I believe that EVERYONE benefits when the teacher is in good spirits and healthy. The teacher, the students and education in general as good teachers will stick around and be better in the classroom. I am working on something for teachers to print out and put up behind their desks to keep them reminded of this to send to my email subscribers and would love to get it to you if you’d like.

Thank you for all that you do!

Vicki Davis May 3, 2016 - 5:36 am

Sure thing Mark. Vicki at coolcatteacher dot com – I need all the encouragement I can get!

Melissa May 10, 2016 - 6:01 pm

I am so happy that I read this. There are so many people that have helped me heal my wounds throughout my career. Every word I read is so true. Thanks so much for posting it. This is a must read for all teachers.

Kathleen McMahon May 15, 2016 - 7:19 pm

I am retiring a month from tomorrow. It has been wonderful. I still love my students, and I am amazingly peppy. I still know how to fix the copier and break up a fight. My little readers have greatly improved, their stories are comprehensible to people who are NOT in teaching, and they are ready for the multiplication table. But it is time to go. I will come back and fix the graduation robes where the zipper come loose each June. I’ve be invited to make bread with first grade and stone soup with Kindergarten. It’s better if a few people regret my retirement say “too soon,” than have most long for my departure.

Vicki Davis May 17, 2016 - 2:15 am

Thank you for your service Kathleen!! I am so glad you will keep volunteering and loving those kids!

Nancy Jacobs June 18, 2016 - 11:45 am

Thank you so much for this. I’m at a difficult point in my career. I teach high school English language learners and have students from Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, and Burma/Thailand. Most of my students from Guatemala never made it to eighth grade. Some have never been to school until the first day they walk into my classroom. Others had to quit after third or fourth graders. In the meantime I have students on grade level (as much as an ELL person can be at grade level.) It’s myself and my para for 45 students of such diverse needs. I agonize over how to teach relevantly to all – in small groups or individually).

Your post reminded me that i do love the kids! And I’m off sound mind. This summer I’m networking like a madwoman because I also recognize that I need help dealing with my changed population…

Solo ad much as I can, I’m preparing for school next school year when I’ll have to explain computers to students who’ve never used one, in a school where students are 1:1 with Chromebooks. And I’ll teach basic math to kids who are confused as to why there are letters in their math equation. And I’ll hug good-bye the students who need to work and can’t stay in school. And I’ll rejoice when a student starts speaking English. And I’ll rejoice as my upperclassmen need less of my help. Send I’ll love getting to know my new students and the veterans.

Vicki Davis June 19, 2016 - 5:54 am

Nancy and you are a hero. You are the teacher who does your job because it is a calling and sacrifice so much. Bless you. I am so moved and amazed at you. Keep it going!

Nancy January 25, 2017 - 12:03 am

Vicki, thank you so much for this article! I’ve been teaching for over 22 years & always assumed I’d retire from this job. But for the past few years that love of teaching has dwindled, slowly turning more & more into frustration & anger. They keep piling on the demands & paperwork , while the behaviors of the children & their parents only worsen. Of course, there are always those angels, students, parents & staff, who help me make it through the day. But this year, I broke. I’ve been off on medical leave for 3 months now. I dread going back. I no longer enjoy my job, and don’t want to be around kids. I have an extremely difficult group of boys in my 2nd grade class. I honestly feel like I’m done. But now what? I’m only 47. I have no idea what I can do. As teachers we do so much, but how does that translate outside of the classroom? Reading this helped me know that, yes, I need to leave teaching.

Vicki Davis January 26, 2017 - 5:53 am

I am sorry, Nancy. I wonder if you have a path to help other teachers. There are things in education you can do. I am so sorry. This is hard and such a sign of the times in which we live. Your story is that of so many teachers! (And you and I are the same age by the way) last year and also when I wrote this, I almost broke. It happens. But there are times to regroup, get better, and find out what’s next. Thank you for your service and all you have done and will do for kids. Just because we move out of the classroom doesn’t mean we are done teaching!!

