How to Know If You Should Quit Teaching
Just ten more feet. Hold yourself together for ten more feet.
You’re rushing to your car as fast as your wobbly knees can take you. It’s been a bad day. And not a typical this-wasn’t-the-best day but an honest truly B-A-D day that has you ready to burst into tears.
Which is why you’re practically running towards the safe haven of your car. Your eyes are burning and those tears are coming. But if you can just make it ten more feet, at least you won’t have the added embarrassment of your students (or, worse, their parents) seeing you fall apart.
And as you finally, mercifully fall into your car and hide yourself behind the tinted windows, the floodgates open and you feel the warm tears streaming down your cheeks.
But as the tears assail you – and you try desperately to forget that horrible conversation you just endured, a disturbing question inches its way into your mind:
Am I cut out to be a teacher after all?
Maybe teaching just isn’t for me. Maybe I should quit and find something else.
Quitting teaching. The thought runs through all of our minds on our worst days. The day-to-day grind, particularly difficult students (or parents), and the challenge of managing a classroom combine to make us wonder what on earth we’ve gotten ourselves into. Not to mention frustrations with the system, unreasonable expectations, and policies that tie our hands.
But while my first tendency is to write you a note of encouragement telling you why you should remain a teacher, this may not be what you need either. Because maybe teaching isn’t your true calling at this point in your life. In which case, to remain a teacher would be detrimental to both you and your students.
So how do you know? What do you do?
I can’t give you all the answers. But I can tell you to sit down and seriously consider a few key questions.
Questions to Ask When You Are Considering Quitting Teaching
- Why do you want to quit? Examine your heart and your frustrations. What are the main reasons you are considering quitting? If there are a lot of them, narrow it down to the top three. Identifying the real reasons you want quit will help clarify your decision.
- What can you do about the reasons you want to quit? Think about the reasons you want to quit. Are they temporary problems that will likely resolve themselves next year? (If it’s your first year teaching, I can tell you right now that next year should be easier.)
Can they be solved by seeking advice or by getting additional training? Would things be vastly different if you taught at a different school (or even a different type of school)? If you had a little less work and a little more time to rest, would that make a significant difference?
Sometimes the solutions are not obvious, but you can often find a creative solution if it’s important enough to you. And I’m guessing there are quite a few administrators or veteran teachers who would be willing to sit down and help you figure it out if it meant the difference between your staying or going.
Think through all your options of how you can make things better. It’s likely you can improve your situation and get back to the point where teaching is enjoyable again. But if you’re struggling with issues that are not going to change regardless of what you do, then that has to factor into your decision.
**Are you struggling with any of these common challenges?
- Classroom management: Grab my free classroom management minicourse or my full classroom management training.
- Work/life balance: Check out the free Teaching with Balance video training or Angela Watson’s amazing 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club.
- Discouragement, worry, & stress: Take our free 3-day Renew Your Joy Challenge or join our next session of Teach Uplifted.
- Why are you a teacher? Think back to when you first started teaching. Why did you decide to be a teacher? What about now – why are you teaching now? What is your mission? Your purpose?
- What does why you’re a teacher tell you about if you should remain a teacher? If you, at one point, felt a strong calling and mission as a teacher, ask yourself if anything has changed. Do you still have that calling? Is there more for you to do?
If you’re not sure why you’re a teacher, why is that? Is there something else you do feel called to? Or have you just never given it enough thought?
- What are wise counselors saying? Do not make this decision on your own. Discuss it with wise counselors – people you trust who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. If you’re seriously considering leaving teaching, find those trusted advisers and start seeking their advice. In the multitude of counselors, there is safety (Prov. 11:14).
- What is God saying? The most important question is what does God want you to do? He has a plan for your life, and He will give you clear direction if you ask and are patient in listening. No one else knows the future, understands your deepest desires and most intimate thoughts, and knows exactly what you and your students need.
His ways are always best, and He will never lead you astray. So spend some serious time in prayer, and don’t make a final decision until you’re confident of His leading.
Not sure how you can hear from God in these matters? Consider joining us in our next session of Teach Uplifted, where we face these challenges head-on and find the secrets to truly trusting Him not only to guide us but also to help us in all areas of life.
And if you don’t have a relationship with God, you’re missing out your greatest source of guidance, strength, joy, and purpose. Find out more about having a relationship with God here.
As you wrestle with these questions, the situation should clarify, and in time you’ll be ready to either confidently step away from teaching or jump back in with both feet.
Feet that hopefully won’t have to make too many more mad dashes back to your car.
But if they do, that’s okay too. Because the mad dashes and the tears and the agonizing questions are all part of the journey. And they don’t have to destroy you. In fact, God can use them to make you stronger.