Why Good Teachers Quit


babasteveWhy Good Teachers Quit

by Kay Bisaillon, Teacher

Editor’s Note: For  related reading, see also 25 Ways To Reduce Teacher Burnout & The Secrets For Teacher Survival

My friend is an amazing teacher.

She is an amazing teacher who is ready to quit the job she has loved for 20 years. She was honored just a few years ago as one of the best teachers in her area. She cares deeply about her students. These students come from some of the poorest living conditions in the state she lives. Many of these students come to school everyday for the stability she brings to their lives. She goes in early every morning and stays late almost every day. She brings home hours of work each night.

She carefully prepares her lessons with engaging learning and interactivity for her students. She is one of those teachers who has a interactive white board and the students touch the board as often as she does. She explores lessons in real and meaningful ways and empowers learning in her classroom.

What’s the problem? The problem is she is approaching her breaking point with her teaching career. She is ready to leave teaching completely. She is tired of trying so hard, in so many ways, and still feeling as if she is losing the battle. She is losing faith that she is and can make a difference.

She’s Not Given Time to Adjust to the Newest Teaching Styles

She was recently admonished for asking a question to the class and calling on a single student to answer. She was told this could and would not be done anymore. She was supposed to “ask the question and allow students to discuss with each other the answer.” She explained she had been applying this new approach and did find it valuable. She also explained the previous style of asking and answering a question to a single student was a style she had used for many years, but was making a conscious effort to stop using the approach.

She was told to “not try, but do…” and I am being polite in my recount of this episode. My friend and I both agree the new approach has a lot to offer the students. Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to fully convert to a new teaching style within weeks of the start of the school year? Is she not allowed time to adjust to a new style?

She left that discussion with her administration feeling inadequate, deflated and disrespected.

She’s Swimming in Work at Home and At School

She leaves her house at 7am most mornings. She teaches until 3pm and stays at school to do paperwork, cleaning and preparing for the next day until 5:30-6pm. She usually does a few hours of grading and lesson plan preparation each evening. If you add an errand on the way home, and dinner, and general housekeeping, the day is a long and exhausting one. She feels as if she is losing ground each day and trying to make it up the next. It is a vicious cycle.

She’s Struggling to Learn Each New Program Introduced

This year she has had multiple new programs to learn: a new gradebook program, a new online lesson planning program, and a new reading series. She admits her confidence in her technical abilities is lacking but she tries. She attends every mandatory and voluntary information session offered. She spends weekends reading and watching the how-to videos. She asks questions of co-workers and tries to get as comfortable as she can with these new processes. She is learning it all, but it takes time and patience…and more time. This time comes from her personal life.

She will eventually learn it and get comfortable with it all, but it does come at an expense.

She Does Not Feel Valued

All of the above would not feel so deflating if she felt valued. If the extra time she invested felt appreciated by her administration. Instead, the push is to do more, do it faster, improve the student’s grades and, more importantly, their standardized test scores. She must not only improve those test scores but document every little piece of data along the way. (See 10 Ways Data Can Sabotage Your Teaching.)

She is exhausted by the demands of her time and energy and doesn’t know how much more she has to give.

Her Family (and husband) Misses Her

I mentioned my friend has been a classroom teacher for 20+ years. She has three grown children and her home is slowly becoming an empty nest. Her husband misses her. He is ready to have his wife home in the evenings at a reasonable time. He is ready to spend some time at home with his wife when she isn’t preoccupied with grading papers or preparing lessons or worrying about completing those things before the next school day. Her grown children are worried because their mother is working all the time.

Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

My friend is required to keep a binder for, well, just about everything. I can’t tell you how many binders, sections, topics, titles, charts, graphs and forms I have heard her discuss. I would bet she has a binder to help her keep her required binders organized! In all seriousness, the complexity and sheer numbers required in that type of record keeping and data recording is painstakingly detailed and mind-numbing. She is frustrated and overwhelmed by it.

The Counter-Balance

My friend gets up everyday and still does an amazing job. She doesn’t do it for the pay or the administration…she does it because her students need her. Her students come from an economically depressed area. Many of her students come to school hungry and need the joy she shares. She knows she makes a difference to their day, their week, their year, and their life. She will continue focusing on this one simple reason until all of the other ones become too much for her to handle.

I know my friend is not the only good teacher who feels this way. We talk often and I try to be the sounding board she needs. She leans on co-workers for support. I know teacher burnout is a common issue among very good educators. This is what worries me. There are amazing teachers, young and old, veterans and rookies, who are starting to eye the exit door. These teachers feel overworked, underpaid, undervalued, deflated, and emotionally and physically exhausted.

I only hope the one good reason continues to outweigh the others long enough to keep those good teachers teaching.

Image attribution flickr user babasteve; Why Good Teachers Quit

  • Shawn Storm

    This saddens me…I encountered that wall and wanted to quit a few years ago. I began asking myself what are 3 things that went well today (read it somewhere) and then I connected with amazing educators on Twitter and it has re-energized my teaching and actually allowed me to find balance through the connections that I’ve made. We have the most important job in the world and we need to support each other.

    • DB

      Shawn – your comment deserves highlighting. As one who is struggling but who wants to work through it, it is nice to see someone finding their way back from burnout.

  • Paul Murray

    This is why good teachers need good unions.

    • Gene

      This is a misunderstanding most people equate to burnout. If I have a strong union this will make me a better teacher. Good teachers persevere through the struggles and hardships. If good ground rules for collaboration are established and she can communicate with her Principal and/or Superintendent, they will not want to see her leave. Keeping good teachers will become the highest priority.

      Good teaching is hard to come by and Unions will not make them better teachers.

      • Paul Murray

        Gene, I think you missed the point. I didn’t say unions make good teachers. (Neither do Principals or Superintendents). What unions do is defend a space in which good teachers have the freedom, and the funding to teach. Teachers are increasingly forced to shift their practice with ever flavour of the week senior admin or the state determines is “best” practice. Local admin rather than hold up an umbrella to shield teachers from the trick down effects of bureaucratic and pedagogical incompetence instead enforce theories and practices they themselves have never had to practice and often have never been trained to evaluate. What’s more teachers themselves are increasingly subsidizing their own practice. I read an interesting stat the other day, something like 77% of American teachers buy school supplies for their own classroom with their own money.

        Gene, you note that good teachers persevere. Perhaps, but you can only bang your head against the wall for so long before you start to bleed. Good teachers need defending. They need protection when they take risks. Honestly, do you really think that kind of protection will come from Principals and Superintendents?

        • Beverly Watson

          tell it Paul. My head hurt. I had to save myself.

        • Patty

          That was me. The first year I taught, my students had the highest test scores in my school division, and I had a wide variety of students. Six years later, I quit when my head was bleeding. Literally. I had a job related stress induced stroke. Over a year later, I’m still recovering. I’ll never go back.

          • Ellen

            Patty, I am assuming you had a ruptured brain aneurysm. I also had one, and I attribute it mostly to the stress of teaching. The year it happened was a brutal school year in many ways, and I have no doubt that my blood pressure stayed sky high, thus leading to the bleeding stroke. That was in February 2000. I returned to my classroom that August, armed with blood pressure and anti-anxiety medication, and I just retired from teaching this past June- earlier than I had planned to retire but convinced that the job was going to kill me for sure-despite the meds I continue to take- if I didn’t get out.

      • ksfbcoach

        Wholeheartedly agree! The Unions have stabbed me in the back 3 times in 24 years! 3! I will never support them again. They are just a political organization for the Democrat Party, that’s it.

        • Keen

          I’m sorry that happened to you. Your local Union is a reflection of the teachers in it, it’s not “Them” its “Us.” YOU decide what your Union is. My union is a vital educational partner, makes sure the contract is followed, and we are protected. Run for a Union office and make those necessary changes!

    • Larry Kelley

      … a union never created one good teachers. A union hinders them. Bet you think it takes government intervention also.

      • gtjoey

        True – it never created one, but it made sure that teacher had the space and the resources to do it well without the constant back and forth of politicians who think anyone can teach well. It makes sure the good teachers stay in by paying them an appropriate amount and making sure that the state/local govt’s don’t take advantage of them. Nope – it never created a good teacher – but it helped to ensure that the good ones will be there to teach your children.

        • ksfbcoach

          Hogwash gtjoey.

          • Keen

            Not long ago teachers were fired for even FORMING a Union, women teachers fired for getting married, absolutely fired when they were expecting a child, married or not. Each teacher had to go, hat in hand, to beg for their salary. Professionals w/college degrees, educating the next generation, were treated like serfs. Unions brought justice to that situation.

