“Do you ever regret leaving education?” I send this text to multiple former colleagues.
I feel a pain in my heart and tears swelling in my eyes. To be honest, I’ve thought about writing this multiple times but have always pulled back due to second-guessing myself. My goal as you read this is to not ask for sympathy but rather to be honest with you—and actually myself—in hopes that this time, I realize it is my time to go.
Thirteen years ago, I proudly walked across the stage to accept my college diploma in education. I set out to change the world and make an impact on the youth of America, much like my teachers had done for me. I was going to be the educator who helped students move mountains and chase their dreams. And I have. I have been ranked as an Exemplar Educator throughout my career and even completed extra degrees in the field because I was going to retire in education.
But it has all come at a sacrifice.
Education classes never mentally prepared me to feel like a failure more than a success. These classes never prepared me to handle a student’s suicide attempt or, even worse, how to handle a student’s death. While the classes helped me write an outstanding lesson plan, they did not tell me I would not be trusted to carry out even this simple task.
College never even gave me a hint that I would have to give up time with my own children to focus on and remember data from assessments because that’s all others cared about. I was told teachers get a planning period to help them stay ahead. However, the reality is after meetings and having to cover classes because there is a substitute shortage, I find myself bringing home loads of work to complete, and I never truly feel caught up.
There is no doubt in my mind about why I’ve stayed for so long. It’s for them. The students.
I have absolutely loved being a teacher for this reason. I’ve met so many amazing students who have touched my life in ways they probably do not even realize. I appreciate them teaching me so many invaluable lessons while I was supposed to be teaching them. I hold dear in my heart every interaction I have had with every student in the last 13 years.
I love when I get to see them in the community and hear about their success. I have appreciated the value of knowing I touched their lives and hopefully in years to come, they will remember me and how much I cheered for them. Beyond those scores, I saw them as the unique human they are.
If you are reading this and you are a teacher, keep going, the youth need you. But hear me out. Take breaks. Focus on your mind, body, and spirit every single day. Do your best to leave work at work. If your building is toxic, leave it right now—this year, do not stay next year. Because I fear you will be in the same situation as I am, right now. Reclaim your weekends for your family and DO NOT end up like me.
You’ve given it all to education and have not one ounce left to give and the only thing you can do is . . . walk away.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I wrote this for myself in the deepest sadness of realizing I needed to leave education after so many years. I am what they call a “transitioned teacher,” and I am beyond blessed to be where I am in a new career. It hasn’t been easy—I gave up a classroom, my friends, and my students, but in the end, I have found me again. And someday, I may return, but for now, I am taking care of myself and my family.