If you found this blog post, you may think you’ll find a horrible story of terribly behaved students or a moment in which everything came to a head with administration and I just couldn’t do it anymore…but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I left a school I absolutely loved teaching, students who were wonderful, and an administration team that was kind, caring, and respectful. So, why in the world did I leave the classroom? It wasn’t one singular event, but a culmination of so many factors of a thing called life.
I taught for twelve years a wide range of grades. I spent seven years teaching 3rd/4th grades, three years teaching high school and middle school English, and two years teaching middle school English and History.
I had my son in the spring of 2013 and after the summer off with him, I went right back into teaching. In 2016, I switched from elementary to teaching high school and middle school English.
This switch took a toll on my mental health. I always loved teaching reading and since part of my degree was in secondary English education, I was excited for this change. However, I found out quickly that although I loved forming relationships with high schoolers, I didn’t love teaching them. I found my place at the middle school level and relished it, but there were behavior problems that took a toll on me at that particular school. From having a desk thrown at me, to having doors slammed in my face, to just sheer disrespect, I found myself dreading going to school and having major anxiety.
I was a working mom with a young son all while undergoing fertility treatments at the time. I had a miscarriage and two fertility surgeries within a three-year span. It was a lot on my mental health.
Then, the last year I was at that school, I finally felt like the behavior problems were much better, I was pregnant with my miracle child, and I had a wonderful principal who became a great friend.
Then, Covid. We went virtual as did every school at the time. It was difficult teaching under those circumstances. I was seven months pregnant, exhausted, virtually teaching, fielding student and parent questions 24/7 (some students messaged at 1 am), and facilitating online learning for my first-grade son. My daughter was born in April 2020 and I was back on the computer one week later. I have vivid memories of my newborn daughter, who had horrible reflux, throwing up all over my computer while I was trying to grade online work.
It is a time that I look back on and don’t know how I did it. I was sleep deprived with a seven-year-old and a newborn, spending hours on the computer daily, and feeling like I was always behind. When the school year ended, I was hopeful that the next school year would be much better. Yet, my principal left and was replaced. I was tasked with teaching three new grade levels, two of which were high school again. Feeling so burnt out from that previous spring, I knew I had to say no.
I found a school, and within a matter of weeks, I was hired. It was a dream. Smaller class sizes, a family feel, a great teacher for my son, and well-behaved students. Yet, Covid.
It was difficult wearing a mask all day and teaching from a cart for a year and a half. Yet, we all had to do this. It was hard learning the new curriculum that comes with working at a new school. I had a separate virtual track to keep up with, but we had a wonderful virtual teacher who helped with this. I had to upload everything online for the virtual students, but every teacher did this everywhere. Covid just made education so much harder. I was just grateful I didn’t have to be on camera all day while also teaching live to classes at home. Nevertheless, I found myself working every weekend and 2-3 weeknights to manage the workload that Covid brought about.
Thankfully, we only had to go strictly remote twice within two years, but it was a difficult challenge as a working mom. My young daughter didn’t let me teach on the computer. She would cry at my feet or toddle around and get into things. My husband was extremely helpful when he was home in the evening, but his job never went remote. He worked every other weekend as well. It was hard.
I chose to be a breastfeeding mother, but in my endeavors to keep my daughter healthy, I felt like I was adding more to my plate. I pumped on my way to school, pumped during my special, and pumped again at night before laying her down to just wake up two hours later. I was in this mental state of being so exhausted from teaching and being a mom during Covid, but feeling so guilty for feeling that way since she was our miracle baby after five years of miscarriages and fertility problems.
Last year, the mask mandate lifted in the spring. We no longer had to teach from a cart, and I felt like I could breathe again. The work uploaded online from the previous school year cut my planning time in half. I was no longer pumping. You would think I would’ve stayed in the classroom.
My husband’s job changed and it was a blessing but would require more hours away on his part. I knew I could teach and figure it out with him not being home as much, but I knew I was holding it together by a thread. You see…I was able to finally breathe for the first time, which is when it all finally caught up with me. Do you ever run around and do a bunch of things and then when you rest, you get sick? I didn’t get sick, but I felt like I had hit a wall mentally. I had a moment to think. I had a decision to make.