        • still teaching. Thank you, NEA

          Unions also provide the liability insurance that good teachers need for that one disgruntled parent. You know, the one that will never be happy until you socially promote their child. Unions also provide us with the legal resources that the State is trying to take away from us.
          I was that teacher that had only good reviews, data that showed my students scores were improving. Then I had an administrator who thought that he was the bulldog. With the backing of my union, I am still teaching. He is gone.

      • Paul Murray

        go for it big guy, go for it. go it alone. go for it without safeguards for your safety. go for it without the supplies you need to support your students. go for it without the support of your colleagues. go for it without a liveable wage and no job security. go for it when admin and parents and media want you to be all things to all students. go for it when your pay rests upon your students’ results on standardized tests with little statistical validity and are usually riddled with cultural bias.(there is a reason why many elite universities no longer require SAT results and no other country. has followed the American lead into high stakes standardized tests and most of them out perform the U.S. in results… coincidence? I think not.) go for it big guy and put ideology ahead of student success. go for it and cut off your nose to spite your face. indeed, let’s all go for it and march together into this glorious future wherein we look out only for ourselves and the devil take the hindmost.

        • SJ

          Sounds like adjuncting which, thanks to Obamacare, severely limits the number of hours we can teach so schools don’t get stuck paying for health care. We have master’s degrees and ZERO protection or support.

          • Barbara Kernan

            No point trying to make ACA the scapegoat here. This was the case with adjunct work before it came along. Benefits are expensive–always have been–and if universities could/can hire instructors without benefits, they did/will.

      • Keen

        My Union helped create me, so please revise your opinion. (yes, I’m a “good” teacher, & my Administration agrees) It also aided hundreds of my colleagues. My union is a vital educational partner, makes sure the contract is followed, and we are protected. Run for a Union office and make those necessary changes!

      • concernedamericanTN66

        Unions don’t do jack for teachers, and I stopped paying them to support their political agenda years ago…

  • BestEducationalApps

    My wife and I are both teachers in Canada. We can relate to this story as we have many colleagues feeling the pressure of todays teaching stresses. What is a fearful reality is the number of new teachers that are turning away from the profession in the first few years. It’s time governments put time, energy and resources into supporting teachers both financially and pedagogically leading the charge to increase political capital for the teaching profession. The economy and our future demand it. Thanks for sharing this!

    • silver surfer

      You need a strong union to stop them disrespecting you and force them to take teachers’ views seriously.

  • nancy wimbush

    Too bad, usually the collaborative, team, can support struggling educators. Mentors, mentees, shared expertise and common goals. I have seen people who don’t have enough time for this or that, tech is too hard to catch up on. I think recognizing your limitations and realizing that you are not feeding your soul is a good sign to look for something else.

  • LWoods

    Very sadly, I must say that I can definitely identify with this teacher. I very much love teaching and my students but I am really growing weary of all the extras that distract me from my actual teaching and all the excessive grading and paperwork. I am tired after a day of interruptions to my lessons.

  • george

    WOW. To start I’m suprised she is not married to another teacher, he must have the patience of Job. I thought only teachers could marry teachers (or principals or CEO’s or something). Guess I’m wrong. ANyway, education 100 years ago was the three R’s, reading, writing, and arithmatic. (OK so there is only one R in there but it shows how much it has changed).
    Also history and geography was the history and geography of mostly Amerca, which I’m sure it still is. But really, now students have to learn about every little town on earth.
    Math was euclidian, but now Euclid was mostly mistaken and we have relativity and now this quantum mechanics.
    The reason administrators may be vicious is that they themselves are actually afraid and have no idea anymore.
    So upgrading and new courses for the teachers are mandatory, as they should be for the lazy, frightened, administrators.
    Its not going to get any better. The bible says that in the last days knowledge will increase and it seems so it has and so it is.

    • Elaine

      I taught for twenty years, and retired after extensive back surgery. The way to survival for me was ignoring mandates. I shut my classroom door and taught. I even told administration to “write” me up. I loved my kids, prepared and challenged them daily. My test scores were good except for the very handicapped child (but those made strides). If administration talked down tome I gave it right back. I did get weary, and sick of excess of new junk to do. I faked paper work many times and then laughed about it. My number one priority was the children and they knew it. We read many books, wrote many papers, built projects, hands on math, investigated science, learned our history. For all the good teachers out there….do NOT obey all mandates, outsmart those who handout tons of new ways to teach unless they actually hit on a good idea. I understand they are placing cameras in classrooms now. Wave to it and say good morning…..lol!

  • http://lhealey7604.blogspot.com/ Leslie Healey

    Some days this is me. Teaching is an art, but it sure does have a lot of craft to it as well. Never enough time. Less freedom with each day–hard to interact with students genuinely. Grading, grading, grading (which stops learning dead, in my experience) every night.

  • MHEN


  • Lisa

    I have not taught for 20 years; however, I get up and go to work at 7, stay until 5:30 or 6:00 every night. I do not feel my students get the maximum amount of my effort if I am not able to put in those hours. I am always pushed with meetings and other individuals that take up several hours of my day. I need the time before and after school to complete my grading and all the materials that I can not accomplish. This teacher makes me feel like I am human, not the only one who gets to work right after the engineers.

  • John-David Hughes

    They call it the “Socratic Method.” Try teaching, or managing a class without the opportunity to return a student to attentive behavior by asking a pertinent question. Time to quit. No doubt.

    • terryheick

      Confused here. Can you explain a little more?

  • A.H. Perry

    I hope this teacher, and many others like her, will be able to remain in this profession. “Humans” like her are needed while the push to improve systems seems to create machines (like fearful administrators). It may help to realize that this stressful energy is dominant in all fields right now. Eventually a balance will/must be reached. Meantime, everyone in this situation MUST pay attention to self care. Meditation and visualization will also help; a strong spiritual base is important (regardless of religion). Finally, it will help when the work is one’s “purpose” (versus a secure job). I do understand…I recently retired from public education as Adult Educator. The craziness was becoming more, however, not nearly as intense as k through 12. I salute all of you!

  • Guest

    I was heartened to see this post today!! I have been feeling so very alone in these thoughts and feelings myself! I arrive at work at 6:45 am and usually leave about 8:00 pm 5 or 6 days every week (for the same pay as teachers who leave at 3:30). I used to think I was a pretty good Music teacher; but no longer. The administration does not support my point of view when comments or complaints are voiced, consequently the parents are running the Marching Band. I really wonder…….

  • Tina

    I am a teacher in the UK. I have just resigned after 15 years. In the UK we retire now at 68. I am looking for an alternative career pathway while I still have the energy. There is a cap on the time you can give the amount of energy to a profession that teachers do. I am deeply saddened but younger more energetic teachers will replace me and I will have the energy to enjoy myself again.

  • The Picture Book Pusher

    I’m about to leave the profession for the exact same reasons. This article articulates the situations so well. Especially the constant expectation that we are to assimilate into a new curriculum or style within weeks, and then are evaluated for it. Paperwork, and everything else that takes away from us meeting the needs of the children.

  • The Picture Book Pusher

    Only thing wrong with this article is the unnecessary shirtless child they have as the accompanying photo.

    • nameless

      Yeah, what’s up with the photo?! Thanks for making a tired teacher LOL!

    • http://www.ourjoyhisglory.com/ Leslie @ Our Joy…His Glory

      Cracking up!!! I thought the very thing when I read it. Great article, but the child doesn’t match the content. So funny.

  • anon

    This article articulates many of the reasons I left teaching. I only lasted 4 years before I burnt out but know a lot of my pressure came from my own high expectations of myself. I was constantly reassured that I was doing a great job but within myself it never felt like enough.
    After I had my little girl I tried to go back to teaching but felt like I was neglecting her, and the thought of starving her of my time and attention to give it to other people’s children just wasn’t my cup of tea.
    Now I have a simple 9-5 job which I leave at the door everyday and come home ready to be a Mum. I’m happier and life is much more simplistic because I’ve experienced how hard it can be in a demanding job. The only issue I have now is explaining my decision to people who believe that teaching is a 9-3 job with great holidays….uh no. I do feel like I wasted my degree but I have no regrets about my decision to put my own family first. It’s all about priorities.

    • Pat

      I applaud you for having the courage to do what you know is best for your family. My gut is telling me to do the same thing but I don’t want to feel like I gave up. I have some soul searching to do. I love the idea of teaching but in reality, it’s not working.

    • Kiya

      That is me all the way. I later four years and all people can say is but you have summers offm off. It’s really not worth it.

  • Alexis

    Oh God! This sounds just like me. I am sitting in front of my computer hoping someone would tell me what to do. My heart wants to stay in teaching, but my head is burned out. I wish someone would make this agonizing decision for me: Which is more painful? Stay with teaching or start over in a new field from the bottom up at the age or 42?

    • Chris

      I am with you! I could have written your post. I long for the days when we had the freedom to truly teach.

