Quitting Teaching Was The Best Thing I Ever Did. Here’s Why.
Teaching was a job that I worked harder than anything in my life to get. So I surprised even myself when I quit teaching a few years ago after 5 years in the profession. It was a tough decision with many complex emotions involved. However, after a few years of being removed from the profession and being deeply and happily engaged in a new one, I have realized that quitting teaching was the best thing I ever did.
Quitting Teaching Was The Best Thing I Ever Did As A New Parent
There are many reasons why quitting teaching was the best thing I ever did. However, the first and most important reason I quit my teaching job was because I was a new parent. When I decided to quit teaching, I was in a place in my life where prioritizing time with my family over my career was very important to me.
And it still is!
Teaching is a demanding job. There are high-pressure and high-stakes demands, quick turnarounds, conflict-oriented situations, and lots of extra work outside the 9-5 work day. While teaching can be an incredibly rewarding profession, all of these demands made it difficult to be present at home.
All of the demands and stresses of the job were at least somewhat manageable prior to having children, however, things changed when I became a parent. I started to realize that the pressures of the day just weren’t worth draining energy that I could be using toward my family. I found the time with them much more rewarding then anything in the classroom.
I found myself missing important moments and not being around for special memories. When it comes to what I love, my family comes first and foremost. Unfortunately, my teaching job was starting to get in the way of this. Because of this, quitting teaching was the best thing I ever did.
Finding My Ikigai
It didn’t take me long to realize that quitting teaching was the best thing I ever did. While I enjoyed parts of the job, I didn’t love it in the way I wanted to love my job. I wanted to be able to do what I love, apply my strengths, and make a difference in the world.
I know that this might sound like teaching for most. But for me, it just wasn’t (and I’ll explain why below!). I really enjoyed my job, and was probably one of the most passionate math teachers you could meet. However, I knew there was something else out there that was a better fit for me, my strengths, and my desire for a work/life balance.
I started to pursue work that was much more in line with my values and my priorities at this stage of my life. This led me down the path to finding my ikigai (the Japanese word for ‘passion, purpose, and a reason for being’). I spent some time searching for ikigai examples to inspire me to find new passion and purpose in my life.
My current career is a combination of the things I love and the things I am good at. I get to work from home, spend way more time with my family, while applying strengths that I wasn’t using while teaching. This gives me a sense of purpose and meaning in my work.
Why Quitting Teaching Was The Best Thing I Ever Did: The Students
Now, family aside, teaching has many, many challenges that make it a struggle to sustain. Many teachers complain about the behavior or attitude of their students as the main reason they hate their jobs. Since most of the interactions in teaching happen with students, this makes sense!
Students with a positive approach to education are always a joy, but they aren’t all like this. There are many students who are incredibly difficult, which makes teaching them stressful and overwhelming. I believe this to be a result of a ‘fixed mindset’ problem in education.
Let me explain.
Fixed Mindset Students
My experience with education is what introduced me to the concept of a growth mindset. I served on the Positive Education committee at a school that was adopting a wellbeing program that was aiming to prioritize growth mindset.
During my time on the committee, I conducted research into how to use a growth mindset to transform student learning. One of the texts that was very transformative during my research was Carol Dweck’s Mindset. For more on growth mindset, check out our top 5 takeaways from Carol Dweck’s Mindset.
My findings blew me away. I learned that all it takes is helping students to reframe struggle, obstacles, and challenges. Instead of seeing failure as a setback, all I had to do was convince my students to see failure as an opportunity for growth. Pretty easy, right?
It took a lot of work, but I soon had my students actually living and breathing growth mindset. I used growth mindset quotes regularly during lessons, and I hung growth mindset posters all over my classroom.
Students who struggled used feedback to improve their learning. There were real conversations happening about the growth opportunities in challenges and struggles! All was well and good!
Until the next year.
A Fixed Mindset System
Year after year I found myself with a new batch of students, all of whom had never seen the growth mindset side of education before. This got me thinking. Why is it that education is so ‘fixed mindset’ oriented? This is one of the reasons why quitting teaching was the best thing I ever did.
It seems like every classroom practice is designed to keep students from challenging themselves and taking risks. Whether we intend to or not, by default, education teaches students:
- that they are ‘smart’ if they get questions right
- failure means they are bad at the subject
- taking risks means you could end up looking stupid
I loved helping students learn about growth mindset and how they can see challenges as opportunities for growth. However, I quickly realized that it wasn’t just the fixed mindsets of my classes I was fighting. I was fighting an entire system of entitled, fixed mindset students – and their parents!
