I don't want to teach anymore,
and no, it's not the kids
In fact, you've probably heard it before around the dinner table, maybe amongst parent group gossip, or perhaps you've read it online... About teachers struggling with "out of control" workload pressures and the "excessive" accountability put upon them, or the "deterioration" of our work and life balances. You might even be in the teaching profession yourself, and if you are I would almost gurantee you've had similar thoughts.
If you haven't thought about leaving the profession before,
statistically, you will.
You can be sure of that seeing as one in three teachers leave within the first five years of teaching in our Aussie schools. Not exactly the best stats now is it, surely though I won't be the one fresh out of uni but slowely over time begin to feel this way? I won't be the one who after a blur of exhausting and challenging years decides maybe this isn't what I truly want? Surely I won't throw away those expensive university years studying all the background and reasoning behind teaching only to realise you never truly know until you are doing it?
Each school year brings with it new challenges and exciting times, it's almost like you forget the craziness of it all over that beautiful Aussie Christmas holiday break. It's all in the past year, I did the best I could with what I had for those kids and I know I can wipe my hands clean for another year. Yeah right! When you've only been back to professional development week and that awful anxiety begins to creep in as you realise it's all starting back up again. The tireless hours spent at school, behind the photocopier, in the kitchen trying to cook dinner and plan for individual students, the never-ending feeling of being on the backfoot and no matter what I sacrifice the planning is still never fully completed.
Surely though with a different group of kids and a new classroom change it will be different? Or what if I try these small groups and pay for my own resources instead of sharing, it will be easier? Perhaps I will just turn off the computer and actually not bore my partner to death with my whining and complaining about the new planning tools that are not an "extra add on" but will help me in providing evidence (or so they say). Yes I don't want to be the one who gave up and quit because it got too tough, things can only get better right? And yet here I am pushing into my seventh year of teaching (see I really didn't want to be another one of the stats).
In my sixth year I thought, and I began questioning the sacrifices, the excessive school supply spending, the rushed lunch breaks and adhering to every beck and call from my colleagues and those in the hierachy who haven't been in a classroom for years. I knew that I loved that every school day was different, it kept me going and I could rely on it to be this way because my kids arrived as unique little individuals each day too. I felt honoured to be entrusted to teach these little people and impart my knowledge to them... but I couldn't help those niggling thoughts that were beginning to brew.
We are not joking when we say we are struggling with "out of control" workload pressures and the "excessive" accountabiltiy put upon us, and the "deterioration" of our work and life balances. Being a teacher is rewarding and a beautiful gift that not everyone has the passion for. However, being a teacher is also difficult and demanding - it empties you in every way - physically, emotionally and pyschologically because there is never time to switch off, you cannot simply switch off. If anything the emotional investment is like none other, those kids were my kids!
I began to give time to those niggling thoughts... What if there is more to life than slaving away at the computer and cramming teaching in just to over analyse our little people? What if there was more to life then talking and performing each day so that when I got home I didn't want to chat with my loved ones because I'd been on all day? What if there was more to life then beating myself up because my planning is not detailed enough to describe student's needs and appropriate adjustments on a Sunday night at 9:30pm? What if I didn't want to be teaching anymore because a lot of what I'm doing in the early years should have already been explored in the years before school? Those niggling thoughts began to fester and I had absolutely no way of outputting them...
Sounds like somethings gotta give right?
And it did, in the form of a heated argument followed by a complete breakdown that can only be described as my tipping point - I had missed the warning signs.
For so long I had thought this next year would be better, I will give more in ways that will work and I will reap the rewards. For so long I kept telling myself you will learn from mistakes or deadlines you left til the last minute. For so long I ignored the complaining and tiredness from being over-prepared every single day and having no down time when the kids were physically present. For so long I couldn't see a way out that would support my lifestyle and habits - what would I do if I ever left teaching?
I know that I am good at what I do, I can engage a class of twenty five four/five year olds and make about 1,500 decisions per day and still have time to meet the girls for dinner. I chose the education field as many do because I am ambitious, passionate and active. And yet the tipping point proved just how sedentary my life had become. I had begun to lose that ambition, passion and activeness in the job I once loved. My boss openly said to me not long after 'I could tell your heart hasn't been in it this year.' And like any responsible person would - I decided to run away from my problems.
It felt so good to be able to just dump it all and leave town for the week. I needed breathing space and I needed it fast. Was I having a complete breakdown? I have never just left and though I would never come back, and yet there I was on the beach in front of a little rental beach hut. I wasn't occupied with filling out Google Doc after Google Doc, answering emails and re-designing already carefully constructed planning documents. When was the last time I immersed myself in nature and actually just stopped? I was completely prepared to make coffees at the local cafe and live off mee-goreng noodles. I couldn't care less, which is when I realised how broken I was.
This was "teacher burnout" and I was smack bang in the middle of it.
Why then did I feel so guilty about the thought of actually quitting my job? Why was it the end of the world knowing I had to return home and go back to work on Monday? I started researching and I literally typed into Google everything and anything that popped into my head. I came across this quote...
And so I kept researching until I had a bank of ideas about why quitting right this second wasn't actually what I wanted. I had also captured some ways in which I was going to go back and finish the school year off. Now I'm not saying that I had the answers by any means, but I certainly had more knowledge than I did before about my options, even those that were seemingly far fetched to my loved ones. I acknowledged that the place I was in mentally and somewhat physically was not in my best interest and I vowed that this was the beginning of changing it for the better.
Within this week beside the beach and amongst my Google searches for lifestyle businesses and what to do for work I had stumbled across SFM - Six Figure Mentors. The more I read the more interested I became. I learned that whilst SFM provides you with the tools, the training and the products you'll need to create a successful online business, you do have to actually implement what you learn. And then it hit me - here I am educating others and improving their lives, so why not reverse this and apply it to myself? I figured that SFM would either give a bunch of ideas and then just sit on the back burner unless I wanted to learn and earn that success for myself.
Unfortunately though I wasn't that patient and it was a drawn out end to the year. I re-negotiated the terms with myself for beginning my seventh year of teaching, my current position, and started taking some more serious action. I was working my way through the SFM Modules and really enjoying the fact that I had my own little project going on, I also applied for a new leadership position thinking that if I got out of the classroom I might be happier - plus I hadn't updated my resume since teaching six years ago, but this was not meant to be. I then took the plunge and signed up for the Momentum Day on the Gold Coast.
This would be the sign that I had found like-minded REAL people
who believed in breaking the status-quo and who wanted to create a life on their own terms...
Of course though I dragged my partner along for the day and prayed that it would be worthwhile. I couldn't have been more wrong - it was more than worthwhile, it gave me the drive and the belief that I was taking prepared steps in order to leave a job I wasn't in love with anymore. There were real people living their lives the way they wanted too without the same pressures and stresses of old workplaces. Trust me I didn't go back and boast to everyone about what I was doing as my side hustle! In fact I've kept it on the down low for some time now.
I intend to finish the school year off strong and see those little ones on in their schooling journey. I also want to continue my online education journey by slowly growing a successful business and income stream around my day job and other committments because I know I want to and that I can change my life path. So here is to more valuable screen time, less anxiety about teaching in the classroom forever and choosing things that are of a benefit to myself and my loved ones.
At the end of the day we only have one life to live, and it should be life we love to live.
Yours in learning,