I Quit My Job Today

I quit my teaching job today

Throughout my life I have done everything that I felt was expected of me. I worked hard in school, achieved good grades in my GCSE’s and A Levels, went to a respected music conservatoire and then was lucky enough to find myself in a full-time job as a Learning Mentor almost immediately after graduating. Within a year, I was offered an opportunity to train as a teacher, and I’ve worked as a qualified music teacher for nearly ten years. I’ve always played it safe, followed the expected path, and never taken any risks. I can say that I’m happy to an extent, but not as much as I know I could be.

At the beginning of 2015 I made one promise to myself: if things were going to change, it had to be now – I was going to take the risk.

For some, teaching is a vocation. It isn’t mine. I’m a good teacher. In fact, according to my last three years worth of lesson observations, I’m an outstanding teacher, but I never set out to join this profession – my personal circumstances and being in the right place at the right time meant that I fell into the role rather than actively working towards it as a career choice.

I’ve been lucky to spend the last three years in an outstanding academy, with an excellent and well-respected principal, a great management team and a lovely faculty. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with thousands of teenagers, most of whom are wonderful and who I have always had excellent working relationships with, and I feel like I’ve done it all. I’ve attended every parents evening, open evening, celebration evening and awards evening and I’ve hosted or participated in hundreds of concerts. I’ve supervised the day trips, evening performances, week-long UK based residentials and visits to France and America. I’ve played the role of teacher, parent, therapist, doctor, personal banker and seamstress to my students. I’ve laughed with them, cried because of them and mourned the few that I’ve lost. I’ve returned home at the end of a day on a huge high after brilliant lessons, and had endless sleepless nights after bad ones. During times when heavy deadlines have been looming, insomnia and I have become good friends.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that total career satisfaction is unattainable for most; some days will be good, some days will be bad and others will make you question every career choice you have ever made whilst glugging on a bottle of wine and crying on the cat, but I’ve always presumed that as long as the good outweighs the bad then you’re generally doing the right thing.

The good has not outweighed the bad for a long time. Today, I took the risk.

Today, I quit the teaching profession…

Despite the amazing opportunities I have been offered from my headteacher and support I have received from some of my colleagues over the years, I genuinely can’t remember the last point where I had a consistently positive period of time in teaching. To put it quite simply, I can’t cope with the pressure, and it’s making me ill.

In an ideal world, a teacher’s role is to teach, to support and to guide their students. It is our job to offer advice, to ensure progress is made, to make learning interesting, to inspire and to listen to their needs.

Unfortunately, in the real world, I’ve found that many teachers work far harder than lots of their students. Modern day teaching, even for those that are employed in effective schools, is not about fostering and encouraging a love of learning and a passion for a subject, it is about getting students to pass an exam or a course using criteria that is set by an exam board whilst being bombarded by data and outcomes, none of which the students will be held accountable for if they fail. It has now become a teacher’s job to almost do the work for the lazier kids because they’re scared of how the results will look. The kids know this too – I was even once told ‘you’re not allowed to fail me‘ by a smug student when I informed him that his grades weren’t good enough – and one of my biggest worries for them in their future lives is that when they do fail for the first time, it will be at a much higher cost and there won’t be an adult to step in and make everything better. Our lessons and the ability to do our jobs effectively are decided based upon a twenty minute observation and the data that demonstrates our students progress, our wages now depend on it, and I have seen accomplished and respected members of staff reduced to tears at the mere mention of OFSTED.

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The pressure of the job has intensified every single year that I have been in the profession, and eventually it started to take a toll on my health. A year ago I was hospitalised with a severe kidney infection and a virus for nearly a week, followed by a further five weeks off in order to recover. This was caused because I ignored a urinary tract infection, mainly because of how busy I was. I can’t and don’t blame the school for this, but it is a common part of the job that members of staff within a school environment will work through illnesses because of the workload and worries about the detrimental impact that time off will have on their students.