Like my favorite character Rory Gilmore, I made a mental pro/con list. I could be a stay-at-home mom and work on this business, Obsessed with Learning. I could take a break from the classroom and just focus on my own kids. For the longest time, I had been juggling so many hats. Wife, mother, teacher, house cleaner, cook, laundress, landscaper, mental load bearer…and I thought if I could take away the teacher part, maybe I could manage better. The teacher part that kept me away from 7 AM to 4:30 PM every day. The teacher part that made me so exhausted every night. It’s hard taking care of the education and well-being of multiple kids all day. It’s hard making a million decisions all day long. The teacher part that made it hard for me to keep up with the house, so I’d spend all day Saturday cleaning and all afternoon Sunday lesson planning, just to realize I didn’t have a life at all.
I made the decision to step out of the classroom. I do realize that stepping back from teaching is a privilege. We couldn’t afford it for years and years. It’s still a sacrifice for us, but it’s more doable.
You see, since I became pregnant with my daughter, I felt this nudge from the Lord to stay home with her but we financially couldn’t do it yet. Leaving her felt unnatural. Then, last school year, my son struggled a bit in school because of a teacher that didn’t quite match his learning style, among other things. I would come home and reteach math and reading to him, which took a toll on me. Then one night, while going over math with him, it was like God turned a light on in my head.
I could take everything I had ever learned as a teacher and use it on him. It felt counterproductive for me to teach all day other students and then allow him to struggle all day in school when I could just teach him instead. My Christian faith is a big part of my life and I prayed about this new idea of homeschooling my son. I asked the Lord that if this was something He wanted me to do, He would have to make it work financially. And, about three months later, He opened the door to make it work. That’s when I had my answer.
Now I work part-time from home on Obsessed with Learning and as a social media manager for a school, and I homeschool my fourth grade son while taking care of my two year old daughter. I am enjoying all of these roles. I get to create resources and design units, and also create content for social media. It is two jobs that bring me joy. I used to say my favorite job of teaching was just designing the lesson plans, and I wouldn’t even have to teach them. Now, I GET to do just that. I also still get to teach through my son and it’s been so much fun! Once a teacher, always a teacher and that has proven true for me.
I have found that God is so good and He weaves all the details together. As a former English teacher, I utilize the grammar skills I have acquired in my new jobs whether that’s editing or writing a blog, resource, or social media post. The attention to detail that was needed to teach is now carried over into these roles as well. The ability to stay organized and focused that I learned as a teacher is something I must do as I make my own hours.
For the first time in twelve years, I’m not falling asleep at 8 pm. I am able to enjoy my kids, keep my house from becoming a tornado, and feel like a sane person, which made me realize how teaching can be so unsustainable.
I am the type that feels guilt over everything. I felt so guilty for leaving the students I had come to love over the past two years. I felt so guilty over leaving the administration that I loved. Yet, I bore so much guilt for not being with my kids or being the wife and mom I wanted to be because exhaustion made me someone else. I think most teacher moms are riddled with guilt and I wasn’t any different. I think the education profession is built on the backbone of teacher guilt. Guilt that we’re failing our students if we don’t stay after school. Guilt that we’re failing them if we don’t respond right away to their emails. Teaching is a difficult profession because of this guilt and because of the way it has become in this cultural climate.
Teachers are ridiculed, judged, not trusted, and disrespected. Sometimes teachers are micromanaged depending on your school district. Not only do you have to educate and take care of these kids in your care all day long, but you have to manage trauma from students. You have to manage atrocious behavior from students AND parents. You are questioned at every turn. Education is not what it used to be when I started twelve years ago. I fear that it’s only getting worse. Did I burn out? Yes, I did. And I do realize that there are thousands of teachers who are burnt out and are still going.
I’m not sure what the future holds. After Covid hit, I learned really quickly never to predict the future. It’s impossible to determine. Maybe I will go back to the classroom again. Maybe I will settle into this role and never go back. I have no idea what the future holds.
In the end, it wasn’t just one single thing that made me leave teaching. It was a lot of years of life happening that made me realize I needed to be home. I needed to focus on my kids and that I needed a break. God has called me to homeschooling and being at home during this season of my life. The Lord calls us each to something different.
Teachers are leaving the classroom in droves. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 44 percent of public schools will report teaching vacancies at the start of this year. As a nation, we need to do better by our teachers. They need our support. This is just one teacher’s story of leaving the classroom. There are many more out there. If you are a teacher thinking about leaving, pray about it. Consult someone who has left the classroom. Pursue your options. You will be led to what is meant to be for your life.