      • HurdHut

        At 53 I find myself on sick leave due to work related stress. Having entered teaching late I have taught for 12 years. My passion for teaching has never wained. I was a Leading teacher, a post I resigned due to work load. My freedom to teach with passion has been removed (despite what any curriculum or government says). A new head to our school had reduced me to a jibbering wreck and since September this year I have produced two poor teaching observtions and now find myself being bombarded with both professional and personal criticisms. I am reduced to reading the amazing letters I have received from parents thanking me for my intuitive,caring teaching of their children and wondering where I went so wrong.

        • http://www.writerliz.com/ Elizabeth Haynes

          That’s how I felt also. And I had a similar experience with administration! I only made it a year in the profession. :(

        • Lee

          I was put on emergency medical leave due to everything involved in teaching and feeling like it was never enough. I left teaching for good several years ago and yes, I miss a few things about it but there are many things that I don’t.

        • 2013retiree

          I found your situation very familiar. My administrator actually instructed the new principal to “find” and “execute” a reason to fire me. After several impromtu evals, I recognized what was happening and offered to “retire” early. Now 98% of the staff consists of newly graduated teachers and the students miss out on the teachers with life experiences that augment their teaching methods repertoire.

        • Amy Sandner Winters

          you didn’t the system is wrong. I would love to have you with my child.

        • lou ann

          This is me. I recently found myself reading parent letters to remind myself of my purpose.

    • TLee

      I’m 43 and just retired. I was suffocating.

    • A.termini

      I have several friends that are, or were, teachers. Most teachers do it because they love helping others. But everything that goes in to it is exhausting (the hours, the pay, the demands).
      Good friends of mine were a husband and wife teacher raising their baby girl in the teacher life environment. Sending her to daycare and letting someone else raise her, putting the last few days of each month on a credit card.
      They finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired. They made a change in their life and retired from teaching back in Feb. they are in their early 30’s and actually get to live their life as a family.
      They get by now days by helping others (the whole point of teaching). 25 months in to their life changing journey has given them an amazing life that still includes helping people.

      If any of you overworked, underpaid, under appreciated teachers would like to talk to them and hear their story and see what they are doing now, feel free to email me at: hatorade137@hotmail.com

      Best wishes to you all. Always remember: Teachers are a very special, rare breed.

    • H70

      I’ve just left teaching at the age of 43. This is the 2nd time I’ve left but I know I won’t be back this time. I was facing the same dilemma as you. I’m currently studying event management and loving it! I have absolutely no regrets. Work out what you want to do and go for it. Life’s too short.

    • Helen

      43 years old & 20 years as a teacher… I have never felt this burnt out this early in the year. I don’t know how I will make it through this year. I miss teaching… my job has become so “data driven” and micro-managed that I feel the needs of the students and the teachers are being buried under administrative demands. This has been getting worse every year. Teachers are no longer respected professionals. We are the scapegoat, the punching bag, the worker drone, and the adherents of the newest “best practices” that research demands. I can’t believe that I attended college, earned a graduate degree, and strive to improve my teaching every year with extra training to be treated with such condescension and distrust. Save me from a government that thinks it can do my job better than me.

      • Christy

        In my 16th year and I feel that your above post hit the nail on the head! :-(

      • concernedamericanTN66

        Holy crap…we’re all going through the same thing, and we live in different places…so what we’re experiencing isn’t regional or even local…this is a top down government thing. I’m 48 and 24 years in…and this is the first year I’ve had burnout so early. I don’t know how I will make it to retirement at this rate.

    • Brian

      I’m a teacher who quit mid year too. I’ve turned my struggles in the process into a business to help other teachers:

      educatorrescue.blogspot.com is an emerging start-up with one mission: to give support and advice to teachers transitioning out of the education field.

      Check it out if you want to switch out of teaching but have no idea how or don’t know how to get the life you want after teaching.


  • Beverly Watson

    I quit in the middle of the year, stayed home, and just recently started looking for work but NOT in schools. I could not take it anymore. This lady sounds just like what I was suffering. I dont miss the school nor the other teachers.

    • AlejandraSoto

      i just quit today! i feel free! i was teaching high school literatura in Mexico (Tijuana). i was a teacher for three years but i just couldn`t take it anymore, it was just too much, the grading, the planning lessons, actually teaching those lessons, grading exams, school trips, parents, pretending to be the “perfect” teacher all the time… anf¡d a long etcétera… im 26 years old with no kids to support, so i said good fuckin bye! im starting looking for Jobs NO related to teaching, im just so over with that “profession”.

  • Jamie

    What is the recipe to drive someone crazy? You put that person in a four wall room, add 30 to 40 children, add tons of paperwork, add a group of parents and administrators that gives that person frequent verbal whip-lashing, and finally a society that watches and cheers it on! This is what a teacher faces every day. Does anyone want to be a teacher?

    • Michael Jeffries

      I don’t think anybody with a sane mind would enter this profession at this point.

  • Teacher of firsties

    I think you wrote this about me!!

  • Carol

    I was up at 5:00 a.m. this morning- feeling the exact same way! I was exploring retirement options. I can afford to quit; however, I don’t want to! I have much I want to do with the students but I don’t know how long I can go on. I am exhausted! I think school every minute of the day and night and the pressures are overwhelming. I am expected to teach a class of 16 students from JK (3 & 4 year olds) plus grades 1-3 (most of which are at least a grade below where they should be) and of course, pull off high test scores. This set up is not fair to the students. The 3 year olds deserve a teacher who can attend to their needs as do the grade 3’s. I can’t meet the expectations for all of these students. I don’t want to quit but I need reasonable working conditions. Why is so much money spent on new curriculum, testing etc. when the addition of an educational assistant would make the biggest difference of all.

  • burnt out

    I’m asking the same questions now, after 20 years of a dedicated, successful career. Like you, I’ve longed for someone to tell me the right thing to do; I am indecisive with matters such as these; but the truth is, no one else will tell me or you what to do. Let’s weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision. Me? My eye is on the exit door. The problem? My students. My retirement. The truth of it? I may not even be around then if I don’t properly deal with the stress NOW.
    Best of luck to you. And to me, too.

  • StressedJojo

    Who wrote this about me? It’s spot on! I am there. After 22 years, I am almost there.

  • Greg Schnagl


    Thank you for bringing this into the forum.

    The frustrations your friend is experiencing are all to common in teachers at all levels, from preschool to graduate school.

    I’ve echoed your sentiments and cited you in a recent blog post.


    Thank you for advocating for your friend and all those in a similar predicament.


    Greg Schnagl

  • Anna Burton Harwell

    We LOVE and appreciate our teachers in Katy, TX. They get the pay they deserve and we as parents see terrific results due to their hard work. I am so glad we moved here!

  • Former Teacher

    I left teaching last year because the job had taken over my life and made my family come second. I just had to stop and get my priorities straight. My children were going up too fast and I wasn’t available to them. Unfortunately, only other teachers would understand the demands. Most people think teachers are just complaining. They have no idea.

    • TLee

      They have NO FRIG’n idea!!!! Oh My Ga! God does though! :). You made a good choice!

    • Carol

      I did the same thing. I felt like a hamster on a wheel, never getting anywhere in my professional and personal life. Something had to give and it had to be the job. My family is much happier now, and so am I.

  • tt

    This is so sad this is exactly how teachers feel we as parents need to take on more responsibility for our children’s education and take some of the work load off of teachers if we reinforce what there teaching we would have a world of outstanding individuals

  • Nan

    My daughter is a teacher. This could have been written about her. It is shameful that our excellent teachers are so disrespected. Absolutely shameful.

  • TLC–Tender Loving Care Tip

    Yep! That’s me…

  • MelKat

    I honestly might have ended up going into teaching if my parents had not been teachers (I wanted to be a teacher a long time), but after seeing firsthand the sorts of things they had to deal with toward the end of their careers, I decided to pursue a career where I could still do something I was passionate about without all of the pressure and unreasonable expectations.

  • Becky

    I am a retired teacher. I retired early for all of the reasons above. Stress compounded every year. At the beginning of each year, new requirements, responsibilities, demands were placed on our shoulders from many branches of the education system. One branch had no idea what the other branch was requiring. There was not enough time in the day to meet the demands. We were jumping through hoops that had little to do with lesson preparation or planning. I thought surely there were directors, administrators, state department people that would communicate with the teachers and bring balance and reason to our day. That didn’t happen. I worked harder and harder, hours and hours. My husband had always been patient until my last two years. His wife was consumed with school work. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the middle of my last year. It is my belief that my immune system was compromised by immense stress and fatigue. At the beginning of that school year, I had no plans to retire. But when the time came to sign a contract for the next year, I just couldn’t muster the passion, energy, or excitement for teaching that had once been there. Teaching was my passion but I was completely drained, burned out. I appreciated the article. It expressed my thoughts and feelings exactly.

