Why did you stop being a classroom teacher?

Former physics teacher here.

There is a certain "culture", for lack of a better word, in education that makes it difficult to even have a rational discussion.

For example, a great many teachers believe that creativity and passion are the solution to every problem. They don't restrict this view to the subjects they teach, or previously taught, such as art or creative writing, but absolutely everything. I've come across teachers who insist that there is more than one answer to every math or physics problem in spite of the fact that they did poorly in these subjects or never took them at all. All that matters in their eyes is that they taught.

You may think that the solution is to just avoid such people, but you can't. They're your trainers, "coaches", bosses, and evaluators. Your words/opinions are summarily discarded because, as a likely career-switcher as many science/math teachers seem to be, you are less experienced in the classroom.

When I was a teacher one of the fads was "portfolios", which make perfect sense in art, but are worthless in something like math/physics, because in such subjects all the correct answers are nearly identical, so what is there to store in a cabinet? If you succeed in bench-pressing 300 lbs, in proper form, is it necessary for me to "preserve" the barbell, the bench, and maybe even your sweaty clothes just to "capture the experience." Or is it just ok for me to record the date, name, weight, and possibly location?

Then there is the "I know kids" teachers whose experience outside teaching is very low.

Their logic might go something like this:

  1. Billy hates math and other academic subjects as well.
  2. Billy likes to work with his hands.
  3. Billy should be an engineer because that way he'll make more money doing stuff with his hands that people normally get paid minimum wage for.
  4. I like Billy cuz I like kids.
  5. I will convince Billy to take physics so he can be an engineer.
  6. I will insist that the physics teacher take all that icky math out of physics so Billy won't get bored.
  7. Kids in physics class who like math will succeed anyway.
  8. I'm right because I know kids.

Rags-to-Riches when classroom teacher quits job.

My favorite story is about Michael Greller. He was a middle school math teacher making $55,000 per year before quitting.

I used to teach preschool. I am also certified as an Infant, Toddler and Family Specialist. I also have the credentials to be a director or owner if that's what I wanted to do. I have taught and worked with families of typically developing children as well as special needs children from birth to Kindergarten. I have taught in public and private preschool classrooms. I have had as few as five students and as many as 21 in my care.

I miss teaching. I miss seeing the look on a child's face when the light bulb goes off and he or she makes a connection. I miss the kids and even the parents. Most teachers will tell you there is that one child who sticks with you. I saw this child recently and was brought to tears in the store. I miss it, but I wouldn't go back. Putting the lack of a decent paycheck aside, there are a few main reasons I left teaching.

  1. Teachers in the Pre-K classroom are no longer allowed to teach the children. At least in my state anyway. We can't teach letters, numbers, shapes, colors, counting. We can tell the children such things as, "You have the blue bear," or "You have three wooden blocks." At one time, I was able to focus on a letter, color, number and shape each week. Not anymore. Kids are expected to know certain things for Kindergarten and my Kindergarten teacher friends tell me that since the rules have changed, the kids don't know what they need to know when they start "big school."
  2. Teachers are no longer allowed to use the word, "No." We can no longer tell children "Don't run" or "Don't hit your friends." We must use positive phrases such as, "Walking feet" and "Soft touches." Really? If the state inspector hears you say "no" you get a write up. When these kids grow up, what are they going to do when their first boss tells them no?
  3. I don't want to purchase and wear scrubs to work. This is a personal preference for me. I am only five feet tall. I can't buy just any scrubs. I have to buy special scrubs made for short people. They cost more, are harder to find and I just don't like the way I look in scrubs. I look even shorter and rounder than I really am. Many preschools in my area have made it their policy that teachers must wear scrubs. I wore dress pants, a nice shirt and dress shoes to work.
  4. The last two schools I worked in did admin things I didn't agree with at all. They would move teachers and children around to make the ratios right. Some children would be in a different room each day! They would fudge the numbers on the ratio paperwork to make things look right for state inspections. Sometimes children and teachers would have to switch classrooms several times in one day!
  5. We had to ask permission to use the bathroom! Yep, that's right! I am a grown woman and if I need to use the bathroom I shouldn't have to ask permission! We would have to call to the front office-if we were lucky enough to have a working phone in the room-and ask for a replacement to come let us go. Sometimes it would be a while before anyone would come. On one occasion, I had called for a bathroom break. I repeated my call four times over the course of three hours. After working things out with my co-teacher, she went, then I went. I got caught. I was called in the director's office and got in trouble for going to the bathroom and leaving my co-teacher with twelve children by herself. I messed up the ratio's they had worked to hard to fix! It didn't matter that I had tried for four hours to get someone to come in the classroom. I had reached an emergency situation. I needed the potty!!!
  6. My final straw was when a four year old boy ran up to me on the playground and cussed me out. He had a little stick in his hand and was holding it like a cigarette. He ran up to me, threw a handful of sand in my face (it got in my hair, down my shirt, in my eyes and mouth) and said, "I'm gonna smoke my cigarette. When I'm done, I'm gonna beat your ass you stupid bitch!" Maybe he heard this from his father. Who knows. This kid didn't like me and had already been put out of two other classrooms in our school and out of at least two other preschools in the area. I spoke with the administration and was told there was nothing they could do about it. The mother would get mad and she would start fussing and cussing. Again...Really??? I turned in my resignation letter the next morning.

