For many teachers, this is the time of year when thoughts turn to whether or not they should sign their contracts for next year. Some feel ambivalent about it and stall making a decision until they feel they don’t have a choice. They reconcile their low-grade unhappiness and general dissatisfaction with teaching as a career as something they can probably tolerate for at least another year. Many secretly hope that something better will come along, and they will make a career move without having to put any real effort into it.
Those kinds of serendipitous moves do happen, of course, and they happen frequently enough that they may seem plausible. For the majority of teachers who are struggling with the question of whether to stay or go, however, if you fail to make a move on your own, you are likely going to drift from year to year until you feel you can’t leave.
Now, please don’t think that I want to encourage teachers to leave the classroom if they are happy doing what they are doing. I believe that every child deserves to have a teacher who wants to be teaching, and teachers who love what they do and thrive on the pressures and demands of teaching should stay put. I would never encourage someone who is happy teaching to explore their professional options outside of teaching. That is not what I am up to at all.
What I do is help those teachers who have decided they don’t want to–or can’t for a garden variety of reasons–stay in the classroom one more year. They are burnt out with teaching, they aren’t enjoying their job anymore, and they just want OUT.
I get calls from teachers in various stages of their career–from 5 years to 20 years–who pretty much tell me the same thing: I love my kids, but I can’t stand all of the other stuff that goes with teaching. (“Stuff” includes the pressure on kids to perform on arbitrary standardized tests; equally arbitrary evaluation systems; paperwork that never ends; and the general lack of respect that is offered teachers across the board in the U.S. today.
I get it because I have been there. For years, I wrestled with the question of whether to stay or go because I was tired of the stagnant salaries and the low level of respect that I felt from everyone involved from my school board members to my President.
I stayed because I wanted to try to make a difference from within the teaching community. It was why I became a local leader in my education association, and it is why I decided to become a National Board Certified Teacher. I am a life-long learner addicted to school, so I earned two Masters degrees and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership. I ultimately ran for and won the position of president of my state teacher’s union, and I fought hard to maintain the status quo because as I took office, the economy crashed and my state’s association lost 5,000 members in the course of a few months.
When it was time to leave my job as president of my union, I could not fathom having the energy or the stamina to go back into the classroom. In spite of the fact that I had not planned an early retirement, I decided that the best decision for me was to go while I had a choice.
After taking a much-needed rest, I reinvented and retooled myself, becoming a Career Transition and Job Search Coach. I specialize in helping teachers who are bored or burnt out and want to make a similar transition into something new. I also work with other mid-career professionals who find themselves at a career crossroads, and I help them figure out what they want to do next. My ultimate aim for each of my clients is that they find work that is perfect for them, no matter what that may be.
While I don’t want to encourage anyone who is happy in their current job to change what they are doing, I also don’t want people to stay in a job that no longer serves them or is making them unhappy. An unhappy teacher is going to make for unhappy kids…and kids deserve teachers who want to be with them. So, my ultimate aim is to provide those who don’t want to stay any longer a viable path out while not feeling guilty about putting their interests above their students’ interest. Martyrdom is not an attractive trait in anyone, and there is no place for it in the classroom.
If you aren’t sure whether you can see yourself teaching for the next 10 to 20 years, you owe it to yourself to at least explore your options. I am providing a free, live workshop this coming Tuesday evening, March 8 at 7:00 p.m. EST. The topic is “Jumpstart your Job Search in 10 ‘Easy’ Steps.” I will cover the 10 things that I believe every job seeker or career changer should know as they undertake the task of changing their job or career. I invite you to join me by registering here. See me Tuesday night and learn what you may not have thought about as you begin to explore your professional alternatives.
You may also download a free report on the 10 things everyone should consider when changing jobs or careers by visiting my website. It is a free report that you may sign up for and receive. It is only 3 pages long, but it provides information you may want to consider.