  • Tammy Rosenkranz

    Teacher’s aides feel the same way!!! It seems nothing we do these days is good enough! We are taken advantage of by our bosses, the students, and the parents!!! We come in early, stay late, and spend our own money taking care of students, most of the time without so much as a thank you! Do you think I enjoyed changing your child’s poopy pants today, or liked cleaning them up after they vomited everywhere??? No, I didn’t!!! All because you think it is my job!!! Well, let me tell you something, it is NOT my job!!! My job is to call you, the parent, so that you can come up to the school and deal with it, but you do not answer your phones, or return your messages, so your child must be forced to either sit in their own excrement, or I must change him because I feel sorry for the child.
    I was also forced to catheterize 2 male students and tube feed several mentally retarded students, for which I had no formal training. Do you think I got a “Thank you” from anyone?
    Not one!!! I was taken advantage of by the principals, and the school district. I was too scared to say anything because I needed my job!!! This kind of thing happens all of the time because schools are too cheap to hire certified personnel to perform these tasks, however they don’t mind overpaying principals who stand around laughing, talking, texting, facebooking, sending pics, and generally being lazy while the teachers and support staff are working their asses off!!!

    • The Principals Wife

      Admins are lazy and overpaid?!? They work just as hard for the same lousy benefits as everyone else and they have to attend all the sporting events and countless after school, town or city meetings on top of the regular day. Most days they don’t get home until after 9pm. They cannot go to a restaurant or store without being stopped by a parent, teacher or politician. They are scrutinized in public every single day. You may sometimes feel that they are not on your side but they are. They fight for you more than you could ever understand. They put their own jobs on the line for you every day. They give up their personal lives for the benefit of other peoples families, not just students but staff and teachers as well. The majority of school admins are divorced. Lazy and overpaid?!? Try stressed, lonely, selfless, exhausted and unappreciated— but they still do it anyway because it is their calling and they want to make a difference. How dare you say they are lazy!!

      • Tammy Rosenkranz

        I will dare to say that they are lazy, I worked for more than one. You are wrong, they don’t all go to bat for us, sometimes they are hard to find during the day because they are out of the office taking care of personal business on company time. They don’t appreciate the fact that they are not the only ones who come in early and stay late, plus spend our own money on our students and decorations for the classroom. Apparently you don’t know the principals I have worked for so who are you to judge my experiences?

  • Midwest special educator

    I spent 32 years as a special educator working very hard, staying late, teaching on my prep, and often working through lunch to set up the afternoon or put grades in the computer or prepare for an IEP meeting. My last year of teaching we moved to a new building that was not finished so we had construction workers showing up everywhere. We had a new schedule, new computerized IEP program, and a new math curriculum. Our room layouts caused us to be more isolated from one another, and we were far from the office. No more sending a student to message for us. I was assigned recess duty over the lunch hour for the first time in my work career forcing my lunch at a later time which took away from valuable class time with students. I ended up constantly working my lunch and prep to make up the time. The principal regularly referred to the building has “her building” which didn’t invite staff or students to feel at home. My evaluation was not a good one for the first time in 32 years, and they really watched me for tiny mistakes that everyone makes in such a pressured job. For example, my files were not locked up each time they came to check. Now WHO was in charge of me getting a file cabinet that locked? That 33rd year of teaching was the catalyst to sudden and major meltdown. I asked for reasonable accommodations which were met with laughter and retaliation. I spent the last year of my teaching career at home, and then retired the following year. Where was the union? They did get me the salary and benefits to stay home. They could not help me with the teaching conditions. I do miss my students and staff, but the lifting of the high stress was felt immediately. I had a great career I was very proud of that ended very badly.

  • Juliet

    So very sad that the most rewarding profession has been reduced to feeling undervalued and stressed, rather than proud and rewarded. I did leave, but still feel lost sometimes that my psyche just could not begin to balance the anxiety with the joy. I did not give up, but solutions when I asked for guidance included platitudes such as “work smarter, not harder”. I miss helping my classroom family and my very stressed coworkers as well. I welcome the peace I feel but continue to search for something that will bring even a small piece of the daily satisfaction I received from teaching. I also wonder who will be able to continue to do the job well with little understanding from the legions of administrators (wow, when did we need so many bosses??). Loved being there, love feeling less urgency every minute of the day.

  • AnnMarie

    Today – I could have written most of these comments! 21st Century was supposed to give me the “freedom” to create my own learning environment – and the time to puruse my INDIVIDUAL 21st century needs. Two days into the process (16 hours), it has been one LONG meeting, a “wide” choice of only “3” options and forced collaboration! And, there is at least another 3 hours of these meetings yet to go! Way to turn something great into something bad and sad!

  • Mister Dillon

    It was always my dream, even as a 7 year old boy, to want to be a SpEd teacher. It took me MANY YEARS to make my dream a reality. I have tried different jobs over the course of my life…..working in retail, and an office cubicle from 9 – 5, in downtown Chicago, but that didn’t feel right and was not me. I finally went back in my late 20s and got that teaching degree. Here I am at 50. I should be proud of what I have accomplished in my years of teaching. I should have found my “groove” and, each day, found a reason to come into work, and hit the ground running. Instead, I dread it…….I watch the clock……I barely plan this year. I’m not simply suffering from “Teacher Burnout” …..I am overwhelmed and saddened by what my career has become in recent years. I’m stuck at my age. I don’t know what to do. I find no reward in this job anymore. I want to leave it behind me, but I don’t know where I can go at this point in life. This was an AWESOME article and makes me feel good to know other teachers who once enjoyed “teaching”, are also dealing with the same emotions and issues.

  • Labradorsrule

    I left special education after 20 years of teaching. In addition to all of the above, there was always the threat of law suits hanging over our heads. No matter how hard you worked, or time you spent, parents could always sue if they felt like it. Even if you met the goals and objects of the IEP, there were parents who could decide that they didn’t feel it was enough. I worked 60 hour weeks and still felt like I had more to do.

  • kat

    Well, if you’re old and have been at it for a while, you realize you would not choose this career today. Being an experienced teacher, it is not hard to buck the system a bit-esp. when the results show that your students are learning the curriculum. I never recommend this field to young people. The mavericks are all older teachers now- the young teachers are very much in the box and conformists by nature….very afraid to speak up and voice opinions. We are not attracting the brightest and the best in my opinion-they seem to just do what they’re told without questioning why.

    • Guest

      As a second year teacher I completely understand what you are saying. I know that if I were to open my mouth and saw how I really felt I would be fired in an instant. I think many new teachers don’t question why they have to do what they do, but I do question it and it has not made me popular. I’m here to teach and help my students, not to be a statistic. I’m ready to leave the system. I give all the teachers who have been doing this for a long time so much credit, I don’t think I can with such a broken system.

    • Shar

      I have made this same observation over the last 5-10 years of my career. The newer teachers are seen as more valuable because they are conformists. Afraid to question. …. Of course, it does prove that they learned this by watching veteran teachers being degraded and undervalued by today’s administrators, at all levels. Quick learners….

    • Elen

      I’m trying to get into the profession. I know it is a burn-out situation waiting to happen. I subbed in a high-poverty district, and did burn out. I work as a paraprofessional now, in a very wealthy district in a different state. I think I stand a chance of making it in this profession here, because the entire district seems to appreciate independent thinkers, value intellectual inquiry, and treasure good teachers. Families are involved and supportive for the most part, and administration backs up the faculty and staff. Our union is a good one, very active in trying to ensure we are paid properly, and getting us the training opportunities we need. I’m older, and am not going into this blindly. I know a change in central office management could change all these good things for the worse in short order. I’ve been a sub, a college adjunct, and an enrichment assistant teacher, all positions that are taken unfair advantage of, paid abysmally, lack union protections, haven’t any health benefits, and used up and tossed aside like Kleenex in ragweed season. But I love teaching, and know how desperately we need our youngsters to grow into independent thinkers. So I’m going willingly into this maelstrom. Wish me luck, I am going to need it for the next 15 years.

    • Christy

      Just close your door and teach! Until someone comes in to observe and then you have to put on a dog and pony show. Always being prepared for the dog and pony show and the constant picking apart of what you are doing when you are doing exactly what they told you to do!! I don’t know how many times our district gurus have said, “Do this XYZ way,” and then either one of them or the principal pops in for an observation and puts XYZ down as a negative!

  • Michael Jeffries

    I’ll be real honest, all those issues above are big issues. However, I just don’t like the kids anymore. Don’t get me started on their parents. And while it is true administration is running off good teachers, having to be the primary adult in the lives of hundreds of students has worn me out. Thankfully this is my last year.