My school and colleagues were very supportive and I returned in reasonable physical health, but that didn’t change the fact that the workload was there, and mentally I was sinking. I missed deadlines left and right. I had so much to remember that I forgot everything. However, what I found to be most frustrating were the pressures put on me with the older students and the achievement of their target grades, pressures that were not set by the school, but by government based targets. I started to feel constantly anxious and suffered from minor panic attacks, something that I had never experienced before. My mindset changed. I found it increasingly difficult to tolerate the laziness and apathy that some of my students demonstrated on a daily basis. I bent over backwards and exhausted myself hosting further coursework catch up sessions almost every night after school, repeatedly remarked coursework that was substandard due to the fact that some of my students didn’t bother to listen in the lessons and as it got closer to exams I became a verbal punching bag for stressed out teenagers. I rang parents, got other members of staff involved, praised, sanctioned and gave up a lot of my personal time to drag them (often kicking and screaming) to the finish line. Worse still, I started to take it personally and really dislike some of my students attitudes, particularly when they threw my hard work and support back in my face during their moments of stress. This is a common problem throughout the British education system, and is one of the biggest issues that all of my teacher friends have experienced in their careers. I remember that one friend in particular remarked that one of her most difficult classes was more focused on crowd control, not teaching.

At Christmas I realised that I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I had no idea what I was going to do instead, only that I knew that this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my working life. Perhaps I am looking at life through rose-tinted spectacles, but I believe that happiness is more important than most things, and I was desperately unhappy. I was doing myself, and the students, a huge disservice.

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I discussed it with The Bloke. We’re not married, we don’t have children or a mortgage and my only financial responsibilities are for my half of the rent and bills, the cat’s medication and vet treatments and a small loan I took out a few years ago. We’re not rich, but I have enough in savings to cover everything for a few months. At the age of 33, if I was going to do anything, it was now, and while I could see that he was (and still is) nervous about it, he has been steadfast in his support. Having witnessed what I’ve been through in the last few years, he wants me to be happy, and I’m grateful.

I am going to work until the end of the academic year, which is July and then that’s it, giving me about six months to find another job. No more data analysis and unrealistic targets, no more reports, no more relying on the performance of demotivated teenagers to prove that I am good at my job. However, I’m going to miss the school, my wonderful colleagues and most of those fantastic cherubs that I have been privileged to work with over the years. Taking such a huge risk is terrifying, but not nearly as terrifying as the thought of having to do another year in a job that could potentially destroy me both physically and mentally. I need to be happy. I’m walking away from a secure ten year career with an excellent salary, a brilliant boss and a strong pension, without another job to go to yet…

… and I couldn’t be more excited!

What about you guys? Have you ever taken a huge risk?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

414 thoughts on “I Quit My Job Today

  1. Pingback: Links to Love - Dimes and Donuts

  2. I did the same thing!!!
    I was an elementary music teacher for 10 years in both public and private schools in the United States. Over the years, I’ve taught students from all demographics in a wide range of situations, from schools so overcrowded that I had to teach outside to private schools with less than ten students per class. I loved teaching music to young students so much that I bought my own set of Orff instruments, paid for my own professional development, and kept a go-to cart in the trunk of my car for teaching outside as I often lost my classroom to other events in many of the schools I worked in.
    Unfortunately, the emphasis on testing has taken its toll across the Atlantic as well. In my last position, I began to lose my classroom yet again, usually without warning, for odd events (i.e. a man in a dog costume singing about tooth-brushing). I started getting sick to my stomach and stopped sleeping. Two different doctors finally decided that I had to take time off, so I took the minimum: two weeks. During the latter half of the first week, I stopped getting sick to my stomach. During the second week, I started sleeping again. Then I went back, and it was as if I had never left.
    I liked my colleagues, and I LOVED the kids in that school. I had a good relationship with almost everyone, from the bus drivers to the cafeteria staff to the HR department. But I quite literally could not stomach losing my classroom for the tenth year in a row, and I no longer handle not knowing what type of teaching situation I’d have to face every day.
    After my two-week hiatus, I spoke with the head of school. I offered to stay through the remainder of the year, but he let me out of my contract at the end of March.
    I’m trying to figure out what to do. I have the same book by Richard Boles, but it’s the 2005 version. I’ve spoken to a career counselor, and I’m trying to update my resume for a non-teaching job. It’s a very hard road, but it’s still easier than the one I was on!
    May I ask how you are doing two months into your job search?
    All the best from New Jersey,
    Sandra

    • Thanks so much Sandra – your comment was really interesting and it has made me realise that I’m not alone… Congrats for taking such a big step and ai wish you all the best. Please keep me updated and let me know how you’re getting on! I’m working on developing a freelance career at the minute and have made a good start on that…

  3. Very brave decision and good luck with finding a new career path. I would like a change in career but I’m not really sure where to start!

