Former Teachers Reveal The Final Straw That Made Them Quit Their Job
Teachers: society's punching bags, and the heroes we perpetually need. They aren't in it for the money, so when they have finally had enough, you know it's for a legitimate reason.
achiuwu asked ormer teachers of Reddit: What was the "last straw" that made you quit your job?
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
Teachers are people, and people need rest.
I had a severe ear infection and temporarily lost my hearing for 3 days.
Tried to push through it for the first day but realised that not being able to hear the 30 9-year-olds in my class made teaching them pretty difficult.
I took 2 days off and sent highly detailed plans to the supply who was covering me. This was the only time I took off for the whole year.
I return to work to no less than 10 complaints. Apparently my sick leave was 'incredibly selfish' as having a different teacher for 2 days was 'very confusing' for the poor darlings, who couldn't cope.
The Head teacher backed me up and told them to, respectfully, f*ck off but that was very much the last straw.
I'm bending over backwards working weekends and evenings for you and your kid but you can't afford me a little human decency? I'm out.
Rumor mill told me my paraprofessional's grandmother passed. I offered my condolences and he said, "I never even met her, so it doesn't affect me at all." Oh, okay. Two weeks later my grandfather passes and it devastates me. I make up detailed sub plans of things the children HAVE to do as we are at the end of the school year preparing for finals. I was literally in tears on the computer creating everything. This para ends up subbing for me. I return to find out absolutely nothing got done. The students report that the para sat on his phone the three days while they had free time. I am livid. His excuse? He was grieving. Admin backed him up.
I quit teaching but only lasted a summer before I was headhunted by my current school that I'm (so far) in love with.
Accountability is one thing.
I left when the state mandated a new teacher evaluation protocol. We had to document our proficiency in 4 standards, 17 indicators and 29 elements with photographs, examples of student work, handouts from meetings, logs of parent interactions, copies of emails, etc. No one ever expects a doctor to have to "prove" he relates well with his patients by photographing a office visit. But I had to photograph students working in the lab or doing group work to "prove" I taught using a variety of techniques. I had to log or photograph my visits to my SPED students' study hall to "prove" I supported their learning. It was endless. Administrators still visited my classroom and evaluated my teaching as before, but now I was responsible for documenting so much more. If you can't trust me to be a professional after 15 years of teaching AP classes then guess what? I'm gone.
F*cccckkkk my mom had to deal with that when she was teaching. The school wanted to get rid of tenure teachers because they wanted quantity over quality, so her and other teachers had crooked evaluators grading them harshly for anything they thought would warrant it.
Friend of mine quit on the spot when he was asked to change a student's grade.
The kid missed over 50% of the classes, never handed in homework, did poorly on tests, etc, and ended up failing the class. He truly earned his failing grade. Because his father was an influential member of the school board/generous donor/blah blah blah, they "couldn't" let the kid have a failing grade on his record. Summer school was also not an option because the family had already scheduled a vacation during the time that summer classes would be in session. So, the principal told my buddy that he had to change the student's grade to a passing grade.
My buddy told the principal he would absolutely not sign off on that, and if it was so important to him, to change the grade himself. He then. said "if you do change it, don't expect to see me back here in September." Sure enough, the grade got changed, and my buddy packed up his sh*t and left.
Saw this kind of sh*t all the time going to a private university in the US.
I have one friend who has a chronic disease and uses a wheelchair. When she was in school, there was always a huge process to get the time off she needed to deal with this medical stuff.
Meanwhile another friend with a donor daddy could take weeks off in the middle of the semester to vacation abroad with no repercussions.
The greatest country in the world?
Couldn't even talk about in the first year after I quit because I was just so shell shocked.
Worked at a school where:
- told teachers they had to supply their entire classroom library b/c the school didn't have a library
- had no curriculum materials, lesson plans or text books. Instead told teachers they should be buying innovative materials from teachers pay teachers
- added 2 kids to my class without telling me. I asked if I could have two extra desks for the kids. They told me the kids were sitting on a cushion atop a milk crate in the other room
- a parent who was also a teacher at my school grabbed my computer and changed her sons grade from failing to 100%
- they asked me to tutor after school for $15/hr, I agreed, and then the principal would go room to room telling teachers they better be offering "quality" because she didn't want lazy people cheating her.
- they told me I was tutoring 1x1, but then put 15 kids in there after school. Was basically another class.
- principal deferred all her job duties to a "leadership chair" who would go around and yell at everyone and berate the teachers
- made every day a working lunch. Berated teachers who needed to go to the bathroom.
- made the teachers put up their class averages on the lounge wall in order to shame them (read that as get yelled at) in front of peers.
- told teachers they needed to buy kids gifts for: HW, test scores and behavior (three separate chances to win per week)
- has the teachers all use class dojo, an app that basically allowed overbearing and crazy parents run rampant
- told teachers they needed to teach the parents materials if they asked (read that as after hours/weekends- not at conferences or meetings)
- has teachers test below grade level
The list goes on.
Edit for those asking if this was USA: yes.