    • Claudia R. Zachry

      perhaps the truest comment of all!

  • Craig Eppler

    I am not a teacher, but I am married to an amazing one. She loves to teach (4th and 5th grade) but her work is never ending – morning, day and night. She has been teaching for nearly 30 years. She is not burned out, but only because she loves the children and truly sees it as her ministry. The changes driven by politics are never ending and exhaustive. Then, on top of that, teachers are blamed for poor performance of students when the teacher is usually only one small variable among many variables. I am proud of her, but we (our society) better figure out how let the teachers do what they do best with minimal interference, or good teachers will become very rare. They will choose to do something else.

  • Justin Ryne Wilhelm

    To all you AMAZING teachers out there!!!!


  • Done

    I got out of the classroom years ago because I couldn’t take the destruction aimed at me. Administrators made me feel like if I had behavior problems from students, or if students made low grades, it was my fault. Not one administrator ever made me feel like referring a student was deserved. Instead, it was as if I failed. News flash….kids smart off, kids blurt out to make other students laugh, kids talk instead of working, and kids can get an attitude. Some kids don’t work in class. Some don’t do homework. Some could care less about good grades. In order to be effective, a teacher has to be respected, and to be respected, you must have consequences for misbehavior. Time and time again, administrators have used the “pal” system, the “I know you are a good kid…just put up with her for me” attitude.

    After 15 years, I’m back in the classroom. Today I had to get on to a couple of students for talking and not working. One kid laughed, and another one challenged me in front of the class. One student made a bee-line to the principal’s office to tell him how strict I was. Again, I feel completely disarmed. I feel like I’m supposed to insure good grades, make sure all kids are on task when the principal walks through, and somehow make them love me so much that they won’t misbehave. That’s the message. If you’re teaching correctly, kids won’t misbehave.

    Tomorrow I’ll conference with the kids who gave me trouble. I’ll call parents. I’ll document everything. I’ll get through it just like I used to. I do care about kids. That’s never been the problem. A lot of kids never cared about me, about the demands of my job, that I am only a person, not someone to challenge, ignore, and belittle. I thought I’d be tougher this time around, but, in fact, I’ve realized that no one deserves to be treated the way kids treat their teachers.

    • still teaching, Thank you, NEA

      I hope you feel the cyberhug, Done. It is tough. I work in a Title I school.I am constantly “conferencing” with students who smartmouth me. But after 12 years in the classroom, I now have former students coming to see me, letting me know that they appreciate all of the hard work that I put into them. When students come back to the last place where they felt loved (even if that love was a super tough talk), I know that I have done the right thing. It gives me strength for one more day.

  • Larry Kelley

    … this is the result of government intervention and unions. Whatever happened to independent school districts and a strong school board that actually cared about what and how our children were being taught? Garbage in; garbage out…

  • 30 plus years

    After years of teaching and so many changes each year and more demands , less pay, less respect, less supplies, no books, only what we search on line each day to find things that will help our kids, trying to make a difference in their lives and help them out of this life style that never seems to change no matter how much is give out of our pay checks each month and our hours that we work over each day has not made a difference in 50 years. So , I conclude that it is not the teachers that are to blame but the government who funds those who do not want to change but stay the same.

  • theoldballcoach

    I’m a teacher of 25 years but here’s the rub of what she can do and I can’t. I would bet I’m the primary bread winner and she is not. I feel her pain though my challenges in secondary education are somewhat different. But I feel I must go on for at least another five years until full retirement. It sounds like she has the financial option to get out.

  • Deedie

    So much of this is right in target. Whoever wrote this could be talking about me, except I don’t have children. I can’t imagine trying to teach & be a mom, too.

  • Beth

    THANK YOU! I adore my students and teaching, but I am completely exhausted and drained from the endless demands and my family and friends have basically given up on my having a life outside of work. I want to make a difference, want to teach, love throwing myself into my work- but it is becoming too much. My kids suffer from their mom never being there and that is the most devastating thing of all.

  • Tired Teacher

    I feel like this article is a reflection of the “Teaching” life I’m living. It;s sad but I’m glad that I’m on a leave of abssence, recuperating from back surgery. Can you believe it….It took a Spinal Fusion to give me the break I needed from a job I so loved. Not sure if I’m going back into the classroom ever. Back to work…yes, classroom….No.

  • Oogie

    Don’t give up on teaching! It’s public school’s design that’s the problem. Try teaching in private school. There is less pay, but my god, it’s much more rewarding. You have independence and support if your administration, smaller classes and NO testing! Plenty of disadvantaged kids attend private school as well

  • susie

    Alexis, I’m a nurse and understand the feeling that someone good has to keep at it. But in my 61 years, I’ve learned that what really counts is your family. God sends us first to our family, not every other family that appears in our lives. If you are giving more to others than to your family, you are probably out of the balance that will give you peace and energy. Starting over somewhere else is really not so bad. Especially if it’s true that you’re not in teaching for the money. As a professional, starting over may mean less money for the short term but not necessarily forever. Check yourself by asking this question….”who am I if I can’t say ‘teacher'”? If you have trouble answering that question, you may have allowed your identity to be TOO much “a teacher.”

  • Julia

    Wow. Today I had a nervous breakdown before the bell rang. It’s barely the beginning of October and yes, the image of my students’ faces keeps me going, but I am not sure how I am going to make it through the demands of this school year without paying a physical and emotional toll :-(

  • ksfbcoach

    I’m turning 50 this month and after 24 years of this, the way I have been treated by Administrators, School Boards, and Teachers Unions have me burnt out. Stick a fork in me, I think I am done. But like others have said: Now what do I do? I can’t afford to retire….start all over doing what?

  • Ollie Thibodeaux

    This is the truth! Signing a teaching contract in this day and age amounts to signing a contract as an indentured servant! And the more dedicated one is, the more truthful my post rings!

  • Alex Perkins

    This is me. I don’t know what to do.

  • http://www.ourjoyhisglory.com/ Leslie @ Our Joy…His Glory

    ABSOLUTELY the truth right here! Although I would have continued to teach if my circumstances hadn’t changed, I saw my first chance to get out and did. I LOVE teaching but I love my family more.

  • myperfectdog

    I am 57 years old and feel exactly the same way. I have taught K for 20 years and started teaching 2nd grade this year. After teaching school all day, I have another full time job which is doing all the “busy work” as stated about. At what point is “enough – enough”?????It is 11:00 at night and I still have two reports to complete before an ARD tomorrow. REALLY????? If I don’t do them, what can they do – fire me????????

  • Kaycie

    I would love to see the ones that say they don’t need a union..excuse me,.. let them go to a school that has no one protecting their rights…and see how far it goes; like when the admin or upper echelon has a friend or relative that would like a job they have their own way of doing away with a position and the teacher and then bring it back up and hire their friend or relative..so who is there to tell them they can’t do that? How do they think they had gotten Health benefits good pensions etc.,They can thank the unions for that..
    The republican that blamed the so called democratic union are benefitting though from that so called democratic union…they really should get a job where there is no union ..I am sure they knew that when they were hired they had a union to protect them
    BTW the last 4 years our public school system deteriorated and who has been our Governor supporting private sectors but making it hard on the public schools..

  • Heather

    I am a former teacher who ended up on disability from all the stress. I gave my heart and I still love my former students but administration just didn’t care!

  • Loving retirement

    I’m retired from 37 years as a teacher. I can tell you that one of the few things that I regret in life are the many times I shorted time for my own children because I was too busy prepping or grading someone else’s children’s papers and the nights I was “too busy” or too tired or too burned out to help with my kid’s homework. So good teachers keep up the good fight because we really need you, but don’t let your work come before your own family. In the long run, it’s not worth it.

  • Bob

    22nd year. Just over three to go and I am OUT. It didn’t used to be this way, but politics and big business has sucked the joy and humanity out of teaching. Public education is dead.

  • http://www.pemberley.us/katie Katie

    What about all of the legions of teachers, the majority, who work every bit as hard as this teacher, and in some cases, much harder? The ones who have fantastic attitudes, who come to work everyday and do an amazing job for our children? Those are the truly great teachers, and they DON’T quit. They persevere, and teach our children to as well. This teacher, as good as she may be, is only telling part of the story.

  • Sue

    Please know that administrators don’t like it either. What’s happening in education is bigger than school-based administration. It comes from the top down. And if we don’t comply – we lose our jobs – we don’t have a union.

  • Anna

    While I really appreciate this article, I found it disturbing that you selected a stock photo of a single black child to accompany it. Having the title “Why Good Teachers Quit” next to that photo sends a subconscious message that the minority children are the problem.

    Could you please replace it with a group shot of a teacher with children? There are THOUSANDS of
    those photos online.