Elena Williams January 26, 2017 - 12:12 pm

You are so wise. Sometimes when a teacher is in the middle of a school year, it is hard to step back and evaluate their personal situation. But there is life after a teaching career! Other employers appreciate our skills of planning, writing, punctuality and follow through. It’s a different world outside the school building in the adult world. Do not be affraid to venture forward. Look at it as another chapter in your life. I did.

Jeff February 21, 2017 - 12:22 pm

Wonderful post! I needed it.

I am not full retirement age yet, but I need to remove myself from this work. It has worn me down and I don’t love it any longer.

Unfortunately, I will be walking away from a decent pension. My question is, should I stay in so I can retire reasonably well some day (I’m 56 and will have to teach for 10 more years)? Or should I find something else to do and be happy? Any feedback would be appreciated. I’m feeling at the end of my rope. Depression. Anger, sometimes. Daily frustration.

Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

Vicki Davis February 21, 2017 - 1:49 pm

This is a tough one, Jeff and these are only questions you can answer for yourself. I will say that the writings of John Maxwell and Zig Ziglar and others have helped me. I suggest the Purpose Driven Life as another great book for focusing your life. All I can say is that life is too short to settle for second best.

Mark E February 21, 2017 - 2:29 pm

I’ve thought about this a LOT and have a post coming at my own site on the topic based on thinking about this topic a lot and talking about it a lot.

Teachers, you have SO many chances to make positive impacts on the world. NEVER forget that.
We are what I call “time rich.” We have a LOAD of time to spend with our families compared to other professions. Is that not worth a lot to you? It is to me.
I don’t want to preach but every time I’ve gotten into the same funk of considering leaving I realize I need to look inward and improve myself so I can be more helpful to my students.

Vicki Davis February 21, 2017 - 3:26 pm

Mark- are you time rich? I work 50-60 hours a week minimum. I have many reasons for teaching but “free time” isn’t one of them. Sure, summers off are nice. But I have worked in the business world and teaching, they are just different. I also think that there is a time for every season and we have seasons for being in the classroom and seasons for being out of the classroom. No one can keep up this pace forever. I am just not sure that it is that easy for me.

Mark E February 21, 2017 - 3:51 pm

Vicki, in terms of hours that are put over the long term we aren’t STUCK in a place of employment where our “business” implodes if we aren’t working those kinds of hours.
If we want to be excellent teacher than we do put in those hours during the school year but I’ve also worked 60 hour weeks for years in the business world and I absolutely have more time than I did then.
I didn’t see my family on holidays back the.
Family birthday on a weekend? They already knew I wasn’t coming. There are MILLIONS of people in that position now.
On top of teaching you are also doing a LOAD of other amazing things that quite frankly are more than 5-6 “normal” people do each day and I am super impressed.
I am saying we can choose to see some of the real negatives and the more we focus on them the larger they WILL become or we can be aware that we have real opportunities to have impact and we compared to many professions we are no doubt afforded more time though I am in no way saying what we do is easy or does not require substantial time and effort.

Vicki Davis February 21, 2017 - 3:55 pm

Then we can agree on that. I do think that at some point it will be time for me and really just about any of us to move on. I have been in the struggle and heartache and it isn’t really something I could just get over by focusing on the kids. Yes, I love teaching and it is important. And yes, I do basically work two full time jobs, but then again, when I chose to teach, I have always had to work on the side because my pay is nowhere near what it was in the business world either. I love teaching and am glad to do it but my job in business was tough – and I made great money and led a lot of people. Even so, to me at least, teaching is hArder work. ;-) there are no easy answers to when someone should stop teaching, that is for sure.

Mark E February 21, 2017 - 4:11 pm

Your readers and your students are incredibly fortunate that you made that choice Vicki. Thank you!

I 100% agree that the profession would benefit from the public and policy makers better appreciating what it is that we do, the committment we make, and it would be better reflected salary wise.