The Real Reason Students Are So Entitled
Student entitlement is one of the major issues teachers experience these days that makes them want to quit teaching.
It seems that every student who fails or performs poorly (or doesn’t score perfect!) is able to lay out exactly why they should have gotten a better mark. Where does this behavior come from? My experience as a teacher helped me understand what I believe to be the cause of student entitlement.
If you speak with the parent of an entitled child, you will quickly realize a few things:
- the parent believes that the child is a genius without flaws
- they will make up excuses and place blame elsewhere when their child doesn’t perform
These are very ‘fixed mindset’ type reactions. A fixed mindset believes that being smart is something that happens naturally, rather than the result of hard work and practice. People with a fixed mindset do not believe in growth opportunities when struggle or failure occurs. As a result, they place blame elsewhere.
The types of parents who react this way when their children perform poorly are the ones who have praised their children for being smart from day one. They don’t praise their children for their efforts or the thinking they use to solve problems. Instead, they create entitled children who are also blind to growth opportunities.
The parent-teacher interviews I had with these types of parents were some of the worst experiences I had in my professional career. They are also one of the main reasons why quitting teaching was the best thing I ever did. Distancing myself from these types of people was incredibly liberating. No person should ever be held responsible for another person’s inability to find growth.
In some cases, that is what I believe teaching has become. Teachers do their best to challenge students to apply themselves, but end up taking the blame when students don’t perform. This is incredibly damaging to a person’s wellbeing, and is one of the main reasons why teacher burnout is so common.
Fixed Mindset Parents
It didn’t take long for me to realize that many parents do not have a default growth mindset. There were many parents who just couldn’t take seeing their children perform less then adequately. Even worse, some parents believed that ‘adequate’ was nothing less then perfect.
It got to a point where parent interviews were cookie cutter experiences.
- Student performs poorly (or does not get perfect)
- Parent demands meeting with the teacher and administration
- Student and parent blame teacher for poor performance
- Student learns nothing
- Rinse and repeat
All of my hard work trying to teach students to find growth in struggle was constantly being undermined by their parents. These were parents who were at home telling their children how smart they are and expecting them to get into the most prestigious schools.
Worst of all, my efforts to introduce the power of the growth mindset to the school and its students was being tarnished by the complex relationship between parents, students, and the school administration.
This caused me to have a bit of a crisis. While I love transforming the way students understand their brains, it is a lot of work, and it was taking it’s toll on me.
As a new parent, I really wanted to be at home and focusing on my family. Instead, I was constantly battling entitled parents and students who believe that marks indicate their intelligence. And if they weren’t doing well, they would just blame the teacher.
I knew that I had different values for my own family. Even as a new parent, I knew that I was going to parent my children to understand how to use a growth mindset to be the best that they can be. My children were going to know that they can do anything they put their minds to if they are willing to work for it.
My job was putting these values into question almost every day. This was incredibly draining and led me to quit. Quitting teaching was the best thing I ever did because it allowed me to be true to my family values.
This is Why Quitting Teaching Was The Best Thing I Ever Did
After all this talk about growth mindset, it is easy to look at my decision to quit and feel that I was acting from a place without growth. Or that I was ‘just giving up’.
However, I made my decision to allow me to grow in the right place. This gave me the space to learn to grow in my home life and as a new parent – where growth mattered most. I had to learn how to be a supportive husband and father that is present and not always pulled away by work. If I chose to just ‘carry on’ with a job I hated, the incredible carefree lifestyle I live with my family today would not exist.
I could spend all day writing about all of the negative aspects of teaching that led to my decision. However, I am now in a place where all I feel is a profound sense of gratitude for my time in the profession.
When I look back, I am able to see how much I have grown since I started teaching. I had no idea what I was dealing with then, but am able to see it now so clearly.
I can say with confidence that quitting teaching was the best thing I ever did. I will apply the lessons I learned about growth mindset and parenting in my own family. And most importantly, I will be around during all of the precious, irreplaceable moments at home.
Don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family on social media! Do you know a teacher or a friend who is struggling with work/life balance? This post could be what they need to make a change!