  • Amy

    Wow, this sounds just like me too! Just this morning I woke up at 4:30, and immediately began thinking about all the things I needed to do at school. The RTI folders that need to be set up based on the data reports for Reading and Math, that I am not sure how to find, and how these folders are supposed to be ready by early next week for a data meeting. And parent letters need to go home letting parents know that their child has scored below a certain number and they will be receiving intervention, that I have to make time for, even though my day is completely stretched thin and I am still teaching when the bell rings to go home. (Even though some of them are VERY smart, but didn’t try and scored a Tier 3 on the tests.) And how we need to come up with individualized intervention strategies for every child who scores too low, and find time to implement them. And how I am supposed be using project based learning A LOT in my classroom even though I am reluctant and self-conscious about my ability to do it. And that I have papers that needed to be graded by the first of the week, and I haven’t gotten around to that yet. (I do have a husband and two children who periodically need me and a household to run!) And that I need to come up with ANOTHER seating arrangement in my classroom to spread out the children who are disruptive so I can effectively teach the ones that come to school to learn. And that I need to make a list of students who have missing assignments and need to get those completed because I can’t bring myself to give them a zero. And that we have a new spring test hanging over our heads that we need to prepare for, and our school could potentially be penalized if our students don’t score well. It’s difficult to motivate kids when school is at the rock bottom of the priorities list at home, but by God we try, all day.

    I could go on and on and on, but anyone who is a teacher can probably identity with this. I remember 20 years ago when I used to feel like I was awesome; I would go home and feel like a success! Now after all these years, it’s just the opposite. I feel inadequate, defeated, and quite frankly, a failure. But every day, I get up (usually before the alarm) and do my very best, because I still believe in my heart, it’s what I’m meant to do. . . .

  • JG

    I just left teaching for many of these reasons. I could not make my principal happy. I kept being told I wasn’t good enough and I was spending all of my time trying to get better. My efforts in working with children are appreciated when I volunteer.

    I am starting over in a new profession at age 39 and while it is stressful, too, it still seems like less stress that teaching. Yes, cardiac nursing is draining, but I still have energy for the children I gave birth to. I didn’t have this luxury when I was a teacher.

  • Jocelyn D. Garciano

    Teacher at heart, teaching by heart. I was once a high school teacher for 6 years and what has been told is so true to me too. Working more than what is needed. Exhaustion in the end will tell a teacher to stop and do the makeshift. This time, I am still connected with the Department of Education but on the instrumentation/research side. The stress here is not as much like when you’re teaching. It’s good that I was able to escape from the teaching world.

  • tbfreese

    This is so sad. My wife and I teach at the same school and have gone from “loving it” to asking for the number of the nearest truck driving school. We are beside ourselves with “new” best practices and rigor we must include. We have been told we must teach at the Level III to be successful. But the problem is that no one knows what Level III is, but we are evaluated based on it. I am a department chairman and swear I go to more meetings than classes. I told one of my parents who became frustrated because we were having a difficult time finding a time to meet due to my schedule that, “I used to teach for a living, now I attend meetings and fill out paperwork” which is more true than I like to admit. We too have been recognized as outstanding teachers, but we are moving on too. My wife and I have taken to podcasting about our experience to keep from going insane. If you are interested in hearing it, let me know. Hope we find a solution to keep our best teachers.

  • Tigger 68

    Amen ….I am ready to walk away. I can’t keep up and the kids will not do what you ask them to do. I go over expectations and teach them what to do in stations, but the moment I am working with other students look out. Then the behaviors are worse every year. Admin tells you what to do but not how to get it done. Come show me and they look at me.

  • schoolmarm

    Just had this discussion with 3 teachers today with 5 or more years of teaching who are considering leaving. I’m the literacy coach and I’m trying to support them with encouragement and set priorities of family before school. They keep crying and some days I want to cry with them. It is data, data, data collection and analyzation committees along with teaching new curriculum. Nothing is excitingly or fun anymore. I’m in debt from school loans so I’ll be here forever.

  • threethehardway

    Some teachers are “he”.

  • Debbie McCarley Fox

    I retired five years ago. I felt exactly the way this teacher does. Teaching is not humanly possible.

  • mike

    This is the same with most professions. Burnout is the same across the board. Often our ideas are dismissed and our actions are criticized. Teachers are very unique, I’m married to one who is also an administrator. You have a lot of highly educated people under one roof with many ideas with how things are supposed or should be done. This poses many interesting issues. Unfortunately someone higher than most, even administrators decides what will be done. This is the same across the board. Don’t forget why you became a teacher. It’s a passion and not a job. You do what you can with what you have. It is your passion that will persevere and elevate the child. Don’t give up, you can still make a difference in the kids lives by just connecting with them!

  • Renee

    I’m in year 5. I’m good at what I do, and I feel called to continue doing it, but I am so tired. The way I am living currently is unsustainable. I have no husband or children and will never have them if I keep going at my current rate. My health is deteriorating because there is no time to follow the diet plan my doctor has laid out, much less excercise. Every second I have is devoted to my job. I feel the defeat. I feel the disrespect. I am tired. I love my kids, but I am seriously thinking about what I can do to better my situation. I don’t think it’s selfish to want to make enough to be comfortable and still have down time in my life where I am not consumed by work.

  • EnglishTeacher

    I feel this woman’s pain. I’ve been teaching for 14 years and I am so tired. My issue is not with administration, though. It’s with uncaring students and uncaring parents. I also work in an economically depressed area. I have mostly ELL students. Their parents don’t understand school and aren’t involved at all. The kids care more about video games and cell phones and could care less if they could read. I teach a subject everyone hates, but I can’t make it more fun because the very elements, reading and writing, are arduous tasks. And the data collection. Ugh. I collect data on my data. I have to collect data for everything. I have to analyze my data and come up with ways to reteach so that my data will improve. I have to set my teaching goals based on data. After I’ve analyzed my data and come up with a plan for improving my data, I have to figure out how I can collect more data using my new plan. It’s endless. My school is “accredited with warning” because we did not have 75% of our students meeting the reading standards. We had 71%, a 4% increase from the year before, but still not good enough. However, when you consider that probably close to 60% of our students were not born in the U.S. and more than that had parents who were not born in the U.S., I think we did a pretty darn good job. But, the data isn’t quite good enough. So now, in addition to collecting data, I have to submit lengthy lesson plans, assessments (both formative and summative), worksheets, flipcharts, and any other materials I use. I have to write an objective on the board that shows what I want the kids to learn, and then I have to write it again so that the kids know how they are going to meet that objective. I also have to write on my board that I expect a certain level of mastery, such as “Students will write 7 out of 10 sentences with correct sentence structure”. Nothing like shooting for mediocrity. I’d like to have students write 10 out of 10 sentences with correct sentence structure, but I know they won’t so I have to let them know that I will accept an average amount of work. In addition to recording these on the board, I have to state them throughout my lesson, I have to put them on assessments and worksheets and flipcharts. I have to make sure if an administrator walks in the door, my students can tell the administrator what we are doing in class and why. My students don’t eat breakfast and rarely lunch because their parents are poor. They come in tired because they’ve had no breakfast and have stayed up texting or chatting on Instagram on their iPhones; the iPhones that their parents spent all of the breakfast and lunch money on because they want their kids to be “cool”. I’ve seen more bellies and buttcheeks this school year than I’ve ever wanted to see (I teach middle school). I walk through the hallways reminding students to walk on the right side, only to have some student ram into me almost hard enough to dislocate a shoulder. They return from lunch screaming and raucous and when I admonish them for this behavior, they giggle and after passing me, continue to scream and yell and curse. I give my students free choice to read whatever book they want, rather than assigning one. I have bought fancy lights, bean bag chairs, pillows, and carpets to decorate my room in order to have comfortable reading spots. I’ve received grants from donorschoose to buy Kindles and Chromebooks to get my kids interested in reading and writing. My students choose to cheat on the vocabulary games on the Kindle and fight over the bean bags. They sit in the comfortable reading nooks and draw on my wall and tear at my bean bag chairs. They will talk to their friends and when I send them out of the reading nook, they deny they were talking. They will stare at the ceiling and when I direct them back to reading, they will say that they were reading. I requested an iPad from my husband for my birthday. I use it to make it easier for me to collect data. I conference with my students to ask them about their books. I check in with them regularly and try to get them excited about books. I buy the latest ones in print and Kindle format. When I check in with my students I find out their on page 16 of the book they started 4 weeks ago. I can understand where this teacher is coming from. If you have not been a teacher, you don’t and you can’t understand. I once read an article written by a lawyer who had once been a teacher. She said that just because you have attended school kindergarten through 12th grade, doesn’t mean you understand what a teacher does. I agree.

