5 Things I Learned From Quitting Teaching

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What did I learn from quitting my teaching job?

There’s a great sense of pride among those who teach, particularly those that have just a few years under their belt. They’ve made the bold move to become a teacher, perhaps having to justify their decision to friends and family, and that’s why it can be gut-wrenching to admit to yourself that you are considering quitting teaching. I know this because I did just that.

Two schools and seven years into teaching I decided to walk away from the profession and try something new. Here are some of the lessons that I learned from that experience.

1. You Are Wanted

Teachers are extremely employable. With the unique skill-set that you bring to an employer perhaps a different career is what you have been seeking all along. I transitioned into a career in the recruitment industry and I was able to hit the ground running.

2. You Can Still Pick and Choose

What if you could still do all the things you loved, without the things that you hated? Teachers are a unique breed and we care about others. It’s the job that gives us ‘the feels’ and you can still get the ‘warm and fuzzies’ from seeking out opportunities in your spare time.

While in recruitment I still coached basketball to teenagers within my community. This enabled me to get the emotional reward that was lacking in my new career. Irrespective of your new direction you are still able to volunteer, serve as a mentor or work as a tutor in your spare time.

3. You Are A Sum of Your Experiences

A year into my career change it became evident that I missed teaching. Taking a break from the politics, the workload, and even a break from pupils allowed me to recharge my batteries. I also learned a whole new set of skills.

Despite then taking steps towards returning to teaching I don’t regret spending time as a recruitment consultant. It allowed me to see a world other than that of education, I was able to meet and talk with leaders of industry and experience a world that up until that point I had rarely seen let alone understood. Some of the skills that I learned as a consultant has been very useful in later life.

4. You Had the Job That People Envied

Meeting my old schoolmates after I had left teaching proved to be eye-opening. They seemed disappointed that I had walked away from something that I was good at, and something that they valued. Many of my school friends had gone to work in ‘The City’, earning salaries to which I could never aspire, buying houses of which I was envious and holidaying in places I had only seen on TV.

Many of my friends would love to be teachers and yet, they all voiced a sense of envy that as a teacher I was making real change. I was doing something noble, working in a field that was emotionally rewarding. Once I had left teaching they all said that if they could do it all again they would have considered teaching as a career option.

5. You Will Be Welcomed Back

With teacher shortages at an all-time high and 47,000 more teachers needed in 2025, there will always be a place for you at a school. Perhaps you needed a change of setting with a better approach to wellbeing? An estimated 15,000 teachers go overseas each year to teach and all of my friends who have done so have had a positive experience. For me, I returned to teaching in a private school in London. This school is a good fit for me and I’m surrounded by friends and family too.

Having returned to teaching after a two-year hiatus I am now teaching in my sixth school and am in my 23rd year of teaching. The two-year break allowed me to recharge, refocus and renew my passion for teaching, returning to the classroom with the energy of an NQT but with the wisdom and strategies of a teacher with seven years experience.

Teaching is all about relationships and the most important of those is with yourself. If you are struggling with the workload, not sleeping or are too busy to find time for friends and family, then something has got to give. Speak to those who know you best but ultimately the decision lies with you.

Taking a two-year break was right for me at that time in my life. It proved to be a rewarding experience and one that I wouldn’t change. I’m now back where I am meant to be, doing a job that I love, and teaching with vigour and enthusiasm.

Andy Milne

Andy teaches Health Education and PE in the US, in a school with 4000 students aged 15-18 over 2 campuses. He previously worked in the UK as a PE teacher but dropped out of teaching when he became jaded by education. He worked in recruitment for 2 years, however he quickly realised that money wasn't the most important thing to life - and that he missed kids and teaching! He returned to work at Dulwich College before moving to the US to teach.

5 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned From Quitting Teaching

  • 14th January 2019 at 5:42 pm
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    Since writing this article I’ve been reflecting on my successes as a teacher and how they wouldn’t have occurred had I not returned to the profession. Not mentioned in the article, but one of my proudest moments as a teacher was being named SHAPE America’s National Health Teacher of the Year. It justified my move to America and was reward for the difficulties I endured in making the transition to the states.

    Reply
  • 16th January 2019 at 11:24 pm
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    Dear Andy,

    It was interesting to read your unique story on returning to teaching, I have a few questions that I hope you can answer:

    What was the process in returning to teaching?
    What questions were asked of you before you were recruited again?
    What expectations does the school have of you after a long layoff?
    What advice would you give a teacher that is returning to education?
    Would you recommend that all teachers take a break away from the profession at some point?

    Whoever is reading this please feel free to answer and comment with your experiences also.

    Kind regards,

    Ilias Ramli

    Reply
    • 17th January 2019 at 1:57 pm
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      Hi Ilias,

      My return was fairly smooth. I had taught for 7 years and had built up a network of teacher friends. I let it be known that I was looking to return and a school reached out to me as they knew my skill set.
      Although my new employer did mention my 2 year hiatus, it was seen as a strength, not a weakness, In a sense, I was choosing to return to teaching, and I was motivated. It DID help that my employer valued my experience – not all schools are prepared to think outside of the box.
      If you are returning to education after a break, make sure that you are up to date with the latest changes – the initiatives may have changed or rebranded. Be prepared to explain your time away from teaching and share how it can help your teaching and benefit your students.
      I benefited from the break. I returned fully charged, but I appreciate that I was lucky. I am a fan of sabbaticals and have worked in schools that have offered them.

      Andy

      Reply
  • 25th January 2019 at 12:56 pm
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    Hi Andy,

    Thank you for this. I feel like you hit the nail on the head! I’m currently an Assistant Principal in an Inner London Academy frustrated by the impact of the retention crisis on our students. In response, I set up Return to Teach. We match experienced teachers with schools that can offer flexible working. We hope to raise attainment for students through keeping more experienced subject specialists in the classroom [website link] would be interested to hear the differences between teaching here and in the states.

    Reply
  • Pingback:Podcast 38: Why Can Quitting Make You A Better Teacher? | TeacherToolkit

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