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Giving Up?

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I love teaching. I’m so glad it’s my profession. Although I work crazy hours and spend lots of time and money on my classes and students, I don’t think I’d want another job. I love this stuff. I love students. I love talking to students and working with them. And I get paid to make silly putty and blow things up.

And a huge thanks to the MTBoS, especially Justin Aion and Mr. Dardy and Triangleman and Casey Rutherford and approx_normal and mathtans and jreulbach, none of whom I’ve met in person, but feel some sort of connection to, or they’ve helped out in some way or offered a good snarky comment somewhere. They’ve all posted something in a blog or a good, thoughtful Twitter thread (or 2 or 3 or 73) that I’ve really appreciated through this year.

But this year has been hard on me.

There’s a bunch of reasons, but it comes down to working and the process of re-licensing and general maintenance of files and curricula and labs, (oh yeah, and seeing my family occasionally), plus an (increasingly) large dose of administrative-related frustration, took a big mental toll this year. And, for some reason, it feels especially thankless this year. And I know that many (all?) teachers also deal with this, and can work through it. But right now, I can’t.

Maybe I just need to do more knitting (hear that, carpal tunnel?):

And through all of this work, I also applied for new jobs. And got a few interviews, but nothing panned out. Did my resume not make it through the stack? Do I interview really poorly? Maybe I can find something over the summer. Does my level of education make me too expensive? Do I not have the right experience? Am I a terrible teacher but think I’m doing okay??

I have no intention of saying goodbye to teaching forever. But I am feeling a need for a hiatus. And at the same time, I feel like I’m giving up, deserting my post. I mean, I have an obligation to my students, don’t I?

But is there more obligation to my students or to myself?

I’m fortunate to have a very supportive husband (probably my biggest fan… *sniff*!), who’s talking me through this. Maybe I could take a year off of actual teaching, in order to beef up my credentials, and/or relearn calculus, and/or change my curricula (which I want to do anyway), and/or go to conferences and trainings. And then, I have to hope that I can get back into teaching next year.

I haven’t made a final decision on staying or going (still 1.5 weeks of school left). But I’m not sure I can stay anymore. I’m feeling awfully negative about my current situation, and that’s not fair to my next-year’s students.

I feel stuck, and I don’t know how to get out, other than to just exit.

7 responses »

  1. Let me first say that you’re not alone. For whatever reason, this year kicked my ass, and I have ALREADY put in for some leave – albeit not next year. Up in Ontario we’ve got this system that allows us to take an “X/Y”, for instance a “2 over 3” means you get 2 years of pay over 3 years (66% of salary per year) meaning you can take that third year off (so long as you’re not employed anywhere else). I have no idea if there’s a comparable system near you (or anywhere outside of Ontario) but maybe it’s something you can implement yourself if they let you take a year and return to the same school.

    As far as interviews go, there’s nothing wrong with making a follow-up call to ask for feedback. Ask what they liked that you should be sure to mention again, or what more you might want to include in the future. (I’m not saying I would do this, because I hate phones, but I suspect it can help you stand out if another job availability comes up later.) Related, from what I see, you’re not a terrible teacher. It’s even strangely reassuring to have you wonder that, as I have questioned this a lot of myself lately as I see everyone else doing dynamic group work. (So… thank you for being unsure of yourself too? Somehow that scans wrong.)

    Finally, with respect to “obligation”, I’d say the obligation to yourself needs to come first. If you’re always offering drinks to others and never drinking yourself, you’ll dehydrate. You need to replenish yourself too. And not with alcohol because you’ll dehydrate faster. This metaphor is getting away from me. My point is, do consider being fair to next years students — but don’t forget either that they ARE next year’s, and maybe those challenges won’t be as large. Or then again, maybe the challenge of new math credentials would be a better fit.

    I’m know I’m not really helping to “unstick” you here, but I’m not sure anyone can do that other than you – so there was my opinion on things. When all else fails, a PROs/CONs list might help with analysis. Also, neat video! I can see how it would leave a person in stitches.

    • That 2/3 thing sounds very interesting. I work at a small private school, and there’s nothing along those lines.

      This year’s kids were actually just great. I had one of my better classes, and most of my individual kids are also good. It’s the non-kid factors (especially admin) that are just overwhelming at the moment, which is why I also know they’re not going away. I need out of my current position, and I’d rather go teach somewhere else, but apparently that hasn’t been the cards/interviews. Also, three other science teachers are leaving (one retiring, two going elsewhere).