    • EnglishTeacher

      As an English teacher, I’m embarrassed by my above grammar mistake. I wrote “their” instead of “they’re”. I can’t edit, so I’m posting a correction!

  • What about us???

    Please do not group administration in one bubble just as you would not want them to do that to teachers. We too are forced to make changes that make us feel unsupported, unvalued,and less than human.

  • me

    Please. I would like everyone to delete the word ” Teacher” from their dictionary/ Vocabulary. We are not teacher any more because the value/ credibility of it does not exist anymore. We are just facilitators or guardians that low level politicians/ Administrators like to humiliate US .

  • Kerri Miller

    I started out in corporate and decided I needed a change. I wanted to make a difference, to have a purpose and having the summer off and holidays would be nice too. So for 8 long years I taught in low income areas primary and secondary students. It started off rough at first but every year I hoped things would get better, but they never did. It wasn’t the students it was the profession itself that finally caused me to call it quits. Constantly being berrated by administration, trying to meet ridiculous unreasonable deadlines, being told what to teach and how to teach it, pointless meetings, testing, students with special needs not being serviced, the late nights, and so on. It got to the point everyday I was fighting to do my job. Many teachers feel this way but feel they have no other alternative after all I’m told “What else can I do?” I too, ate the same apple for years until this year I just became fed up and decided not to renew my contract another year. I thought I would be unemployed for at least a year. But as God would have it in a matter of months I was offered a position at a reputable company the same day school started back in my city. It seems many employers are looking for the very skills and work ethic teachers possess. Go figure. I work Monday through Friday. I sit at a cubicle all day and no one bothers me. I get an entire hour lunch, I have a 401k my employer matches . Last but not least, I leave on time with just my purse. No papers to grade, no plans to write, no parents to call. I have my life back. I tell all my teacher friends don’t underestimate your skill set. There is a place for you outside of the classroom.

  • TrishZ

    Explains a lot of the reasons I left teaching… One of the most challenging decisions I ever had to make…but needed.

  • jennyk123

    I recently left the teaching profession after twenty-five years. These years were split between three different school systems so, I wasn’t able to retire. I am not sure what I will be doing in the future….but I know what I will not be doing. I miss the children terribly. I will not be a part of the downfall of public education. I will be starting over at 53.

  • Ted

    I am not a teacher, but a retired engineer and businessman. Thousands of people working for me in the past. I can tell you that the teaching profession taken as a whole is broken. It is not the teachers. If this profession does not start taking care of their assets, the teachers, everyone is going to lose. The students and the teachers.

  • Dot

    A good starting point to help moral, lend support, acknowledge the sacrifices and demands placed on teachers is to have administrators that are not “burned out” and to hire administrators that lift teachers up and not add to the stress of what already is a high stress job. Where I work the administrators in our building are not “supporters or positive” when it comes to dealing with faculty, students or families. They exhibit no joy, no love for what they are doing. Their communication is minimum, there are no words of encouragement or compliments shared privately or publicly. Thank goodness we have small groups of faculty that support one another, we lift one another up, we are one another’s cheerleaders, sounding board, motivators. What happen to the notion that administrators should be leading, motivating and acknowledging the hard work, the long hours, the demands placed on their staff? We need better leadership in our buildings. Friends of mine that have outstanding leadership in their administrators are much more happy to walk into their buildings, their classrooms and they feel valued which can go along way to combat the feelings that were mentioned in the article.

  • http://www.smallchangesbigrewards.com Eileen Healey

    It is very sad that there are so many of us that identify with this story. I’m teaching HS Art for 25 years and at 51 years old, I’m considering early retirement. They have sucked all of the joy out of it for me. Just 3 years ago, I loved my job. Now, not so much, Contract disputes, impending strikes, people in the community think we are greedy, when in actuality, I can barely pay my bills! Not to mention the day to day stress of all of these new ways of teaching that we need to implement without proper training. I love my students and I love being a teacher, but I’ve started building a business so I can retire at 55. I’ll still be teaching and helping people, but I’ll also be treated with the respect of a professional again. Look me up if you want to know more.

    • me

      Well, I would love to be a business partner. I am looking to out of this job . let me know

  • Lynn

    Can you say Home School?!

  • Wanda Ash

    My sister has been a teacher for 20+ years and started a new school this year after her husband pasted away. I have never seen or heard of a school, like this high school, that expects so much out of their teachers. My sister has the a class of 32 students, the one’s that have been thrown out of every other class, the bottom of the barrel, the one’s that don’t want to be there but are forced to be or they can’t keep their drivers license or their parents can’t receive their government checks. The high school, wants them there, because for every warm body that is sitting in each desk, means more government grants for the school. Where does this leave my sister? With disrespect, not only from these students, their parents that raised the worst bunch of kids possible, but also, disrespect from the principal, superintendent, and the rest of the heads of the school system. Instead of believing the teacher and her helper, they believe what this bunch of students say, such as, ” I turned in my essay, but Mrs. R____s, threw them in the trash”. Most of these students don’t hand in any work at all. My sister has to call each parent to let them know what their homework is, what they did not turn in, how they are doing in class, and the list goes on. This is high school, not kindergarden. I never got a call reporting what my kids did in high school and if I had, I would have been on my child’s behind, not the teacher. Instead, these parents lie for their kids, make excuses for them and is downright rude to my sister. If that’s not bad enough, the faculty that is suppose to be backing her up, is sending her and her helper to a special class to learn how to teach. I am disgusted with this school and the way they have completely knocked the life out of my sister whom by the way, was teacher of the year 3 times in her former school. Something is wrong in this world, and it seems that it starts, when the government gets involves and the school is more than money hungry. This school, spends everything on a bunch of football players, some which can’t even add or subtract, but they’re still playing. Football first, students second and teachers are dead last. Makes me so sick but nothing ever changes here!!!!

  • Pia Delina Ernst

    Why is it, that school administrators and teachers fight against each other over how what is best for their students and kids? I am used to school as a structure where everybody work for the same goal. Why is the administrative (over?)head allowed to belittle and critisize theyr own teachers, the ones that make their school what itis. How should students learn to treat people decently and respectfully, when they experience, and yes they do notice, how their teachers are treated.

  • Slammin

    Add low salary to that list #privateschoolproblems

  • Carol

    Kay, Do I have yupr permission to pass this long to my administrators. This is how all of my colleagues feel.

  • Wendy

    Why don’t we just see it for what it is? Experienced teachers cost more. They think I f they pick on us to the point of frustration, we’ll quit! Then they can fill our positions for half the money! I have taught for 27 years. Three years ago, out of the blue, I suddenly had bad evaluations. After 24 years of being told how great I was, I couldn’t do anything right! I’m over it! None of that matters to me anymore! I go to my class everyday knowing how much I love each of those little students that are ready to learn. I teach students from very low income, non English speaking homes. I provide them the best lessons I can present and I see their growth. My true evaluations are the pictures my students draw for me, (from their homes because it would be a waste of instructional minutes for them to color in class) and the little notes they write me! I have parents thanking me for making a difference in their children’s lives! Society can file those negative evaluations where the sun doesn’t shine! Each student in my class comes first!
    Teaching has always under appreciated. Have you ever played the board game,Life? When you choose to go the college path, and have to randomly select a career card, the lowest paying job is the teacher card! Now we are getting picked on to boot! I’m 50 years old and I’m not about to give up what I’ve loved doing for the last three decades! You have complaints about the hours I pour into my job and my ceaseless energy to keep 30 kids motivated to learn, fine! Put some more black Xs on my eval, stick in my in box and I’ll get to it after I’ve graded the days papers and planned all my lessons for tomorrow!

  • Jon K. Wright

    ONE good reason is not worth the stress of dealing with the other reasons, especially administration “not appreciating” you. That lack of appreciation, i’ve seen that lead to potentially excellent teachers not even being given a chance to get their bearings straight with their kids.

  • Mrs. S

    Thank you for giving my feelings an article. This is EXACTLY how I am feeling this year, and it has been building for the last 3 years. I love the kids, but it gets harder with each passing day, and you help me organize my thoughts as to why. Thank you and bless you, this article found me at the perfect time!

  • ExTeacher

    I’m 43. I quit 2 years ago. Actually, October 26th will make two years. I began teaching many years before, starting as a sub like everyone. I lasted 3-4 years. Though I’m not making as much money (at least not yet), I’m 100 times happier. Teaching now a days is for the birds. Who needs all the stress from the kids (though I didn’t have issues with them), parents, & administrators? Who needs all of the endless, useless data-collecting and paperwork? Add in the hours you put in at the school and at home and you’re actually not making much per hour.
    I’m currently a Service Coordinator. Not making much but very low stress. Going to become a bus operator for MTA (also put in for Sanitation). I’ll get my city benefits back and get paid overtime for every minute put in over 40 hours. At this point in my life, I want a relatively brainless job with no paperwork.
    Teaching is the worse, but even most office jobs are choking the life out of it’s workers with paperwork overload and short staff.
    Some may feel because they have a Masters (as I do), certain jobs are beneath them. I say, if the pay is good and it’s not too stressful (+ no paperwork), why not?!
    God help every single teacher out there, though even he can’t fix this broken system apparently.

