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How to Know If You Should Quit Teaching

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 if you’re seriously considering quitting teaching, you need to weigh this decision carefully. Don’t just get frustrated and walk away because our kids need good teachers.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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? (Looking at you, pandemic!)

    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?
  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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).

  6. 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.

Remember, just because something is hard doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for you. We are often called to difficult things. But, on the other hand, sometimes God uses difficult circumstances to change our hearts in preparation for something new He has for us.

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.

Not SURE WHAt to do if you leave?

Please know that if God calls you away, He will lead you to the next steps. There's a lot more opportunities out there than you think. 

You can start with this FREE ebook Getting Started with a Career Transition written by a former teacher, Daphene, and geared toward teachers who are looking for alternative career options.


If you like the ebook, Daphene's full course How to Leave Teaching may also be a huge help to you. You can find out more about it here. We have not yet reviewed this program in detail, but it looked so helpful we wanted to go ahead & tell you about it. Please use your own discernment in deciding if it is right to you.

need some more encouragement?

And if you think you might stay, join us in Teach Uplifted to renew your passion for teaching by finding joy and peace in Christ.

In this six-week study, you'll discover how to...

    You'll learn simple ways to renew your energy and stay inspired even in the mid-year doldrums.
    You'll discover how to truly trust God in difficult circumstances - and the great peace that comes from allowing Him to carry your burdens instead of trying to figure out everything yourself.
    You'll connect with fellow Christian teachers in a community that exists to encourage & uplift one another. 
    When you're teaching uplifted, full of God's joy, peace, and rest, you will be more effective than ever and a shining light not only to your students but to your colleagues as well.

Find out more about Teach Uplifted here.

Disclaimer: The links for the ebook and the How to Leave Teaching course are an affiliate link. This means that if you decide to enroll after clicking the link, Teach 4 the Heart will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for helping support Teach 4 the Heart in this way.

PIN2 How to Know if You Should Quit Teaching
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Best Classroom Consequence Ideas
  • Love teaching, can’t deal with administration anymore. I am being forced to provide course work that goes against every professional fiber my being. My years of study and passion and expertise account for nothing. I feel like Asimov’s robot being given and order that violates the first order. Because I put students learning and engagement ahead of administrations wishes I am constantly in trouble, and increasingly put under microscopic scrutiny, that sucks any joy I might have for teaching. It has made me constantly angry, sad, stressed, to the point that even during holidays I am feeling it.

    • My heart breaks for you & teachers in your situation. Have you considering switching schools or looking into private or charter schools? It sounds like you’re a great teacher and I know there are schools, administrators, and students who would love to have you.

    • My thoughts exactly! iRobot#1 ….and on the Teacher Scale rating of a 1 – 5….I feel like I am a negative (-5)!!

    • I feel like iRobot #2. When you hear about other administration, you realize it’s about the same everywhere. oh …. and the teacher scale (1 – 5), administration makes me feel like a negative (-5)!!!!

    • I have the exact same situation. This is my 10th year and I’m a school that I thought would be my dream school. Between parents who think they know how to teach and an administrator who has never been in my classroom to see what I actually do but gives me directives on what I’m supposed to do (that read a lot like emails I got from some parents), I am miserable. I’m 3 years into a PhD program in Educational Psychology and have so many wonderful insights into how learning can be improved, but I’m stuck doing direct instruction with students copying notes everyday. I’ve even had students ask about some discovery activities and unfortunately I’m not allowed to do them. I feel targeted because I’m over 60, I feel powerless, and yearn to go back to my old Title 1 school where the kids say f— you to your face, but come back every day eager to learn. –Hopeless in Las Vegas

  • Private schools are no better. I speak from experience. What other profession is dictated by so many who never spend a day in that profession. Agree with I robot. Teaching is being forced to be a business,not a work from the heart and expertise.

    • Hi Debbie – Yes, I know many private schools have the same issues. But the thing about private schools is that each one is private – and thus each one is different. I taught at a private Christian school that put first things first, let us teach, and was there to support us. It was an absolute joy to teach in this school – and I know there are others schools out there like this – even if they are rare finds.

  • Health has been a big issue. It’s has if the energy, .motivation and desire has been drained from me!
    Dr. Has put be on an extended medical leave. The stress has caused my Asthma has gotten worse. Dr. Says gone cand cause the other and vice versa. I had no choice. From I have been told from other people who have shared stories with me
    ..Stress is causing health issues and are recommending they find other jobs!