Mark E February 21, 2017 - 2:29 pm

Those guys are fantastic.

Suzanne Laisney May 2, 2017 - 9:49 am

I am at this crossroads in my career now, but only because I can no longer afford to teach. I am at the top of my pay scale, and am unable to get any step increases to my salary anymore, unless I take on more debt and get an additional degree! (I have a Master’s Degree already and 6 certifications across all grade levels.)
My musings on whether or not I’ll continue to teach are not based on fatigue, lack of love for the students or anything like that. I actually am quite melancholy as I ponder the reality that this job has reached its financial dead end for me.
My realistic decision involves leaving public education altogher to get retrained in another field, completely outside of teaching for mere financial reasons. I always knew that teaching would never make me rich….nor is that what I desired. It is simply a matter of do I want to live hand to mouth while paying the bills with nothing left over, OR do I want to be able to take a vacation one day, or renovate the pond in my house that desperately needs it without going into debt?
I am a single income, married to a man that I fell in love with not for his financial acumen, but because of the person he was. Due to this decision I have been shouldering the financial load for us for many years. (Sidebar: Women that marry for money are sellouts in my opinion and I could never live in that situation…we should be able to financially support ourselves comfortably in a professional career with expected compensation for excellence; teaching is the only profession where this is really not possible. I believe that this factor is a big reason for many teachers leaving the field within the first five years of joining the profession contributing to the shortage.)
My retired friends all state the same thing; they continue to work now so that they can go on a vacation or complete a project after all of their bills are paid for and not have to go into debt.
Perhaps the question we should ask ourselves in our society is this: \With all of the power that teachers have in shaping the future of so many and all of the demands placed upon us, why do we still continue to pay them as we do? Why do we still continue NOT to offer any advancement possibilities which might possible motivate teachers to stay in the field?
After many awards (teacher of the year, honors, awards, etc. in my field) in my thirty one year career I am left hollow with these musings knowing that although I love what I do, I cannot financially continue to do so.

I begin training for my new career this summer; It is with extreme sadness that I write this but something we all should hear.

Vicki Davis May 2, 2017 - 10:57 am

I am so sorry on a thousand levels! I actually have this blog to support my teaching career. I literally could not afford to teach without a job on the side so I totally understand and live this every day! I wish there was a simple answer or one that would make sense but it doesn’t! I do wish you could channel your energies into teachers pay teachers or another avenue that keeps great teachers like you in the field!

Mark Eichenlaub May 2, 2017 - 11:47 am

Hi Susanne,
What state do you live in? Just curious.

Jamie June 1, 2017 - 6:38 pm

This article has been so enlightening. I am still in conflict on whether to retire or not. My mind changes from day to day. I have been feeling this way since March. For the third year out of the last four I have had to learn new curriculum. Yesterday I ordered new supplies for next year which got me creative about the next year. I also had some personal issues that took alot of time and energy from my teaching. I just think I need a break to heal. I had taken a break earlier in my career and I came back stronger. I just want to make the best decision.

Vicki Davis June 2, 2017 - 9:44 am

Wow Janie, no one can make this for you. But I will tell you that right now I am taking a break to heal. This year almost broke me too. I am praying, reading my Bible, watching Little House on the Prairie and being careful about what I put in my mind and heart. I hope you have time to rest and heal this summer. This is a hard thing because the answer is different for each of us!

Mark Eichenlaub June 2, 2017 - 10:05 am

You gotta do what you gotta do Jamie.
Eventually as a society we are going to have to decide how we are going to show teachers we value them. As of right now it isn’t very high.
We are burying teachers in stress and not paying them well for what I don’t think are even the best educational outcomes.
Keep your head up and think what is best for YOU and YOUR loved ones first and do that.

Teacher feeling overhwhelmed October 26, 2017 - 5:03 pm

Thanks for sharing. Question?

You said don’t get out of teaching because you feel it’s become too hard or that you are tired.

So what is a reason to quit? If you are dissatisfied aren’t you tired? Isn’t it too hard?