  • Amy Sandner Winters

    I am there and have 18 years in. My three years in a very low economic school do not count towards retirement. That just added three more years before I can retire. At my school we are being asked to do more and more while receiving no extra compensation or respect. My husband doesn’t understand why I am always so tired, and negative. I am 45 and not sure how many more years I can do this.

  • Brian

    Hey all, I’m a teacher who quit mid year too. I’ve turned my struggles in the process into a business to help other teachers:

    educatorrescue.blogspot.com is an emerging start-up with one mission: to give support and advice to teachers transitioning out of the education field.

    Check it out if you want to switch out of teaching but have no idea how or don’t know how to get the life you want after teaching.


  • Daria

    This was TOTALLY me. To a TEE. I’m not bragging about my teaching, but I was that person… staying late… searching for top-of-the-line lessons that would engage my students… agonizing over what would WOW them… and it slowly ate me alive. I burned OUT. So you know what I did? I took a leave. Unpaid. Not one year, but TWO. I could have done a 2-over-3 (work for 2 years with pay stretched over 3), but I was so done I could not wait. My personal and family life also took a nose dive, and so I had to make a sacrifice. And here’s the thing… It’s the best thing I have EVER done. I reconnected with LIFE!!! I got off the bus and started to SIGHT SEE. Financially, I took the hit. My pay went down to almost 1 fifth of what Iwas earning. But you know what? I found my “happy” again. I found my LIFEblood again. I returned to ME, and it taught me that I do
    not have to be a slave to money. I think many teachers think it’s all-or-nothing, but it doesn’t have to be. I went down to just under half-time, and it’s manageable. The beauty of it is I also have other projects on the go to make extra income — I’m starting my own business!!! People, there ARE
    alternatives. Think outside the box, and remember, teachers have countless skills that are transferable to other careers and occupations. Follow your bliss, and follow your heart.

  • susan

    Feeling guilty for taking the time to read this article when I should be filling out conference forms, completing report cards and planning next week’s lessons. I have 2 more years to go to get pension and feel I can’t leave, but I surely would if I could. Told my adminisration last year that I could not, in good conscience, take a student teacher and encourage them to enter this profession. My principal and AP are wonderful, but they are on the same hamster wheel. Makes me very sad.

  • Vince Grady

    I think the best approach is to start something new but not necessarily leave what you are passionate about. Education is changing fast. I recently left an office job where I had an easy job that afforded me security but it was not where my passion was. At age 38 I took a part time position teaching physical education at a local public school in Manhattan that only guaranteed me 5 weeks of work. I found 2 after school programs and continued to grow my youth non-profit and started even to do private lessons. Almost a year later I am doing what I love, in the context that is best I teamed up with my best friend and we work together everyday. Burn out means it is time to change the context, but not what you love doing. Keep working in education, but think outside the box. Most children are learning their most valuable stuff outside of school—find an education environment, even if it is not traditional, or create your own…and go with it. Alternative education is growing, as is home schooling and a whole host of alternatives, as we realize that the current model is not working. Good luck!!!

  • Sheree

    It is all workplaces…my sister has been an RN for 20 years, she is having the same problem, I had it in my job, my daughter is experiencing it in her job, this is the “American” way, we are someone’s agenda.

  • MomTeaches

    I am a first year teacher. I guess you can call me that. I lasted 25 days at my school. I am on administrative leave. I am 43 years old and teaching is my dream. I waited until all of my children went to school to go back to college. I did not have an induction mentor until the 4th week of school. It was too late at that point. I, too, was drowning in the programs that I had to teach. 2 different grade books, online math programs, reading programs. I could only teach the way they wanted me to teach, when they wanted me to teach it, even if it was contrary to current best practices. My administration required that I use their powerpoint only to teach, their words of the week, their daily orals, etc. I could not arrange the room in groups, only rows. I had to take pictures of my students participating in hands on activities, but it took so much time putting groups together, since I couldn’t leave them that way. The behavior of the students was so bad that I spent the majority of my time managing the class. Not enough time on teaching. There were no consequences for bad behavior. I never heard of overnight suspension before, but that is when a student is suspended from 3:00PM-7:40AM the next day. What??? If parents are not inconvenienced, why should they make their child behave? I cried nearly every afternoon when the last kid was put in a car. Some days it was almost impossible to wait that long. I know that all school districts/school cannot be as bad as this one, but it is very difficult to feel happy about being a teacher at this point. I am not worried about getting my job back, but I worked hard for that certificate and I pray I can still teach after al of this nonsense is over.

  • Bev

    I know what you mean Alexis. I did leave to go back to college. The new administration had their sights on teachers, I wasn’t in the first wave thank goodness, but the writing was on the wall. As the most expensive teacher in the group, I knew it was a matter of time and the principal was setting up several teachers for her next wave.
    And now I am in school and I actually have some free time but my family is 725 miles away. Ironic, sad, but the joy of working with professionals who are kind, caring and respectful is oh so worth it!

  • exhausted

    I used to think I would NEVER want to retire. Now I am looking at five more years thinking I may not make it that long. I am seriously thinking about just quitting. I need to wait until I am 55, but I am so miserable every morning that I am not sure I can do it. I love my kids, I love my co-workers, I love my subject matter, but I hate what teaching has become. I too wish they would JUST LET ME TEACH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Penelope

    I’ve been teaching since 1992, & I don’t think I can handle the stress of what we are being asked to do in public education any more. We are not teaching kids. We are prepping them to take meaningless tests that are designed to do nothing but make them feel like failures. It’s going to lead to more and more kids dropping out, and with common core invading adult GED programs, the future of our nation is looking increasingly bleak.

  • Dimitri Reneris

    I just read this heartfelt article. It is spot-on. I just retired after completing 35 years as a speech-language pathologist/special education teacher. How I kept my sanity, patience, and idealistic love of education is a miracle in itself. We are witnessing the demise of American Education (once thought of as the most successful admired system in the world). Until educators unite to bring about rational change in taking our system back we will remain victims of corporate America which has proved itself to be unsuccessful even in their own business world. Our Teacher’s Unions are a far cry from providing the guidance and support by which they were founded.

  • Kerri

    I recently “retired” after 18 years. I say this as I have chosen to stay home with my children while they are still little. I wonder if I will return in 5 years? I know teaching is a true passion of mine and I am good at it. I almost quit my 5th year and learned not to leave the profession but to switch my environment to a more supportive one. I learned early in my career not to support a broken system by working for one. I learned to work smarter, not harder. I learned to do what’s best for kids not adults.

    I worry about my sons’ education. Class size has gone up and testing is the be all end all. The gap in one classroom is crazy large and truly it is so silly to think one teacher can mastermind separate learning plans for all the diverse needs. I will be evaluating my sons’ education environments carefully to find a good fit for them. Though I grew up with public education and spent my career there…I am not sure it is where I would put my own children. Hoping I can find a gem though.

    Our kids need our best selves. I would advise anyone to consider making change in any career if you can’t give your best self. Our kids need it. I always tried to be mindful while teaching that the kid who needed the most love was always asking for it in the most unloving way. If you don’t enjoy the kids consider another career as really why else would you be a teacher?

  • concernedamericanTN66

    Your friend could be my twin, and this article came on a day when I seriously sat down and pondered what else I could do for a job. I’ve got 24 years and I’m burned out beyond belief.

  • Effie

    I also felt the frustration of our education system putting requirements on me that I did not have the training or time to implement. I too saw advantages to what is new in learning but at the expense of children being children. I taught kindergarten for 21 years and enjoyed every minute of it. But this last year I saw the writing on the wall and decided to quit teaching. I also was acknowledged by my school for my ability to make a difference in children. I decided to put my time into subbing at a big cut in pay, but without the stress of trying to please the administration. I still have the opportunity to work with children, but I do not have to worry about the many, many assessments and each child meeting standards. I get to go home at 4:00 and I have my weekends back. My daughter is also a kindergarten teacher in the same school and district that I just left. I worry so much about how she is suppose to do all that she needs to do and be a mom and wife. I think we are going to loose a lot of really good teachers.

  • Kerrie

    Try being a director in childcare! Triple workload every time someone in govt. Has a brain wave. If your job is killing you get out now!

  • Char

    I quit after 11 years. Best decision ever!