      There is a strange camaraderie is seeing other people with similar problems, isn’t there? It’s nice to not be the only one.

      Stitches. Really?

      Thank you.

  2. The metaphor about ‘obligation’ that has been most meaningful to me is to think about airline safety procedures. When you get the spiel about emergencies and airbags dropping you are always told to put your on before helping elderly, children, etc. This is because you cannot be helpful if you are in danger yourself. Clearly, we are not talking about YOU ring in danger, but your passion and energy might be. Make sure you are charged (positively!) and ready to go when you do go again. This fall, fall 2015, who knows when but you clearly have SO much to offer. Find the right place (and maybe it’s where you are already at, who knows) and remind yourself why you’ve been willing to spend so much time and energy at this career. I needed a one year break and immersed myself in a grad program. It made all the difference.

    • Thanks.

      It’s hard to think about not working next year. But yes, I do need something else. I’ve done grad school (twice!), and know that I’m already un-affordable for some places, so unless I get a doctorate (which, I dunno if I’m interested in), I’m not sure what it would get me, other than intellectual stimulation, new connections, energized people… wait.. hmm….

  3. This speaks to the heart of me. With all of the amazing things that I think I may have done this year, something tears at the very core of my being that tells me that I need to be doing something else.

    I will never be one to try to talk someone out of leaving teaching because I know how completely insane this is and can make someone. I have had many days where I left so angry that I was shaking, as well as days that I’ve sat in my car and cried in frustration. My first month in my current position, I can count on 1 hand the number of times that I didn’t cry.

    With that said, there have been tons of days that have been rewarding and I have met some amazing people, teachers, students, parents and administrators.

    With all of the growth that I’ve had this year, with all of the amazing people I’ve met and the amazing opportunities that have opened up for me, I, too, am considering quitting.

    I don’t know if it’s my district, my school, my students, or my inability to do this job the way I want that is causing my burnout, but it’s happening.

    Before Twitter and the MTBoS, I had planned this to be my last year. I was going to bring books, give busy work and kick my feet up on the desk while I applied for non-education jobs. The only reason why I stayed in teaching this year was to get my loan forgiveness. Now that’s been applied for and I’m not beholden to teach where I do.

    As much as I’ve done this year, as much as I have enjoyed it SO much more than in previous years, it’s not enough. A few years ago, a coworker said that she loves working in this district because she knows that there is so much good she can do.

    My response at the time was “I don’t want to ‘do good.’ I want to enjoy what I do.”

    I have enjoyed my geometry class an incredible amount. They have made it worth coming to school and without them, I would have burned out in October, like I did in previous years. I’m honestly surprised that I lasted this long. I owe that longevity entirely to the teachers and administrators that I’ve met online.

    Sadly, I’m back to the crying, to the anger, to the feigned indifference as a defense mechanism. I may feel differently once summer arrives and I’ve had some distance from the year and time to adequately reflect, but for now, I can’t help but feeling as though I have failed my pre-algebra students in a monumental way.

    Failed them in a way that I don’t know how to correct and leads me again to the conclusion that perhaps this profession is not the one for me.

    I love teaching. I love watching students discover things that they didn’t understand and formulate their own questions that will take them deeper into a subject matter.

    But after a year and without seeing any progress with the most needy of children, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion. Perhaps, after years of honing my practice and discussions with other educators, networking and collaborating, I might be able to get where I want to be. But I am not a patient man and I don’t have the energy to wait that long.

    So the fact remains: If I don’t find a job at a different school in the next year or two, I will have to leave teaching. I have to know if the reason that I’m failing is because I’m not in an environment in which I can thrive, or because I haven’t reached a balance yet, or because teaching is not what I should be doing.

    I don’t have an answer for you except that you have to go where your heart leads you. If that is out of teaching, many students will be worse off, but you have to look out for you.

    I will always be here if you wish to talk.

    Thank you for allowing me to use your comments section to work some things out.

    • Yes. Thank you.

      As a faithful reader of your blog, I’ve been there with you this year. My frustrations had a very different source, but on a day-to-day basis, I’ve been in that boat with you since September (no, October? MTBoS started then, right? Well, I read the backlog, too.)

      I don’t want you to leave teaching. You’re passionate, love your subject, care about kids, and secretly want to do some good. And it’s so hard when stuff gets in the way of one of those things happening. Different buildings can make a world of difference (good and bad).

      You’re welcome to work stuff out in the comments anytime!

  4. Pingback: Thanks, and Out | wwndtd

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