Teacher friends of mine can confirm.
The other teachers were gossipy and cliquey like they had never graduated high school (I started teaching at 30 after having worked in different types of jobs). They talked sh*t about each other all the time. The one teacher they all told me to avoid turned about to be the only teacher I could stand. Like me, she also worked "in the real world."
The principal wanted me to lower my standards (which were exactly the state standards for that class. Nothing higher) because "they didn't grow up talking about Shakespeare at the dinner table, like you." Umm neither of my parents graduated high school so I don't know why he assumed I was in some over educated household just because I had a few degrees. He was also just a major ahole. (He later was demoted from principal back to a teacher because he was terrible).
The students were okay, but I couldn't stand the other teachers.
(He later was demoted from principal back to a teacher because he was terrible).
That one hits home, oh wow.
My K-12 district was real big on kicking problem teachers "upstairs" if it was too bothersome to fire them, or if they needed to be removed from a classroom ASAP but had tenure / union support.
It got so bad that the district sent so many teachers they couldn't fire and were too toxic to teach classes out of the schools proper, that those teachers basically took over the entire administrative office. Things went downhill quickly after.
I had a bus driver do this.
My 6th grade substitute science teacher quit in the middle of class. We were wild and unruly. Totally out of control. I watched him rub his forehead in frustration and he stands up, yells "F*CK EVERY ONE OF YOU!", grabs his briefcase and walks out. It wasn't singularly my fault but I still feel really bad about it. I'm sorry, Mr. Messina.
I visited a school with the biggest bunch of unruly kids I've ever seen. The teacher had no control of the class. She was young and I know she will quit. I think cameras should be in every classroom so that you can show parents as justification for your kid getting thrown out of school. No person should have to put up with that sh!t.
Teaching has become a bureaucratic mess.
I taught middle school science in a small rural district in southern Illinois. The superintendent made a position for his wife in our cash-strapped system. Due to scheduling, it moved me out of a job that I loved, into teaching second grade. I lasted 8 days.
When the superintendent called me to tell me that I was moving, he told me not to get the union involved or fight it. I did give him a piece of my mind while on the phone, and I heard rumors that the move was coming so I made plans to leave.
If people ask me why I left, I just tell them that education has gone from making people learners to too focused on test scores. Students lack critical thinking skills.
I quit for about 1.5 years and went to work at a car manufacturing company. I left there, just wasn't my thing. And now I'm teaching middle school science in a different district.
Why wouldn't you get the union involved?
I wouldn't win. The superintendent has the right to move anyone/anywhere as long as they are licensed to teach that position. There's nothing guaranteeing you will be teaching the same position year after year.
That supt did end up getting fired a year or two after I left.
Teachers endure a lot of abuse.
Not me, but my wife. She had an unusually high number of special needs students (for which she has no specialized training) and zero support from administration.
One mother in particular insisted that every insane accommodation be made for her son, like developing a custom lesson plan specifically for her son, 1 on 1 time during class to make sure he understood, give credit for assignments that weren't assigned in place of those that were but not complete...the list goes on and on.
The administration frequently sided with the mother to avoid confrontation. All that happened was the other 29 students sacrificed their class time for one kid that didn't even give a sh*t about being there.
But the last straw really had to be when he called my wife a "f*cking b!tch" and his punishment was that he didn't have to go to class next time. Not suspended, not detention, he just got out of that class.
edit: I don't know that it matters but I thought I'd add that my wife taught "elective" classes (i.e. not standard English, math, social studies, etc.). Special needs students were often enrolled in these classes to keep them busy, not really because it was useful for them.
edit 2: to all those who commented that they are or were special education teachers...god bless you.
After many years teaching SpEd I felt like an emotional punching bag, mostly due to the parents.
Teachers: it's not your fault.
Reading this thread as a struggling first year teacher is validating. I'm struggling because if legitimate problems in the education system, and not just newness or personal failings. It sounds like it doesn't get better (which sucks), but I'm really good at blaming myself first (or blaming myself exclusively). Reading this makes me feel less guilty about how things are going so far. I thought maybe I was inefficient or bad at managing my responsibilities, even thought that was never a problem in previous jobs.
Same here. I'm a perfectionist and hate that I never feel like I'm a performing well at my job, when really this job holds such unrealistic expectations. This thread has validated my search for a new job next year...
This is my 2nd year. Last year I spent the year being told daily I was a horrible teacher and I sucked. This year I'm told daily how amazing I am and how I seem like I've been teaching for waaaay longer than a year and a half. Keep going. We go through a trial by fire and come out stronger.
Teachers do their jobs because they love it. Period.
Good timing. I've been teaching high school for about four years. I've found the work incredibly gratifying in some ways, but I've never been all that happy. I start a new job after Christmas break. My kids don't know that I won't be teaching them next semester. :/
Stuff I like:
- I really, truly love helping kids learn. I love seeing them discover or rediscover a love for reading and writing.