  • I have been on the fence all year; my students this year are more rude and disrespectful than ever; parents feel that they can decide what grades my students receive, and my administrators agree with them. I am supposed to be a 7th grade ELA instructor, but most of my students are so low that they struggle to determine whether a new vocabulary word is a noun or a verb, and after six weeks of teaching parts of speech and the four sentence types, they are no better at determining parts of speech. I’m exhausted, angry, tired of being angry, and terrified that one day these students might be in charge of something. I used to love teaching because it was so fun when kids learned, but school is no longer about learning; it’s about grades, finishing early, and not putting forth effort.

    • Ouch! I understand what you mean. I have been teaching for 27 years and the decline in respect is most apparent! Hang in there! A couple of things to remember: 1. You were called to this “ministry” and God will never leave you or forsake you. 2. The kids you have will NOT remember one thing you taught them regarding the content, they will only remember the way you treated them and spoke to them. Make your words full of grace.

      If your class is rowdy, try doing a “goNoodle” activity. (gonoodle.com) The kids love it and it makes them move, I do it with my kids-they laugh at me, but that’s life. When they are laughing at me, they aren’t making fun of someone else.

      I believe it was Larry Bell that said, “On your worst day on the job, you are still some child’s best hope!”

  • I have been teaching for over 30 years. I would like to do something else, but I don’t know what else to do. I would like to have more control of my time, so I wish to do some type of entrepreneurship, just can’t think of anything at this time. I am praying for the Lord to give me some idea.

      • Hi Linda,

        I actually found your website from that article on Angela Watson’s website today. I am glad I found her site and now yours. I have a plan for my move from teaching, it will take time but I will be doing it with my daughter and be able to spend time with my grandkids too. I am just ready to do something else. I love teaching but as I get older I want to spend more time with my grandkids while we are all still young. I will be writing children’s books and creating a blog of our own around early childhood education, parenting, breastfeeding, grandparenting, family relationships etc. We are at the very beginning planning stages so I estimate we will get things going this summer. I think I also want to write a book for teachers unlike yours or Angela’s which are both so you inspirational and not thought out yet. (Something for the future)

  • I am a first year teacher. I started as a flex teacher(I only teach 2 hours of the day), where I have constant coaching and a great support from my instructional coach and friends. Yet I am still really doubtful whether this is the profession for me. I see the students that I am working with and although I find most of them to be great individuals, I often don’t feel the care or the love for the students. I am always willing to help students succeed but I don’t feel like I feel the care for nurturing them. I am a really hard worker and I often find it really hard to do the prep work “extra work” or go the “extra mile” for my students. I am not sure if its because I am 22 and working with 7th grade or if its because I don’t have the passion yet for teaching. I feel really unmotivated to keep going. I have always wanted to be a teacher, I did everything in college to go into teaching and somehow it just doesn’t feel right. Everyone tells me the second year is better and that I should wait it out, but I am not sure how to know whether this is the profession for me. I need help or any advice as to how to make the decision to quit for now and maybe return to teaching in a later time in my life, or to continue

    • If you’re a believer, I would encourage you most of all to pray about the decision.
      But honestly, if I’m going to give a general rule, I don’t think anyone should quit teaching after their first year. The first year is just not a good indication of what teaching is really like. Almost any teacher who’s been teaching for awhile looks back at their first year and thinks “wow, that was brutal. How did I survive that?” – even if at the time it seemed normal.

      It very may well be that teaching isn’t for you – but unless you’re sure that’s how God is leading, it would be really hard to know that after one year. You likely just barely kept your head above water and didn’t get to experience much of the rewarding and energizing parts of teaching. You didn’t have time to go the extra mile – or the energy to do so. And that’s totally normal.

      I guess what I’m saying is that if you still feel this way after a second year, then it would be time to really give these questions some serious thought. But if you quit now you’ll never really know whether or not you could’ve loved teaching…

  • As a believer, I have to remind myself that this is a ministry. In a Christian school, you are able to speak freely about Christ but even in a public school you can show the students that you care.
    If you are called by God to be a teacher, don’t quit. 🙂

    • It’s very hard…. I quit and feel guilty. I want to try again in the future at a private school (after COVID)

  • Thank you for your wise words, Linda. I am trying to figure out what I should do regarding my 17 year career as a teacher. When I googled the question, your website was the first one that came up. I started crying when I read that we need to pray about these things. God knows and He will guide us. Thank you. I teach in Canada where the mention of God causes great offense to some. It is so disheartening. I tell myself that my students need to see positive Christian role models – that is one thing that keeps me going. Thank you again. I needed to read your message! God bless.