  4. Pingback: Link: more about British education | Notes from the U.K.

  5. I admire your courage financially speaking and that you are leaving a situation that is slowly killing you. My wife teaches college online and has had the same experiences with lazy students that are basically losers. She will be done soon.

  6. The educational systems everywhere are under pressure to do more with less and that trickles down to teachers and even administrators in the neighborhood schools. I don’t blame you for the decision you made. Your health is a valuable thing and you should keep it as long as you can. Maybe one day you can return to the classroom under better circumstances.

  7. Congratulations for being brave. I, too, was a teacher; unlike you it was my vocation. I believed in student-centred teaching, and had happy, motivated students who got excellent results. After 13 years, I found my professionalism belittled by a ludicrous national curriculum which kept changing, the imposition of meaningless tests, and a management that bullied because it was itself bullied by powers above them. At first I laughed with my colleagues over the incompetence of the government department; then I was angry and tried to organise boycotts of the non-standardised tests which meant entering students for exams that put a lid on their possible attainment before they’d written a word. Finally I developed clinical depression and was retired with ill health at the age of 35.

    It’s right to get out. Since then, I’ve worked with others to establish a community arts centre in our local town (it lasted 10 years!), retrained as a garden designer and now focus on my own garden and writing. I’m 58, so the messing around with the English education system has been going a long long time. I don’t regret leaving teaching though I deeply regret what politicians have done to English schools.

    I wish you every happiness in your new life.

    • I’m so sorry for the late response, thanks so much for your comment! Your story is so similar to many of my teacher friends that have been in the profession for a long time and Im so sorry you had to go through that! It sounds like you’ve done some really interesting things – what was your favourite?

  8. Sorry I didn’t read this first. Wow. You’re very brave. I hope and pray that it all works out for you. Maybe you’ll find something you love get paid really well to do it. 🙂 Best of luck to you.

  9. I quit teaching school with only a term away from graduation. I knew that if I had graduated, I could never endure teaching. Right after dropping out, I pursued my dream of being in the fashion industry which had led me to various exciting experiences I never would have experienced if I graduated and became a teacher. So, best of luck to all your endeavors!

  10. Dear Suzie81,

    You capture what I feel but am too tired to write. Well done. Many in the antipodes feel the same.

    I too will leave teaching at the end of 2015, if I can make it through the rest of the year (it seems to get even harder to hang in there once you’ve decided to quit. Do you feel the same?).

    I have taught English for 12 years and am worn out from trying to teach and inspire students who are not interested, parents who hold you accountable and management, politicians and the public who are looking to point the finger of blame, new curricula, etc.

    It’s a shame there are so many kids whose lives on which I believe (from their letters leaving school – or contact since finishing high school) I’ve impacted positively in so many more ways (some even academically!). For some reason this fact has not adequately counterbalanced the pressure and exhaustion I can no longer endure.

    Like you, I must quit for my physical and mental health. I’m heading back to uni, paid for by some tutoring, casual teaching (babysitting) and labouring work in the building industry.

    I wish you all the best for 2016.
    David (Australia)

    • Thank you so much David. I’m so sorry you’ve had to experience that – it’s a brave decision to go and change your whole career but your mental and physical health is so much more important. What are you going to be doing at uni?

  11. Thank you for your response, Suzie. I’m currently doing a fourth year in psychology (have been studying part-time for the last few years while teaching – which hasn’t helped, really – because it’s been another demand on time). 2016 might be a masters in psych or maybe even an electrician’s apprenticeship… I might have had enough of the people professions.

    Perhaps it would be good to do a job where manipulating the laws of nature led to predictable outcomes?