That was May of 2015. I still miss teaching, but I won't go back to it unless things change drastically. I could open my own school and get around the state mandates, laws and rules by claiming a religious exemption. Then I would have trouble getting kids because of the religion aspect of the curriculum and the fact that the school would not be state inspected every year. So I guess I will keep doing what I'm doing until I'm tired of it and decide to retire or move on to something else.

  1. It is not an 8:00–3:30 job. My hours were more 7:30–5:00 most days.
  2. Tons of extra duties. I had to work ballgame concessions, do late bus duty, and tons of parent nights. (I have a family too)!
  3. Kids are rude and that's ok; parents are rude and that is not ok. I am a professional and trained to teach, not to deal with rude people.
  4. Kids are becoming more challenging. Teachers are expected to entertain, be a therapist, and behavior interventionist.
  5. Its dangerous. Kids who need special behavior intervention are placed in the typical classroom.
  6. The pay stinks. I have student loans and a family. The pay does not compensate the hours and stress.
  7. Teachers are micromanaged, and treated poorly by a system of checks and balances that is not in their favor (evaluations).
  8. Stress, dealing with up to 160 personalities is very consuming. Many children come from terrible backgrounds and a teachers hands are usually tied.
  9. There are no resources. Most counties and states do not allocate enough money to education and therefore needed resources are scarce.
  10. There is no real advancement without moving into administration.

This is just the first ten things that popped into my brain. I really do like teaching, but it is a job. Just like any other job. I actually had a parent tell me we were just there for a paycheck. I really wanted to reply, YES I am. I have a family too!


I will always be a teacher. It is part of my nature.

I retired when they sent "coaches" with little or no teaching experience in to tell me what to teach, exactly how to teach, and when to teach it.

My students' test scores went up every year whether I was given the top students or the ones most likely to fail. As long as they left me alone to do quality education, test scores took care of themselves. But, our school system adopted everyone gets the same and then everyone will score the same practices that involved giving these inexpensive young teachers training in the latest thing somebody had sold the bosses as the new fix for everybody. Then these coaches would come out and tell us what we had to do. If I tried to ask anything deeper than the surface level presentation that had been prepared for them, they couldn't answer because they did not know. But, they were given authority over everything I did and too much of what they were dishing out was bad teaching practice.

In other words, our system decided to run off veteran teachers for less expensive young teachers indoctrinated in teach the test methodologies. I stayed as long as I had the freedom to shut my door and teach. When they started requiring me to do and teach things that I honestly believed were bad for the students, I took my retirement and came home. But, I will always be a teacher.

This is a very tough question to answer. Ultimately, it depends where you are in your life and where you might be located geographically. I did not want to leave teaching but I did have to make the choice to leave for a variety of reasons.

  1. Family: I was a young mother with two young boys. I taught high school English and realize after going to night school, spending 1 year teaching under a master teacher, teaching summer school, and another year at a private school that I was beginning to lose my balance of being with my family and being a dedicated teacher. The first few years as a teacher is very challenging even with all the tremendous help and encouragement from mentors and other fellow teachers. I saw less of my 2yr old and 5 yr old and it was starting to take a toll. I spent time after school every day to be with my students, to prep, to research on new materials, to respond to parents, and to do administrative duties.
  2. Financial: I live in the bay area and I knew that the financial component would be a challenge. However, we decided we wanted to move to a better community for our children and realizing (after I made the leap to be a teacher) that the financial component would not be possible to raise our family in this new community.

There are plenty of other misc. reasons but those were my two primary big "umbrellas" that really pushed me to leave education (at least for now). It is a wonderful vocation to be in and I think had I started earlier in my life (before children), I would have continued down this career path and would have thrived. But considering my personal circumstances, timing did not work out well for me.

I wish you all the best and I urge you to talk to as many teachers as possible from different backgrounds and experiences. It was through my conversations with a variety of people, reading, and listening to my instinct that allowed me to come to this decision.

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