- I'm proud that my students feel safe and cared about when they're in my room. Some of my best teaching moments have nothing to do with my subject area, but instead come from being that "trusted adult" that's there for students who are going through tough times and need someone to care about them. I have a drawer full of notes and letters students have written me - I cry every time I look through them.
- I've worked on two campuses and student taught at a third, and for the most part, I've enjoyed the people I've worked with.
- Obviously, the time off is sweet. Having summers and breaks is super nice.
The Saga Continues
I don't think there was a single "straw that broke the camel's back," but here are some things that led to be wanting to switch professions:
- Not enough planning time. Like, not even close to enough. You get one class period a day, which is often eaten up with all sorts of meetings (504/SST/ARD/etc). I get to work early every day, stay after really late, and I still end up having to grade/lesson plan on the weekend.
- Horrible work/life balance. I give a lot to my kids - but someone is always there asking for more. Volunteer on weekends for this or that, sponsor this club, come to sports events, etc. After about a year of teaching I realized that I had stopped having any real life outside of school.
- State testing. I'm lucky to work in a district that doesn't harp on it like others do, but when the test is getting close, it's all anyone can talk about. It's not an accurate way to measure student growth and it has a tendency to suck out any natural curiosity kids have about learning. Want to ruin how a person feels about reading and writing for the rest of their lives? Shove standardized test prep down their throats for two months.
- Being a performer every day is exhausting. I'm basically not allowed to have a bad day, because the kids need me every day. Also, dealing with subs is THE WORST. I usually go to work even when I feel awful (as long as I'm not contagious), because coming up with sub plans and dealing with the fallout of the kids who don't know how to behave with someone else in the room is not worth it.
- There's not a lot of room to grow in your career. I knew I didn't want to be an administrator, so I very quickly felt like I was stuck. I saw old timer teachers around that just seemed beaten down and depressed after 30+ years of teaching, and I didn't want to end up like that.
- The paperwork. I spend so so so so much time dealing with SPED accommodations/504 forms/etc., it's just unreal.
- What it really boils down to, is that it's impossible for me to be good at my job in every way I'd like to be. I can either 1) plan good lessons that engage the kids, 2) give useful feedback on student work, 3) be a paperwork superstar, or 4) be a teacher that's involved with extracurricular activities. But I can't do all of them at the same time, or even most of them. I know I'm a good teacher. My evaluators at each campus I've been on have uniformly loved me. I know I've been a good influence on many of my students. But I always, always, always, feel like I'm not doing my job good enough. I'm always behind. I have to pick what I think is most important, and just deal with the fallout of not doing the other stuff that well. It's draining and depressing.
- Oh, and cellphones. I know it's not just a problem for kids, but we're in the midst of a serious technology addiction problem. Many students are straight up incapable of carrying on a conversation, even with their friends, without staring at their phones every few seconds. Focusing on anything that requires brainpower is legitimately out of the question for some of them. It makes teaching frustrating when you feel like you're giving it your all, and you look around and realize that some (it's always just some, but sometimes it feels like most/all) of them would prefer shitposting memes and snapchatting with their friends. Again, I love my kids, and there's a lot that I love about teaching, but I have had plenty of moments where I look around the room and think to myself, "fine, fuck this. If you don't care about your own learning, why should I? Have fun reading and writing like first graders for the rest of your adult lives." For example, I have one student who has had a seriously horrible life. It breaks my heart, and I've spent a lot of my time this year working with him directly, trying to build him up. He's a "trouble maker" and mouths off and has gotten in plenty of fights. The in-district alternative school won't take him because of his violent history. This kid desperately needs help and some kind of life path. He expressed interest in a specific trade, so the administration jumped through hoops to get him into a program that would, for free, enable him to learn that trade and graduate with some kind of certificate or licence. He got kicked out of the program after less than a month because he ignored class and played on his phone all day, so he never even learned the required safety guidelines that he needed to know to operate the equipment he was supposedly interested in learning about. Teens, especially teen boys, have undoubtedly ALWAYS had problems with executive functioning, but cell phones take that natural weakness and turn it into a gaping, infected, life threatening wound.
I knew going into the job that most teachers quit less than five years in. I thought I could handle it. I wasn't in it for money or glory or recognition. But even in a good district and school, the deck is so stacked against you. I'm not looking forward to telling my kids that I won't be their teacher next semester. Some of them will be mad, and some will probably cry. I will likely get embarrassingly emotional when I tell them myself. But teaching feels like being in an abusive relationship, and I'm ready to walk away from it.
I shared your story with my mother who quit after 20 years of teaching to become a baker. She asked if I would pass on some advice to you. She said the one thing she regretted was not telling her students its okay to have more than one career. That life is full of opportunities for them and to never regret trying something new if you're not happy where you are. She wants to tell you the same thing.
Plus she says your teacher voice will be invaluable where ever you go.
As her son I can tell you that is in fact true. I've seen her scare the piss out of grown ass men with it.
Best of luck to you lovely. <3 you've got a bright future ahead. So do they.
Thank you, I will make sure to talk about that with my kids when I give them the news. I truly appreciate your thoughts and comments.
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.