    What are you planning to do next year?
    David

  12. Good on you. You write well so that will suit you and your readers.

    As for not being bothered: the relief from not experiencing the daily dread of teaching is reward enough!

  13. Hi suzie81, you story resonates with so many, including me. As you can see, I am not a risk taker. I am a good bit older than you are and have been teaching now for 25+ yrs. I am moving into a senior leadership role next year(after a long wait, I live 8 minutes from work (by car). NO that I ve reached the position I m about to embrace, I feel totally deflated. 15 years of teaching in England has left me ‘heartless’. My heart is no longer in the job for the very reasons you list above. 8 years ago I was signed off work with stress and depression for a term and a half. On going back into the teaching environment, it took about 3 days to be thrust once again into the abyss of deadlines, meetings etc, etc. A never ending treadmill of demands.
    I’m hoping that next year I will enjoy working in my new position and that I will gain job satisfaction from my new responsibilities. Our school is currently waiting for applications for two posts……to no avail. People are wising up to the fact that teaching is not only about the teaching, but a plethora of additional baggage that gets real heavy after a while.
    Congrats on making this difficult decision. I wish you only the best of luck.

  14. Suzie, I could really realise to your post. Not as a teacher but as a parent struggling to get my own kids motivated, even though they are bright and one at least is gifted. Our daughter pulled off a Distinction in the UNiversity of NSW Science tests, placing her in the top 8% in the country. But the two of them only ever do anything kicking and screaming and it is so demoralising. Unlike yo, I can’t get out. Fortunately, they do behave for my husband so I try to get things moving when he’s home.
    When my health was on the downward spiral 20 years ago, I resigned under pressure from my stressful marketing job in Sydney and moved to Perth. Finding work there was much more difficult because much of middle management is done in Sydney or Melbourne. I had a chat with a recruitment consultant and she told me to use my contacts where I’d been to get established. That adage who you know and not what you know has proven true for me. I have done extensive networking in my career and that pays of. Find some industry associations and get your foot in the door. A friend of mine has done a freelancing course and she said it made a huge difference. She does technical style writing and is always busy.
    By the way, in terms o managing stress, I wrote a list of tips for helping kids destress which are just as good for adults. https://wordpress.com/post/35828219/7817/
    All the best with the transition and hang in there because you have so much to offer and it won’t take long for you to shine. xx Rowena

    • I totally agree with the ‘who you know’ thing – I’ve been lucky to use some contacts to start building up some work in September which has taken off the pressure a little bit. It’s always such a scary decision to make and I decided that it’s now or never… Do something about it or put up and shut up. Thanks so much for the link, I’ll check it out!

      • Suzie, it sounds like to me that you were pushed to the wall where you could either change directions or get very ill both physically and mentally and good on you for having the courage to jump ship. From what you’ve said, jumping into the unknown is a much better choice that\n staying where you were. Perhaps, the only choice. Knowing that can give you strength and fuel your courage, even if the going gets tough. I don’t know if you have ever heard the Irish Blessing but it is beautiful and goes something like “May the road rise up to greet you and may he hold you in the palm of his hand.” You might need to Google the correct words. All the best xx Rowena

  15. Snap! I did the same. I’ve resigned after 13 years of teaching in a primary school. I decided over Christmas I couldn’t do it any more. Life is too short! I’ve been planning my departure for a while – I’ve aquired 3 student houses to try to supplement my income since 2009. I knew back then a time would come when I couldn’t carry on teaching. So from September 2015 I plan to do supply teaching. 15 days to go until the summer holidays! I can’t wait!

    • That’s brilliant! Really pleased for you – it’s great that you’ve been able to plan for it and supplement your income too. I totally agree, life is too short! Keep me posted!

  16. I really do not blame you. Something needs to be done about the teaching profession. There just seem to be more expectations every day without any plans to actually help teachers do these things. My Mum was a teacher for about 20 years. I remember her regularly working until late at night. Now I work in a nursery. I’ve considered moving to teaching but already my workload is too much for the time I have (I don’t bring work home but will often come in early or work over my lunch break), I’m not sure if I want it to be worse than this.

