When I began my career as a teacher I had 3 fantastic teachers as my teammates. They all grew their students like nobody’s business and excelled at their craft. Within three years, they had all left teaching.
Allie, a seasoned veteran, retired at 40. Due to so much anxiety and overwhelm, she had severe health problems. June, a young mother of 2 children with a passion for teaching, left to run her blogging business from home. Kate, a 30-something mother of one, ran out the door, burning the bridge behind her.
I left to become an instructional coach for three years. Four good teachers bit the dust, almost. I went back into the classroom because teaching is my calling and I absolutely love it.
It’s not perfect every day but I sincerely love my job—it’s fulfilling, balanced, joyful, and fun.
What have I done that my colleagues couldn’t? What did I learn that they didn’t? With a previous career under my belt and having taught in several other schools, I knew that my options as a teacher weren’t limited.
If I couldn’t find balance in my current school, I knew I had options. Not all school cultures or administrators are created equal. I found the perfect school for me.
Step 1. Determine if leaving is really what you need to do. As Buckaroo Bonzai put it, “No matter where you go, there you are.” We carry our negative beliefs with us. If your current school sucks because you continually think it sucks, wherever you go, your problems go.
To determine if it’s you or your school, make a list of positives and negatives. Start with the positives to create as many good associations as you can with your current climate. Then weigh the negatives. If those negatives are outside of your control, it’s not you.
For example, one teacher I know left her current school because everyone expected her to take on more responsibilities. They knew her as the “go to” person for field trips, committees, and planning. Her marriage was in trouble and her life was completely out of whack.
Instead of trying to change the school’s image of her, she moved to a new school that didn’t have such high demands and automatic expectations of her. She’s now much happier and loves her job.
Step 2. Decide what you want. Think about your ideal teaching job. Is it closer to home? Are you teaching one subject? Do you have different kinds of students? Getting clear on exactly what you want will determine your direction.
My first public school teaching job was teaching middle school math. After a year, I realized I really wanted to teach elementary because I love the relationships I build with younger students. Relationship—and having the same students all day—was the most important aspect of teaching for me. I also wanted to be in the same school as my son and close to home. That determined my move to an elementary school in my neighborhood.
Step 3. Reach out to administrators and friends—and start early. The reality of getting a job is who you know. Begin the process early by communicating with colleagues who are in your ideal school and contacting the principal.
Also, let your current administrator know and let them help. It’s better to be completely honest (if you have a good relationship with your current administrator).
When I moved into teaching elementary, my principal completely understood the reasons and she was happy to support me. Administrators would rather know early–and have teachers who are a good fit with their school.
If you’re not sure if a school is the right fit, talk to other teachers at that school. Teachers will share if they love their school. I love networking at system-wide trainings. You can talk to other teachers on your grade level or that teach the same subject.
As I was looking for teaching position when I decided to go back into the classroom, I let my teacher friends know. I had a friend who contacted me to let me know how much she loved her school and their administrators. She also put in a good word for me.
After the interview with principal and other teachers, I knew my current school was the right fit.
In the end, trust your instincts and go with the flow. If the time is right for you to go, you’ll know it. The first step is to take the first step.