Why I Quit Teaching – Part One


It seems like it was another lifetime ago, but at one time in my adulthood, I was a school teacher – a bona fide health teacher.  I spent approximately the first 17 years of my life dreaming of that career, 4 years educating myself, three years doing it – two of which I dreaded – and the last 12 years being eternally grateful that I had the chance to quit.

For the most part, I haven’t missed it, except for a few rare moments, usually revolving around new school supplies and curriculum development.  Also around identity, especially when it comes to my kids.  I worry about them thinking of me (and thereby extending that to all women) as “just” mommies, people who don’t/can’t/won’t/aren’t capable of contributing to the betterment of our broader society.  I don’t usually miss the kids because I have some.  I don’t miss the pressure because I have some of that, too.  😉  I don’t miss being beholden to other children’s parents.  And I certainly don’t miss standards and alignment and tests and smart goals and grading and conferences and report cards.

But I’ve been surprised lately when sometimes – very rarely, mind you – I notice a pang.  Maybe do I possibly by chance perhaps want to be a teacher again?

(Tahd, don’t faint!)

The answer is a “mostly no” (I even let my certification lapse!) and a “resounding yes” (but not in public schools).  But these pangs have had me reflecting on why I got done in the first place and where I am with those thoughts 12 years later.

To set the stage, imagine a 7-year-old child who used to sneak white chalk to write letters and math problems on her white walls (hello…invisible) while she imagined imparting knowledge to classrooms full of eager, innocent children.  When my mother realized what I was doing (yes, it was invisible, but chalk leaves dust on brown carpet), she got me a chalkboard for my next Christmas and I commenced setting up shop while I tortured my younger sisters with lesson upon lesson.  Seven was when I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and although I considered other options, but the end of high school I was sure I wanted to be a school teacher.

I vascillated between teaching English and Health.  I’d had teachers in both subjects that I really admired and who had instilled for me a love for the content areas.  When I thought about what I wanted to study for 4 years of college, however, the idea of drowning in endless English classes with piles of books and papers made me overwhelmed, so I decided that I’d go with health.  It seemed more engaging and more practical to me.  In retrospect, it was an excellent choice.  I have used my degree – although not professionally – every day of my life since graduation.  It was not a wasted investment.

I didn’t get a teaching job right out of college.  I didn’t even really try.  I was betwixt and between, my family living in Illinois while I was graduating from a school in Maine.  I got a well-paying job nearby family, working for a private real estate assessment company.  Although it was a good job with interesting content, I’m more of a people person than I am a structures, buildings, and taxes person, and real estate didn’t make my heart beat fast like a classroom full of kids did.  When a job came open at my alma mater’s district, I jumped at the chance to apply.

As luck would have it, I got the job, all $18,900 per year (!!!), and Tahd and I – recently married – set out to move back to my girlhood town so I could teach health to grades 6, 7, and 8.  I remember one of my first days of school, thinking how lucky I was that I’d never dread going to work again – I had the job of my dreams and was going to stay there forever!

Part 2 later this week!

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