    Good luck, and well done 🙂

    • Thanks Lucy – please forgive my late reply! There are so many positive things about being a teacher, so if that is something you want to do then please don’t let articles like this put you off – these were my personal experiences… I agree that something has to be done, but I’m almost afraid to say that the situation has become so bad that I’m not sure where someone would start! All the best in your future career!

      • That’s ok. The idea of being a teacher for me had always been as a sort of stepping stone, I’m not sure that it’s really worth it, or a good reason to be a teacher

  17. Pingback: Me, Myself and I | Suzie81 Speaks

  18. Yep, I quit my job of 13 years at Christmas to go Freelance. The first 3 months of this year I spent sick as my body finally to the rest it needed having run on empty for the last 5 years or so.
    Now I have a little money coming in from the freelance stuff and I have a job interview today for part time work in a coffee shop. A job I can leave behind at 5pm no stress, no hassle no responsibility.
    Would I go back? No never!

    Best of luck in whatever you decide to do next and my advice is rest, recover and then enjoy the adventure! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for telling me your story – I’m pleased everything is going well for you! I am certainly going to take your advice – my plan is to spend the next few days attempting to calm down and get some sleep, and I’ll take it from there! Keep me posted!

  19. first time I checked your blog, you were already talking about your last days as a teacher and I was not getting the whole story. Now that I read this I am amazed with your courage and I am excited for you in this new journey that started. It may not be easy and the road may be a little rough but hey, you’ve made through worse I am sure. Enjoy it and hope you are having fun at the party!!
    you are very inspiring

  20. I was in special ed preschool but license was for elementary ed (grades 1-8). I loved my 9 years with the little ones. We have state standards for children aged 3-5. I had a great teacher asst and a team of therapies who joined our lesdons. I had lessons on 5 disciplines and tested 3 times a year on three areas. When Pres. Bush was in administration a law became into effect for 2008. No Masters in what you were presently teaching and you were out. Lots of personal havoc fnsued the 3 years leading to that horrible date. Husband lost job, youngest daughter in college, bills piled up. I worked all day 5 x week as preschool teacher, served tables 4 nights a week and got 45 credits completrd. Last year, 2007 to ’08 — husband sitting those 3 years and mad at life. I could not do last courses only held during day at OSU. I had a great retirement party, got a warehouse job and divorced hubby who had used money to do something other than pay bills. Long story but I am happier and look younger than those years of juggling. My pastor who is a woman said I had just barely treaded water and looked like a zombie those 3 years. I have two professors in my immediate family and Susan said, “Robin, you get paid for working out (I sweat every day) and you walk out every night with no homework!”
    Last but not least, Suzue, you are leaving with a fantastic contribution and while you are young enough to keep on going towards another goal in life. You go, girl! 🙂

      • Thanks for those kind words. It was meant as encouragement to pursue wherever your heart and mind takes you. I have 3 kids and one is going to be 30 and still finding her favorite path to be on. She has college dual degrees in communication and marketing. She really did financially well in business world but not rewarding. Teaching rewarded you but when it ceased to make you happy and then, worse: made you stressed. You did the right thing. She has started her 3rd journey just today. . . My 33 and 35 year olds have kids and obligations which will mean they set some of their (art and chef) dreams aside. I am happy to encourage you to keep on being happy whatever you choose, Suzie.

  21. Susie, I applaud you and your courage. I can’t imagine being a teacher and dealing with all the teenagers and their parents. I am a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, have been doing this for so long and I am worn out. Medicine isn’t what it used to be, it is dictated by the insurance companies. The Internet has created a world-wide population of wannabe diagnosticians that believe what’s on the Internet before they believe the provider who has just examined their child. I am tired of it all being about numbers and revenue – this is not what I got into this for. Wish I could bail, but I have a mortgage, and 2 boys and a husband. Unless I find some other viable form of income – I am in this until the end – another 12 years at least. UGH!!! Congratulations on your decision. I am so happy for you (and maybe just the tiniest bit green with envy).