How do you know you should continue when it seems all is against you and this fight to teach these students is going to work out?

Vicki Davis November 3, 2017 - 6:16 am

This is very hard and you are asking a question that only you can answer for yourself. Here is the thing/ teaching is hard. It is hard for everyone. I also think that it is hard to experience the joys of teaching until you push through those first few years. Not everyone is a fit for teaching. I wish I could answer this for you, this isn’t a simple question.

Becky Scott January 1, 2019 - 4:44 pm

I have read your article several times in the last couple of months, and wept because it really hit my sore spots. Shortly after I began my 45th year as an elementary teacher this fall, with 35 years in kindergarten, I had my 67th birthday.

I sincerely thought I had another good year in me, but I dreaded getting out of bed in the mornings because of arthritis and fibromyalgia, and the energy I had to put forth just to keep up with my daily routines with the children was becoming more than I could handle. I began starting my days in tears, and at the end of the day, I found myself just sitting and staring into space, trying to muster the energy to collect my belongings and go to my car. Being so fatigued was costing me my patience, and I found I was turning into a grouchy old lady with my little people. Their talking out and squirming was annoying me more than usual. That is not the teacher I wanted to be.

My doctor put me on medical leave because a check up revealed I had high blood pressure (bordering on stroke level) and sinus tachycardia. No wonder I had no energy, and so little patience with my students! I have an appointment with a cardiologist in a couple of weeks. My medical leave is about to run out, and I am in the process of writing a letter to my superintendent to tell him I am retiring before the school year is over.

I wish I had never signed a contract for this year. I knew my energy was flagging at the end of last year, but I thought it was just because it was the end of a school year and I just needed a summer vacation.

I have shed many tears over my decision to walk out and leave it all behind me. I have had a few rough years, but most have been rewarding, and I have loved teaching. But there comes a time when the feeling of “I just don’t want to do this anymore” is overwhelming. I did not want to become the teacher who did more harm than good by staying longer than I should have.

Vicki Davis January 16, 2019 - 6:16 pm

I’m so sorry, Becky for what you have been through but you are not alone. Do what is right for you and for your students. You’ll be glad you did. We teach as much or more with our lives as anything else. Best wishes and thank you for your many years of dedication. 45 years is so much! I’m so proud of you! Celebrate all the awesome years – it is hard to retire but it comes to us all!

Jen May 21, 2019 - 12:08 am

Thank yo for this food for thought… After 27 years of successful teaching as my calling….I am finding that I no longer find it my heart a calling or that I have the desire to serve any longer this way…I still believe it is my gift, but I also have had tough seasons in my life these past 5 years and I am 55 years old, old enough to retire, but “everyone” tells me it is still too young….that I should teach until that magic number “60” here in California because my pension would be so much bigger and it would just be financially wise for me…which is the rub for me…because if I retire now, I would have to get another job to stay in California…but I am not happy….

Vicki Davis May 21, 2019 - 7:11 pm

I’m sorry, Jen. Life isn’t easy. I do wish after a certain number of years of teaching that we could have a “teaching sabbatical” so we can come back refreshed and ready. It sure isn’t easy. I hope you find your way and get it figured out.

Maria July 18, 2019 - 5:00 pm

Thank you! Thank you for this writing! I had a really challenging year last year and started feeling like I didn’t want to be in the classroom anymore…. the evaluation system, the work load, etc. I don’t want to stay to the point of bitterness and anger takes over because kids don’t deserve that from their teacher. I tentatively plan to transition to another education career such as E learning and work 1 more year. Your article helped me to clarify my feelings about leaving. Thanks!

R.J. Chapman October 30, 2019 - 8:43 am

Great article! I was in the Navy for 32 years and after I retired I became a teacher. I teach NJROTC so its kind of like still being in the Navy. Love the job and the cadets. Have 12 years in the classroom and am 61. The end is starting to cross my mind. You helped. Thanks!


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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere
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