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.