I recently left a 10 year career as an elementary school teacher. There were a few major reasons why I made this decision. At the time, I knew doing something different was going to make me a lot happier. I had no idea what I was missing out on for so many years.
1. Sunday afternoons and evenings aren’t a total nightmare anymore. It’s a given that Sunday nights are pretty busy with getting ready for the coming week. When I was teaching though, I absolutely dreaded Sunday afternoon and evenings. Sitting down to write lesson plans and get everything ready for school, on top of getting my kids ready, was a huge stressor. I had trouble even enjoying Sunday mornings, as I anticipated the hours of preparation I would be doing later in the day and into the evening.
2. My alarm no longer goes off at 5 a.m. Some people are early risers. I am not and I never have been. With two kids who like to sleep until 7:00 (or later), I appreciate not having to get myself or them up nearly as early as we used to. I think I have become a little spoiled.
3. I have more than 10 minutes to ingest my food. People think teachers are kidding when they say they inhale their food at lunch time. I would literally have 10 minutes (on a good day) to scarf down my food. After dropping off my students at the cafeteria and heating up my food, I would be lucky to have that much time before I had to rush out to pick up my students from the cafeteria. No wonder I was on heavy duty acid reflux medicine for 9 years!
4. I can go to the bathroom whenever I want to. The “jokes” you hear about teachers never getting to use the bathroom are actually truth. When I was teaching, going to the bathroom when I needed to was a luxury. If I needed to go, I had to have another body in the room to keep an eye on the kids or I had to wait until the kids were at lunch or related arts. I’m amazed I didn’t completely kill my bladder.
5. I don’t have to write sub. plans when I miss a day of work. Teaching is one of the few jobs in which it is easier to just go in to work than stay home. I can’t tell you how many times I was up at 5 a.m. writing sub. plans because I just found out I wouldn’t be at work that day. Whether I was sick or one of my kids was, it was miserable sitting in front if the computer trying to get plans together for the day. There were definitely times when I felt pretty shitty and I would have rather gone into work than type up plans for the day.
6. I actually have energy left at the end of the day. Let’s be realistic- it isn’t a ton, but it certainly is more than I would have after spending a day with 20 Kindergarteners. I actually feel like I have patience for my biological children. Amazing!
7. I don’t miss the insane behavior leading up to school breaks. Being only 5 days away from Christmas, I am reminded of my days of keeping a classroom full of excited 5 and 6 year olds in line until Christmas break. Every year, I repeated to myself in my head “why are we still here?”, especially since Christmas break for most schools in Maryland doesn’t start until December 23rd! By the time break started, I was so worn out from trying to survive the chaos.
8. My immune system finally seems to exist. Since I left teaching in June, I have been sick 1 time. I consider that a huge victory, since I’m sure I would have been sick at least 3 times at this point, had I still been a teacher. I guess I should knock on some wood now!
9. The endless piles of paper work no longer plague me. To me, the ridiculous amount of paper work was truly one of the most frustrating aspects about teaching. It started in August and piled up until June. I am a very organized person, but I could never come up with a good system for school papers. There were just too many and they were constantly coming at me. At the end of a school year, maybe 4 years ago, I discovered a pile of papers that was literally 3 feet tall. Months before, I put it away so it would be out of sight. Obviously there wasn’t anything pressing, since I hadn’t looked in the pile in months. When I found the pile as I was preparing for Summer break, I conveniently dumped it in the recycling bin. I am so glad to have the relentless paper work battle behind me.
10. The weight on my shoulders is much more pleasant to bear. I literally feel like a weight has been lifted. I knew I was stressed, overworked, and frustrated, but until I left, I don’t think I realized the true extent of it. I honestly don’t know how I did it all- lesson plans, behavior management, academic support plans, never ending meetings, and the list goes on. I am still super busy, but it is a different kind of busy. My days are spent doing things I am really enjoying. An added bonus has been feeling more confident in myself than I have in my 32 years on this earth. That alone is worth the change I made.