  • I feel so lost this is my 5th year teaching. My school has a bilingual program my co-teacher and I have to create everything. We us engaged ny but we have a bilingual program I have spent so much money and time within my classroom. I also find it hard do to Spanish portion of the program being my second language, take me more time to establish. My teacher evaluation haven’t been great so far this year. Last year was better. I feel I have no time for myself planning and creating everything from scratch. I cry about this job. I went into teaching because I wanted to make a difference but I feel I am not doing this. When I went into teaching I want to work with students with special needs. I work with a demographic of students that need my help put many of whom just don’t care and even say that their is no point for them do the work. I feel like a failure. My parents say change school but will it make a difference. I teach 4th grade in an inclusion classroom 26 students.

  • I have been teaching for 22 years. I have been beat down by an administrator for 2 years. She has no clue what is developmental appropriate for 4/5 year olds. I have been attacked so much that I have walked away in March. My heart is broken but I have so much peace from God that I know he has a plan for me. It was the right decision but not the easy one. I’m still crying daily. I miss my babies but I have left them in good hands. My replacement is praising God because she needed this. Further proof of God’s will.

  • Love your work, Linda. This was exactly what I was ruminating over … we’re having a term break here in Australia and those ‘should I be teaching?’ prods kepp happening!
    Thanks again

  • I just found this post after googling quitting teaching. I read the post and have even listened to some of your podcasts. You seem like a lovely person. However,I find it ironic that you and others who encourage teachers to stay or create lessons and resources to help teachers are EX-teachers. If the profession is so worth it and we should keep going and keep our chin up then why aren’t YOU still In the classroom? Sure you love helping teachers- no doubt. But really I would rather help teachers than be in the daily grind of it all too. Just a thought- if it’s so great and rewarding – why did you leave? Maybe the answer is in another post?

    • I personally stepped away from teaching when I had a baby & we started our family. I always knew, Lord willing, I’d step away and stay home with our kids when we had them. I loved teaching and often miss it. I also love supporting teachers in this way. Neither is better than the other – they are just different. And for many of us, we will experience seasons of both. I imagine I’ll be back in the classroom in some capacity one day 🙂

  • Hi Linda
    Thank you for this post. I have been a teacher in a Distance Education campus of our Christian College (in Australia) for 12 years and with all the changes in procedures and policies, accountabilities etc, the list goes on, I have been informed today that (in essence), I do not fit into what the future of the department is heading to become – I am not a clinical teacher and have had a very hard time fitting into the many constant deadlines and rigidity.
    I am not looking at quitting teaching, but whether going back into a physical classroom – which is a big difference from my current role. One thing I have not missed is behaviour issues. This is something that would have to overcome, going back into a classroom. I would like to consider staying in the school I am in as my children attend there.
    Have you ever had conversations with teachers who have been away from the classroom for such a long time. What is some advice you can give on this?
    Thank you.
    I have used your website for a couple of years to find inspiration – thank you.

  • I read through the article and I think that it is a hard decision to quit. I work in a high school in the biggest district in the state. My first year teaching a couple of years ago didn’t go perfectly, but my administrator really loved my lessons and was excited for my teaching skills. That compensated for behavioral issues with the students. My contract ended and the number of students registering for my class and I had to search for another school. Everyone has a lot of connections and it was hard to find a job. Eventually I did in September when school already started. I was excited to start teaching higher level classes, but wasn’t good emotionally due to two deaths in my family. I moved on with teaching feeling the burnout with SLO data, observations that I suddenly received low scores on, parent and student complaints, and way too much work for me. I am an extremely hardworking person and I feel like I know my subject well. Yet I have been told numerous times that this school is not a good fit for you, you don’t know how to teach, kids bullying me, writing notes, finding my social media and writing bad things about me, and yet I persevered. Mostly for the money and the stability of actually going to work. The second year now, in January, I want to quit. There are so many teachers quitting in the school, or they have been taken out for leave of absence and no one knows what happened to them, but in the end, my health is important. I am too good for them. I am even considering going in for therapy. I hate teaching, when before even as as kid, I loved teaching. I love my subject. But I teach minimally now. Most of my time is spent on data of student perceptions and how they dislike me because I give them a lot of work. I teach grammar and although we do games, I am not a person who invents a story of an elephant and makes a clown of yourself.
    The administration obviously hates me because there are a lot of failing grades and complaints. Although I completely understand that the achievement gap really exists, I am not a person to give grades as gifts. Kids have to earn grade. I will be completely honest: I have manipulated grades per administration request, change grades to show everyone has a higher grade and passing, and I am still bad. I have lost the heart of a teacher: kid bullying is REAL. I don’t want to go there anymore.

    • I was going to quiet mid year last year. I kept putting it off because I wanted to make it till May. I was suicidal and depressed.
      Then, COVID happened. While a pandemic is not a good thing, the fact that i didn’t physically have to go to school and endure what I did every day made me feel so much better. Two weeks into online teaching, I felt better mentally. I was strong enough to now be able to make it to May and quit the profession without quitting mid year.
      It’s just a job… and now with online teaching being the norm, it’s not my problem anymore.