  22. It’s nice to know it’s not just me…
    I work in the UK teaching profession, I was in mainstream education but finally got into SEN (the reason I became a teacher). I always had the dream of working in SEN, I put up with the expectations of mainstream and the ridiculous targets and constant pressures to achieve my goal. Sadly it’s no different here. Management are so scared of Ofsted they impose unrealistic targets on students so they make the levels of progress. We are no longer humans, students and staff are a number on a spread sheet and are characterised only by three colours, red, orange or green. I was an ‘outstanding’ teacher, but I can’t maintain the pressures on my physical, mental and family well being. I have found myself working all hours neglecting my own young children by being the absent father. I have found myself becoming a surrogate father to my students who come from broken homes with abusive/unsupportive parents who don’t care about them. I love my job, but I love my children more. I’ve had enough of feeling guilty about reading to my daughter at bedtime because I should be planning lessons. I got into teaching to make a difference, but this ideology is spent when you enter the classroom. I’m going back in September and have given myself a deadline of Christmas. If the sleepless nights, constant stomach sickness continues then I’m calling it a day. I simply love my young family more than teaching…maybe I will return, maybe I wont…

  23. Pingback: Me, Myself and I #2 | Suzie Speaks

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  25. If I hadn’t quit my job at the end of term I would be panicking that there is less than 3 weeks until the new school year!! I know that I’ve done the right thing. I feel much more relaxed this summer. I will be doing freelance teaching from September onwards, I’m actually really looking forward to it. I have agreed to do supply work in a school near my home every morning until christmas. A few other schools have said they will have work for me in the afternoons, so I hope it will work out. Do you feel relieved that you have quit?

    • Oh absolutely – and I’ve taken an extra few weeks after the summer so I’ve got another month yet. The relief hasn’t quite set in yet, but on the day when all my former colleagues will go back it will set in! So pleased you have things sorted… Keep me informed of how you get on!

  26. This was wonderful to read! Thank you so much for writing it. I too have made a few crazy decisions like this and every time they have turned out to be the best decisions I’ve ever made. I left my career at the bank which was so many numbers and finance stuff I was completely stressed out and exhausted by the end of every day. I made a last minute decision at 29 to go back to school to be a dental assistant and though at the time seemed terrifying and possibly financially devastating. Actually has worked out to be one of yhe best choices I’ve ever made and we made it through my school days with very little problems. I went through so many emotions and worried so much about stuff that never even happened. I also made another huge decision when I left my friends and family behind to move out west and that has also turned into a very rewarding and a decision I’m very thankful I made. I believe the big decisions in our life though they seem scary at the time, if you listen to your heart the right choice will set up your life’s next course right in front of you. Cheers 🙂

  27. Pingback: I Quit My Job Update: Seven Months On | Suzie Speaks

  28. I am so glad in my life I have taken risks. Yes, they have made me hold my breath in anticipation. They have let me feel at times that I am walking in the dark. But when I look back I can’t imagine my life any other way. None of us leave this world alive! And none of us really knows if there is anything after that heaping first shovel of dirt as they lower us to the ground. What we are guaranteed of is a ride. And for me, the ups and downs of life are what make my ride exhilarating.
    Ten years ago, I sold my business (a tiny but successful hair salon), I went back to school. Today I have 3 degrees on my wall that I think I should probably exchange for paper copies of the debt I now owe…lol. Ten years ago I was a hairdresser. An unpaid psychologist you could say. Today I am a paid psychologist ( will tell you, in comparison, I might be a bit better ahead in the money department if I had stayed cutting hair)! BUT, I albsolutely LOVE what I am doing for this time in my life. And when I owned by business I LOVED it too. But life is about embracing change, about taking the chance….I try to live by this….

    Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming — WOW– What a Ride!”

    Attributed to Bill McKenna, Anonymous and in a Nissan ad.

  29. Pingback: How I Changed My Life in 2015 | Suzie Speaks

  30. Hi. Loving life here after quitting end of last year. Waking up with a smile on my face every morning! I do daily supply now which I feel is better than long term supply (as i felt I was back into the daily grind when i did that between sept and christmas). I get an average of 2.5 days a week in 2 very nice schools near my home, which also means about 2 days off a week 🙂 I thank my lucky stars when I hear of stories of the stress caused by performance management and school inspections etc!
    I realise that its quite unusual to be in this position. Many teachers / friends would wish to do the same.
    How’s your year been so far?

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