  • Sorry in advance for the book.
    I think I was called to teaching but I am seeking counsel after reading your article on How to Know if You Should Quit Teaching. I just completed my 5th year teaching, the second at my alma mater school (aka. the school I thought I wanted to end up because I wanted to help build a better art program than I experienced as a student) in a split position teaching 9 different curriculum in 2 levels/buildings, including k-5 elementary, 2 levels of 9-12 adapted art, and 9-12 Intro to Computer Art (most of which I have had to figure out what/how to teach on my own). Before that I taught 3 years at a very differently cultured public jr/sr high school and even though I was greatly appreciated there, my position was furloughed due to district budget cuts.
    My department head and previous art teacher doesn’t want me there because I guess I rubbed her the wrong way as a student. I was not given a mentor when I got here, and have struggled to assimilate because I “expect students to do things that are too difficult”, grade too hard and need to increase engagement while decreasing time spent on procedures (teaching art is totally different than regular class instruction in this area especially). My passion for kids and art and expertise as well as the already large amount of time I spend working outside school hours don’t count for anything -I have even been told that I am inefficient. Because I have struggled to adapt to the expectations of my new position, and have not fully complied with administrators directives despite trying, I have been constantly in trouble, and increasingly put under microscopic scrutiny, and it sucks the joy and creative spark I originally had for teaching here. I’ve been on an improvement plan for a year and a half, but it’s hard to improve and grow when you are depressed, fearful, and constantly questioned/corrected. Enough bad data has been collected to get rid of me because my creative brain is less good at the logistical side of teaching (aka. keeping track of meetings, grades and ever changing schedules), that bad things will likely happen if I don’t turn things around in the near future. Having my first child in the middle of this whole situation has made getting out of it harder and I hate that school sucks so much of my home time and energy away from my family. I have been given the ultimatum, learn and apply faster, find somewhere else that is a better fit, or get the boot.
    I have been through your management course and the 40hr workweek course once when I was at my other school and am working towards earning credits toward my permanent PA license and an online masters degree with The Art of Education University now. I feel like I haven’t had much chance to apply what I have been learning because of the many life transitions that have happened in the past couple years. I am stressed, frustrated, and have been burnt out for a long time, but I want to make a wise decision.
    If I leave to go to a new district now I can start with a clean slate but I will be taking on the large financial burden of 8 graduate courses that I have completed within the past 2 years, and I don’t want to put that kind of stress on my family either. But if I stay and still struggle to meet expectations, I will be let go and that could close the door to teaching for me altogether… Many students have told me they have come to love art because of me and enjoy me as a creative, energetic art teacher. If I stay and do well and get good data on observations, specifically on the areas of timeliness (especially in elementary land), student engagement and procedures, and regular assessment, then things could start looking up. Like I said, much of their data suggests I am a bad teacher (even though I haven’t done anything bad), but I work so hard and have never been a quitter, but I am struggling to fit here, and don’t know when to quit. What would you do?
    Praying for guidance to make the right decision!

    • Your family is so much more important. Your new baby is important – especially during COVID when the baby’s health can be put at risk because you’re surrounded by students all day. Can you stay home and be a stay at home mom for now? Then look for a job at a private school?

  • Today is Tuesday. I resigned on Friday after realizing that I could not be an online teacher. It is frustrating that after 25 1/2 years of teaching I am walking away from my career. I tried to change to a leave of absence as a safety net, but it did not go through. I think God is telling me it is time. I have had more hard years than good years recently. When I started teaching and saw “those done” teachers I used to say when I get to that point it is time to leave. The kids deserve better. Last year, I felt like I was there but I’m only a couple of years from being able to retire. I literally felt like I was a prisoner unable to get out until a certain age. I had thoughts of leaving because I was not able to give it all to these kids, but I really wanted to go to full retirement at this point. As I type this I am feeling better about my decision even though it is extremely scary. I am not yet 50. I have no idea what to do with my life now. Is God using COVID, online teaching, and my lack of technology skills to direct me in a new path? Is God using the lack of my leave of absence safety net as a complete push out of the nest? I have no idea. I really need to learn how to listen to God. I feel like I make mistakes all the time and this might be a very big one. I do not know if this is the path he wants me on or if he wanted me to stay and work through my insecurities in that situation. School started yesterday without me. They are now telling me since the leave did not go through, I can rescind the resignation and report back to work. Is this God telling me to go back or is this a test of faith and going back would not be trusting God’s new direction for my life? I do not have a desire to go back except for the financial and medical insurance security. I have to believe those are worldly things and not what God would be pushing on me. Thank you for listening and helping me try to figure it out.

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